Indian Railway Travel, Auto-rickshaws, Camels, etc.
22.10.2012 - 17.12.2012
I must say, one of the coolest things about India is all of the methods of transport. The first thing we'll look at is the railways system. By the way, the Indian Railway system is the largest employer in India, with over 1.4 million employees.
Here are some men running across the tracks to catch the train before it leaves:
It is not uncommon to see people crossing the tracks. In fact, what is surprising is the amount of people who do it with oncoming trains approaching. Hoards of people cross the tracks at the station. On top of that, a lot of people use the railway tracks to navigate as they walk from city to city if they can't afford public transport, so you can see people on their journey as you look out the window of the train.
While the trains have sleeper cars, sometimes you can't get those seats because the Indian Railway System is always booked. The picture below is what it looks like inside the unreserved "cattle car," as I did on my journey from Dehli to Agra. Everyone is standing and holding their possessions or sitting on the floor since the actual seats are reserved. Those train cars add a new definition to the expression, "wall-to-wall people." The only benefit for travel as a foreigner is that the trains do have extra tickets for foreigners in the reserved cars, but to get those, you do have to go to the train station. I'm not going to lie...waiting in line at Indian train stations is the worst. I once waited for an hour and a half and then they closed the window 3 people in front of me. The customer service could be a little better at the train station....just saying. Since we are on the subject, the website could use a little work as well. I won't go into the details, but I once spent 2 hours on that website just trying to check availability. Needless to say, it was a bit frustrating. Instead, it's better to pay a premium and go to a travel agency to book rail tickets.
I love the misspelling of the word, "platform." It cracks me up!
While on the platform, I saw a man with a spear. At the time, I happened to be on the phone with my mom, and I remember we were talking about family stuff, and then all of a sudden I was like, "Hang on, Mom. You're not going to believe what I'm looking at! I'm looking at a man dressed up like Jasmine's father (from Aladdin) in UVA colors. And he's holding a spear.." It was hilarious! The man is not dressed up for Halloween as you might expect. Because of his religion, he's allowed to carry a weapon to defend himself with him at all times (Although good luck getting that through security at the airport!)
While on the same phone call, all of a sudden I was like, "Mom, hang on a second. There is a monkey climbing on a high wire moving across the railway tracks." No joke. I swear, hanging out at Indian Railway stations will give you the greatest stories. There were monkeys just hanging out on the tracks. Well, at least the rats had company I have never seen so many rats in my life until I looked at the tracks. You couldn't stare at the tracks for more than 3 seconds without seeing a rat!
Mumbai time on the train. I loved having the doors open so you could get access to the fresh air on the crowded trains. It was the only reprieve from the sweltering heat!
The next method of transport in India we'll look at is the bus. Buses, although cheaper than trains, were very crowded and also more dangerous. Once all of the seats are taken, everyone stands so that they can crowd more bodies on the bus. The front of the bus is reserved for women, while the back of the bus is for men. As you can tell, it was pretty crowded. However, a four-hour bus journey cost less than US$2.
Another method of transport is an auto-rickshaw (auto for short), or a three-wheeler. They always hang out in packs and there can be quite a bit of collusion, which means that it's better to avoid stations like these and instead hail one from the road.
Here is an auto-rickshaw full of children on their way home from school
This is what it looks like from the backseat. It is much better to get one with a meter, like this auto, than to negotiate a rate beforehand, although sometimes like at night, it's unavoidable.
Even the trucks are decorated Indian-style
You can also go by elephant in India
Either I'm a giant or that ambulance is tiny!
I love the motorbikes in this country. Seeing families on the back of these things (although unsafe), always brings a smile to my face. I just love how there's no real worry for the kids cause the dad has so much confidence that he won't wreck..