After 4 months in the South of India (3 working in my project at Amrita University and one travelling), I have now headed North! Since stepping in the humid heat of Kerala, the yearning for a cold place has never left me. I have been enjoying cool evenings in Hampi and on the East coast, and now is time to get some real fresh air!
A few weeks ago, I managed to secure the last tourist ticket from Kochi to Ahmedabad, a 36 hour train ride. Fun story: travel agents are supposedly not allowed to book these tickets but by paying a bit more (“money going under the table”) an agency got my ticket! Minutes before I had to leave the place myself, I was told that my ticket was on the was. Literally, someone went to the train station and was on the bus back with my ticket!
Nearly missing my long or most important rides seems to be a pattern in my trips: I had to run to catch my 5-day Transsiberian ride, considered jumping out of the bus onto a killer motorbike taxi in Bangkok and this time had to jump out of the rickshaw and run to the train station through road works to get on my train to Kochi.
There, with 4 hours to spare, I was able to meet up with Simona and share a tasty meal! How good 🙂
The train ticket I got was for sleeper class, middle berth. One of the worst I could get, but I at least I had a ticket, and it was cheap!
The nights were a bit cool. I wanted cold and I had it! But should have pulled out my sleeping bag instead of playing the strong girl.
When I woke up, the landscape was a mix of southern-like coconut trees and rice fields and northern-like forests. The new season for rice farming is starting and I could spot many bright green nurseries and rice planting farmers.
Progressively, the landscape changed, and more forests occupied the land instead of the tall coconut trees. We crossed many rivers, farms and villages. From time to time I could spot some neatly organised gardens.
For breakfast, a lovely couple, probably old enough to be my parents, shared some home made food with me. I couldn’t refuse, and it was delicious! However, they served me in a single use tetra-pak plate that I would never throw out of the window like Indians usually do. I packed the used plates in newspaper and had to hold on to it firmly until the next train station to make sure nobody would throw it out in nature while I wasn’t looking! When we stopped, I stepped out of the train and put the trash in the rubbish bin. Easy!
India is covered with litter, especially around train tracks. The windows of sleeper class are open, allowing to soak in the beautiful landscapes, but also unfortunately allowing people to throw their trash out there. There is a huge problem with littering, and there is no way I would contribute to it.
A family was travelling back from Kerala, and we spent the afternoon talking and playing games. In the end, it is easy to spend a day in the train!
The next morning, we reached Ahmedabad. I booked my train to Dehli, then checked into a hotel recommended by both a fellow traveller and the Lonely Planet Guide. To my dismay, it was cheap, but in my opinion expensive for what it was! Bare concrete ground, I had to insist to get a room with “private bathroom” (one tiled square metre of ground to shower with a bucket). Anyway, I was glad to “shower” with hot water after 2 nights in the train!
I set out to try to find some breakfast, then managed to get on a bus to Gandhi Ashram museum. I learnt a bit about his life and fight in the exhibition and had to dodge selfies.
After that I wanted to try again to get on a bus to Kankaria lake, but didn’t manage it. I took a rickshaw ride, and after being stuck in heavy traffic, unable to breathe despite my pollution mask, I decided that definitely I will not stay there another night!
I walked around the perfectly round lake, thinking that I wouldn’t try the amusement park attractions given their ageing aspect, then walked out to book a bus ticket. Tonight, I’ll leave Ahmedabad!
With that done, I decided I should see and least one mosque before leaving the city. Jama Masjid was on my way back, and once again I managed to reach there by bus!
Bus travel in other countries is an easy way of transportation but here in India, there is no bus timings, ni directions, and usually no bus stops! But somehow, it works. Usually I use buses for long distance travel and from a bus station to another. In Ahmedabad, thanks to the bus stops, GPS and friendly passengers I managed some inner city trips!
I still managed to miss my stop and walked back through a Muslim neighbourhood with markets bustling with people!
I stopped to have chai, and realised that to avoid being burnt by the boiling beverage in a steel cup, everyone poured it in the saucer to cool it down. I had heard of that technique being performed centuries ago in Europe, and when I tried it I realised it was rather smart!
I enjoyed walking though the busy streets, soaking in the colours and friendly atmosphere. Like most women, I wore my shawl over my hair which also allowed me to walk more freely in the crowd, not being stopped every second by curious people, touts and sellers.
I asked people on the street to direct me to the mosque. They pointed straight so I followed that direction, being pushed by the crowd roaming the streets.
As soon as I entered Jama Masjid, I felt the quietness of the place. It was just besides the busy street, but somehow, the place remained rather silent.
I admired the intricate carvings on the walls, and wandered in between the numerous pillars. Some men tried to have a conversation about religion, which was the religion of my country and that theirs was best, but they didn’t speak much English and I don’t speak any Indian languages.
On my way back, I enjoyed some delicious street food, following the locals, then walked back to my hotel. I noticed a young man on his motorbike had been following me for a while. Creepy.
For dinner, I went in a restaurant opposite from my hotel, and realised that now that I’m in North, I don’t know half of the food names anymore!
An auto rickshaw led me to the bus station, and here I am on an overnight bus after 2 nights in the train! So long for the hotel night, I lost some money in the deal but didn’t feel much comfortable there anyway!
Ahmedabad was an interesting city: when not stuck in stinky traffic this city is pretty cool, there’s more infrastructure than any other I’ve been to. I managed to travel mostly by bus, and there’s a walkway on the riverside. It sometimes reminded me of Chinese cities (=awesome for India). In the Muslim neighbourhood I had some delicious street food, and I definitely loved the atmosphere!!