Overland Route: Delhi to Kathmandu Part I

A girl sleeps on a table next to where I am waiting for my train in Old Delhi Railway Station.

A girl sleeps on a table next to where I am waiting for my train in Old Delhi Railway Station.P

The overland route from Old Delhi Station to Kathmandu was an exercise in endurance, patience, and outright will to succeed. If I am being honest with myself I can say that I took on the adventure simply so that I could say that I completed the route. New Delhi has an airport with connections to every major city in the world and nearly every city in India and surrounding countries. Choosing to travel by train is one of the modes of transportation that trekkers use to save money and, honestly,  just for the thrill of the experience. Managing a route that is completely outside of my comfort zone, experience and language is thrilling. Riding the line between desperation and cross-cultural charades has helped me put thousands of miles behind me and turned into my fair share of stories. It is my most sincere hope that I have made enough friends along the way that someone might find some functional value in these stories and send back pictures from a trail that I have crossed in my past.

If I am concocting some high winded story for readership I can say that I wanted to see the countryside asleep at night as a juxtaposed tapestry on which to paint the idea that in the darkest hours of the night even India sleeps. I could go on a tangent regarding the symbolism of the ancient metal carriages lumbering across a landscape left in time behind the cities which they connect. Or about how despite the ever moving locomotion of the transit routes the trains and people that they carry are unable to catch up to modernity and will remain, at least for this moment, in the past. The only problem with writing a whimsical story about viewing the sleepy villages from an ancient rolling platform is that there are no street lights along the Indian countryside by which to view such sleepy villages. It’s just a stretch of darkness with the occasional street crossing, gas lamp or burning pile of trash. In short, my trip was quite dark, fairly lonely, and surprisingly comfortable. Take it for what it is, but this is the overland route from Delhi to Kathmandu:

Old Delhi Railway Station was not the first moment of clarity that separated my surroundings from my life in Chicago, but it was unlike any train station I had visited previously. Old Delhi Station, much like most of Old Delhi itself, was dirty, crowded, and a bit confusing. The same could be said for the snack station at the platform junction. The air smelled of something unappealing at all times and the pressure of bodies around me made for an uncomfortable walk to any part of the the station. The snack station, right in the fucking middle of everything, mocked me each time I walked past, lost, and would not relent a single snack.

A man prepares naan bread at a small bakery and eatery in Old Delhi.

A man prepares naan bread at a small bakery and eatery in Old Delhi.

My first stop was the cloak room, a more mysterious sounding term for left luggage room. I have stressed this before, but nothing in India is easy, and when I finally arrived at left luggage I was notified that I would need to have a lock for my backpack. Simple enough for a traveler who carried a duffel bag for the impromptu storage of all of my worldly possessions in a dark room that is located in a dingy train station, in a massive city, in the middle of one of the most corrupt countries in the world. A small lock, sure, I have that right here. Unfortunately mine had decided, at a previous juncture in my trip, that it was no longer interested in traveling and would stay exactly where it had been left. Naturally, not a single soul working the room knew where I might find a replacement lock. You would think that with how enterprising  the best of India’s people had been to that point, someone would have seen the goldmine of an under-the-counter cloakroom lock scheme, but alas I was out of luck.

To be continued…

Thank you from M. James Thompson and your friends at Four Stars Two Bars Abroad

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