Monday, October 20, 2003

So, as if any true ADVENTURE could be without Drama, this morning was not exception. I got up at 4:30am no problem. I was out the door for a bit past 5. I made it to the train station with about 30 minutes to spare. Great, I'm thinking. Anshul told me to show up a bit further in advance to purchase my tickets. But, I figure, time is not really an issue. I'll just find the ticket window and resolve that, only then to merrily make my way to the train.

Um, well, there was no window to purchase tickets other than the "Second Class" ticket windows, so I didn't think I would be able to purchase the ticket I wanted to get, an A/C chair... Well, guys start flocking to me, come this way, come that. 15 minutes pass, and I'm beginning to get a bit desperate, so I head for the office across the street. I'm passed off into a shoehorn stairway where a guy in a non-descript office offers me train tickets. He pulls out the India Railways book, he shows me my train and seat prices. Then he tries to make a call. Speakerphone for me to hear "India Railways, information..." Then he begins to have a brief conversation only to tell me the ticket and the alternative I chose were not available. He then tries to sell me an Indrail 60 pass, my mistake for thinking it was 800 Ruppees, it was clearly printed in USD. Anyway, I said to try for a seat on the later train, the Taj Express, and low and behold that was sold out too. He proposes that I take a luxury bus, and I immediately grab my bag at this suggestion. I'm back off to the train station for one last hope at finding a ticket.

I see two other gringos getting the royal treatment, and they were trying to figure out which track for Hardiwar, and they were not able to help me so I kept moving. No hope for finding a ticket, so I head for the train. The M-F-ing train is empty. There's about 10-15% of the seats taken. So, I try to get some info out of some guys, they were little help with minimal English. So, I walk into a car where I meet a great guy, have I mentioned to anybody reading this that I'm bad with names? I've forgoten his name, but he was a wonderful guy that was in India for some family weddings, and he's lived in Seattle the last 20 years. His fluent Hindi helped me address the "Ticket Taker" (that's what his badge said). The ticket taker returns with the exhorbitant suggestion of 1500-1600 Ruppees for taxing me, and my new friend says that it is more the 500% of the ticket price pointing out that it was unacceptable. Low and behold the ticket taker said he would consult with his superiors, and despite the fact that he sat next to me for some portion of the trip he never raised the issue again.

I'm here. Here is in Agra for a couple nights, then I'll be on my way to visit family in Lucknow. I'm very excited about validating the rumors I've heard regarding the regions' cuisine. More to come buckaroos.

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