A Midnight Train to Jodhpur

Normally, I wouldn’t dedicate a full post to just a night train to Jodhpur, but I thought these were special circumstances that deserved its own story. Specifically, how stressful this particular trip was and the situation we found ourselves in. Now, I’ve taken a number of night trains throughout my travels and have had no issues with any of them, but the circumstances and situation that Mollie and I found ourselves in factored together to make one of the few times where I’ve been traveling abroad and legitimately was concerned about the situation we found ourselves in. Let’s begin.

The events of the evening started shortly after we returned from the Delhi Belly food tour. We had just arrived back at the hostel where I decided that I wanted to relax and enjoy the air conditioning before heading off to our sleeper train to Jodhpur, which was set to leave at 11:15 p.m. from the Sarai Rohilla train station. We weren’t able to get the sleeper train that departed from the New Delhi train station, which would have been preferred since it was easy to reach from the metro station, but we figured when we were booking the ticket that it wouldn’t be a problem.

Mollie and some friends from the hostel decided that they wanted to go out for ice coffee from a spot down the road, and somehow ended up also getting waffles covered in ice cream, and a brownie with chocolate syrup. When they returned around 7 I told Mollie that we needed to get an Uber to the train station no later than 9:45 p.m., since the station was a 45 minute drive from the hostel and I wanted to account for time to find our train and any traffic we encountered. In the meantime, we sat down to play cards to pass the time. It was only a few minutes into playing cards that the worst possible timing for Delhi Belly decided to strike, and slowly I watched as Mollie went from feeling just a little bit uncomfortable, to rushing to the bathroom every 15 minutes and growing paler by the minute.

Delhi Belly, for those uninitiated in the local lingo, is a common travel sickness that many foreigners face when traveling in India. All it takes is eating the wrong item, or drinking just a little bit of the water, but within an hour or so the person finds themselves constantly rushing to the restroom and evicting their insides until it seems like there’s nothing left, and then continuing to keep getting more sick. Nausea, fever, bloating, and cramps generally accompany this sickness, and Mollie was demonstrating all of them just an hour in a half before we were set to leave for our night train. At the same time, I started feeling nauseous myself, but was trying my best to hold it together since I knew someone needed to at least try to have a clear head for the journey about to take place.

Delhi Belly, for those uninitiated in the local lingo, is a common travel sickness that many foreigners face when traveling in India.

In between trips to the bathroom, I tried my best to be supportive and caring by letting Mollie know that regardless of how she was feeling, we had to make the train and we had to leave at 9:45. I packed all of our things and got them ready, spoke with the hostel about arranging a ride, and tried to give Mollie as much medicine as possible to try to make the trip a little easier on her.

Eventually, the time came and we had to leave. I was nervous for her. The taxi pulled up and I asked if she was ready to do this, and with a soft grunt she just replied, “Don’t talk to me during the ride. I need to meditate.” I told her that was fine, and threw our packs in the car and said we were doing this. 45 minutes to go, and an hour until our train departed.

Our driver didn’t speak any English, but he knew where we were going and I could just see over his shoulder at the directions on his phone and the time until arrival at the bottom, glowing in red light, 45 minutes. We left and immediately, if almost by fate, we ran into a typical Indian traffic jam where the entire intersection was packed full of cars all sitting still, honking at each other, and yelling out of their window at one another. I suspected that our driver might have been the cause of all of this, since our car was slightly sticking out into the intersection and blocking a lane of traffic. My suspicions were confirmed immediately when a steady stream of drivers got out of their cars and walked over to ours, yelling and hitting the hood of our car, gesturing at our driver to back up out of the intersection, or get the hell out of there. Mollie opened her eyes to witness the event, and all I could think about was, “Of course this would happen when we’re on a time crunch and there’s a sick girl in the car.”

“Of course this would happen when we’re on a time crunch and there’s a sick girl in the car.”

Our driver, after what seemed like eternity, finally decided to turn right and get out of the intersection and head to the train station from a different angle. I saw the light of the phone change to 50 minutes until arrival. Just what we needed. Along the way, as we encountered red light after red light, I kept glancing over at Mollie with her eyes closed and a focused look on her face. At every red light I kept playing scenarios through my head about what we would do if she had another attack of the Delhi Belly. Do I open the car door and try to throw a blanket over her? Do I try and shield her from view? Do I yell at all the other cars if they’re pointing and laughing at a foreigner’s discomfort? I was chewing on a match stick at this point, nibbling it down to the tip as I worried about situations that were not too far from becoming a reality.

Slowly, we started making our way closer and closer to our destination. The timer on the phone clicked closer and closer to zero. 35 minutes, 30 minutes, 20 minutes. As I focused on the numbers and the gap that was closing as we approached our train, I started realizing more and more what was going on outside our window. Hotels and nice houses, families walking the sidewalks hand in hand slowly started to be replaced by empty lots, dilapidated  homes, run down and broken roads, and men walking in a drunken stupor.  We were slowly headed into what seemed to be a bad and run down part of town. At times the road was completely washed away and we had to drive through a miniature river across our path. I looked over at Mollie, and still, her eyes were closed tight and the focus remained apparent through the gritting of her teeth.

