23.12.2018 - 23.12.2018
The usual "fab" jeep experience - from the cold crisp air of Darjeeling to the heat of New Jalpaiguri on the plains of India, where I was to catch the train to Nagaland. With the train inevitably being very late I had a total of 8 hours to wait - much reading, eating and drinking tea was done, as well as a cut throat shave and haircut.
When the train finally came in, it was 20 carriages long and there was a mad rush of people trying to find their carriage and their seat/berth. I'd booked a 3rd tier bunk for luggage safety reasons. There are many stories of people having their luggage stolen during the night. Sometimes drugged food is offered to put the victim asleep before the robbery takes place, so I was a little wary. The carriage resembled a cattle truck....only dirtier.
The picture below was taken in the morning after a young lad had swept piles and piles of rubbish, sludge and plastic bottles down the carriage and then out the door onto the track. When I expressed horror I was just told "this is India".
Being on the top bunk was fine until I needed the toilet 3 times in the night - they were not as bad as they could have been. There was a choice of bogs. The WC toilet was pretty grim which deposited deposits directly onto the track - the floor was swimming in piss, which gets walked down the train forming a nice pissy mud by the morning; the other choice was a straight hole in the floor - unfortunately many people had missed their target - and with curry being eaten 3 times a day, this resulted in yellowy mr.whippy style, mashed potato consistency, dollops of shit around the hole - my sphincter tightened at the first sight.
As to why the train was called an "express" I don't know. Also the "sleeper" term was a little inappropriate. The lights were blazing all night, as were people talking loudly and sellers of food/goods walking up and down the train aisle all night - who wants to buy a Rubik's cube or water pistol at 3am? Come 4am I was pleasantly awoken by the chants of "chai chai coffee chai" by an army of tea sellers that had boarded the train.
Besides the many beggars (children and disabled people mainly) there were numerous transvestites walking up and down the train. They were given money from most people (unlike the beggars). I asked why - the reason is that people are afraid of being made fun of/chatted up by the transvestites if they don't give money. If the toilets weren't so bad i might have been tempted for a shag!
After 16 interesting hours, the train finally pulled into Dimapur, in Nagaland. Police immediately asked me to follow them down the platform to a station hut - I was slightly concerned, but they just wanted me to register my entry to the state. (I think the strip search was just for fun.)
Wandering round the town I quickly realised that this was not the place I wanted to spend Christmas - a fairly typical dusty dirty hot Indian city. It took a couple of hours to find a hotel that I could afford that accepted foreigners. Not easy trudging the streets with the heavy pack. The hotel toilet was a WC that you could squat on!?
Once checked in it then took me an hour to find somewhere that served black tea - shame it then arrived in a thimble size cup. The curry dinner was superb - they just kept filling my plate till I couldn't eat any more; I don't think they could believe how hungry I was!
This morning I caught a shared taxi to the capital city of Kohima, up in the hills. The little Suzuki car crammed 3 people into the front, as well as in the back. The middle person had the gear stick right between his legs. Good job reverse want needed!
The tyres were totally bald making the twisty roads interesting. We got stopped by the police - not for the overloading or tyres but to check if I'd registered entry to Nagaland. (No strip search). One of the passengers was infact a policeman! The road was so bad ie no tarmac and potholed the 45 miles took nearly 4 hours. Infact there were more portholes than road.
Nagaland is very Christian, so many of the hotels are closed for Xmas. I've found a "lodge" which is very friendly. The rooms are way out of my budget and already booked up, but I've got a sofa bed in the "basement" which is fine as I can use the rest of the place "as if it was home". Dinner is being cooked and I've treated myself to a rum.
Happy Xmas to my bored readers of this blog. I will really miss being home with family and friends, drinking beer with you all and celebrating the festive season.