September 17th, 2007 – by: mikehil
The top bunk
The Delhi - Jaisalmer
express train, no 4059, is scheduled to leave at 17.45 each day, and arrive in Jaisalmer, 925km away, at 13.00 the next. We're booked in the best class available, 2 tier air con, 900 rps each, about £11. Our taxi from the Canadian High Commission glided along the boulevards of New Delhi
, and ground to a halt in Old Delhi traffic, but we get to the station with 45 minutes to spare. The platform is already packed with people, many of whom have vast amounts of luggage in all shapes and sizes. There are huge numbers of big packages wrapped in hessian. The 15 coach train finally backs into the platform at 17.35. The ordinary sleeper class carriages are attacked by young men who jump on to grab a seat while the train is still moving.
On the train
We find our places, day seats that convert into 2 tiers of berths. Only one carriage of the 15 is so equipped. The train leaves at 18.15 The chai wallah walks up and down - 5 rps a cup. Then we order supper - a veg meal for 50 rps. The tomato soup wallah comes by - we decline. The bedding wallah dishes out sheets, pillows and blankets, and we make up our beds, Hil on the lower. Mike on the upper. We settle down about 10.00pm. Disruption at midnight at Jaipur
as a couple more join our compartment, and tell us the train is running 90 minutes late. Morning in Jodphur
- 2 hours late. The train manoeuvres for 40 minutes and goes out the way it came in. We head out through the Thar desert. Small towns surrounded by scrubland, with goats sheltering under the trees. Many people get off at Ramdevra, a pilgrimage town There are women in all sorts of trad dress in the brightest colours imaginable. At Pokaran, where we reverse again, a group on the platform knead dough and prepare chapattis. A goat and a cow wander in front of the Chief of Station's main office. The train moves sedately as the land becomes even more arid. We're approached by hotel touts from Jaisalmer who got on earlier. We're taken by surprise as the train arrives at 15.15, 21 hours after we started. Our hotel rep meets us, sorts out an autorickshaw, and we arrive at the Fifu guesthouse. It's a beautifully maintained place, with a charming owner and an amazing view of the 1001 nights site/ sight of Jaisalmer Fort. Real Rajastan. Worth every hour on the train.