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Train to Cochin

Off Travelling – Kerala, January 1999
This follows-on from The Fishing Village which rounded-off our unintentionally extended stay at the beach resort. Today we are taking the train to Cochin as the start of our travels with the rucksack on the back.
Down at the Station
The next morning, pack the rucksacks and off we go. Doreen agog at breakfast.
Along the beach and up to the taxi rank where a taxi takes us to Trivandrum station for 175 rupees; the official price says 150 but he wasn’t going to do it for that (and for 30p in our money we weren’t bothered to argue).
At the station, we need to find the train for Cochin.
We go to the information desk, who directs us to the ticket window. After fighting our hands in front of pushy old ladies and into the hole in the glass we ask for a ticket to Cochin, air-conditioned 2nd class. The man directs us back to the information desk. There, they write on a scrap of paper: 2 tickets to Cochin, air-conditioned 2nd class, and we take this back to the ticket window where he sells us a ticket for two for 1,000 rupees, rather triumphantly as this we later learn is about six times the non air-conditioned price.
All this while a little chap has been trying to help us, a kind of car-door-opening tip-gatherer. He points us to the train and we give him five rupees; probably not that generous which at least got rid of him.
By good fortune we seem to have arrived at the station just 40 minutes before the ‘superfast’ train leaves. The train will take 4½ hours to Cochin and we could, if we chose, stay on it to Delhi arriving 52 hours later.
It takes us some time to find the air-conditioned coaches as there are only two of about fifty, and at first they seem to be less good than the non air-conditioned, having closed-in windows that have not been washed for some time; whereas the standard class has no windows, or rather no glass in the windows, so you can see out. The train, however, travels so slowly that the non air-conditioned would be very hot. The carriages seem to be fairly full, with bare brown arms and forlorn-looking serious faces at the bars of the windows, anticipating a long day ahead.
On the Train, Air-Conditioned 2nd Class
The compartment we choose is shared by an Indian couple with nothing to say to each other, who immediately upon entering the compartment turn the air-conditioning on full, so it starts to feel a bit chilly. They seem to be transporting a number of carrier bags stuffed with newspapers, together with a box of bananas.
Part-way through the journey first the woman, and then later the man, opens a newspaper-wrapped parcel in which there is a banana-leaf with their lunch wrapped up in it. They spend the next few seconds rolling up a ball of the contents with their fingers until it is quite a large snowball, then popping it quickly into their mouth.
We ate a red banana, bought at a stall the day before.
The guidebook had said that the ride was a pretty one, but we didn’t think it was too special, and eventually the train arrived at Ernakulam Junction, one of the Cochin stations, at about 4pm.
To Bolgatty Island
Having pushed our way out of the station we are amazed to find: no hassle. Nobody saying: ‘You want a rickshaw?’ or ‘You want a taxi?’. Nothing. In fact we couldn’t find a rickshaw at all.
We checked the price to the quay with some taxi drivers and they said 100 rupees. but this seemed too much. Then they offered to take us for 80 but this still seemed too much. We wandered off along the street where a taxi stopped and said the price would be 200 rupees, then another one said he’d do it for 50, so we went with him.
At the quayside we found a rowing-boat to take us to Bolgatty Island for 25 rupees.
The story continues with Bolgatty.


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