Now, new scenarios started racing through my head. Not only did I have a sick girl in the car, but now if we missed our train we were going to find ourselves in a bad part of town, with no cell phone, no sense of where we even were, and at a train station at midnight, alone and without anywhere to go.

I chewed further and further down the matchstick. Thankfully Mollie wasn’t witnessing all of this, but as the timer slowly reached to 5 minutes until we arrived I noticed the clock also said it was 10:55 p.m. Once we arrived we would have 15 minutes to rush to our train, find where our seats were, and hopefully get on board before it left. The alternative situation of missing the train was absolutely something I did not have to deal with. I broke Mollie out of her thoughts, told her to get her bag ready because we were going to have to start moving as soon as we got there. When the driver finally pulled up to the station, I grabbed money out of my pocket and almost threw it into his hands and said to keep the change. We were out of the cab and moving hastily to the train station, while at the same time, locals noticing a couple of foreigners out this late at night were walking around, started calling out to us and trying to have conversations with us. “I’m sorry,” I kept repeating, “We have to make this train.”

We found our train. It was now 11:05 p.m. We rushed to what we thought was the front of the train, only to realize that it was actually the back. Since we were in the First Class AC section we would be located at the front of the train, and would need to look at printed off sheets of paper posted along the train to figure out where we were sitting. Running up and down along the train and reading the sheets of paper, surveying each to see if we saw our names, it was now closing in at 11:10 p.m. We found a cork board with a long list of names and started to scan it. I told Mollie that if we couldn’t find our names we were just going to get on the train and figure it out later.

Fortunately, locals once again proved their unending kindness, when a man came up to us and asked if we needed help. I pulled our ticket out and handed it to him and immediately he asked us to follow him. He took us to a train car, where lo and behold, our names were printed on the front. He walked us to our cab, and after graciously thanking him as much I could, he stepped off the train just as it signaled its departure. We had made it in the nick of time, and to celebrate Mollie and I both breathed a deep sigh of relief and gave each other a high-five. “I don’t even want to tell you what was running through my head the whole time,” I confessed.

“Trust me, I didn’t want to tell you either, but thank you for taking care of all of that. I didn’t even want to open my eyes,” Mollie said as she climbed into bed. After calming down a little bit and relaxing knowing that we were safely on our way to Jodhpur, both of us fell asleep easy enough to the soft and sometimes jolting rock of the train.

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Early the next morning I was awoken abruptly from my sleep to Mollie yelling in the bunk above me, “Kyle! Help!” I shot out of bed, still half asleep and working my way out of a dream. I looked at her bunk to her bent over her sheets, “I threw up,” she said.

Yes, yes you did, Mollie.

I found a trash can in the corner of our compartment and went to hand it to Mollie, but after glancing inside I realized it was already full of dry vomit that made me heave at the site. Instead of showing her the insides, I took the sheets off her bunk, carefully bundled them together, and shoved them into the bin. “We’ll just leave these here,” I said. Mollie groaned, rolled back over on her bed, and quietly said that we only had a couple more hours to go. I told her I would go investigate the restroom in case she needed to go again.

I looked at her bunk to her bent over her sheets, “I threw up,” she said.

Yes, yes you did, Mollie.

Down the hall there were two bathrooms, clearly labeled and read that one was the local bathroom and the other was for westerners. I went into the western toilet, and quickly realized that it probably didn’t matter what I chose. Now, I’ve seen some gross toilets in my day. From the back country of Tanzania to the foothills of Kilimanjaro, I’ve seen a fair share of unsavory bathrooms, but this one had to be near the top of my gross facilities list.

The floor of the bathroom was covered with a layer of water, sloshing back and forth with the movement of the train. Poop lined the inside of the toilet, the walls were sticky with God knows what, and the stench was unbearable. Toilet paper rolls laid soaking in the water. As I stood back from the toilet I kept a close eye on the water as it beat against my Chocos, making sure I would be able to move my foot out-of-the-way if the water threatened to wash over the side and onto my foot. Fortunately, it didn’t, but when I made it back to our cabin I looked at Mollie and told her confidently to just not go in there, and hold it until we reached our hostel. She accepted my recommendation by groaning again, and rolling over in her bunk.

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Once we arrived in Jodhpur a couple of hours later, we negotiated quickly with a tuk tuk to take us to our hostel, Hostel LaVie. While checking in with the very nice and gentle speaking front desk employee, I asked earnestly if there was a restroom Mollie could use as soon as possible. He looked at her and a concerned look came on his face as he told us the only bathrooms were in the rooms. “Can we get there as soon as possible then?” I asked in earnest.

Immediately, after stepping into our room, Mollie rushed to the bathroom and without even closing the door started throwing up again. The hostel employee and myself looked towards Mollie, then slowly looked at each other with shocked expressions across our faces.

“The rooms great, we’ll take it!” I exclaimed. IMG_2651

Mollie took the day off from walking around, and spent the day in the air-conditioned room getting over the dreaded Delhi Belly. Fortunately, we had made it to Jodhpur, but not after putting me through one of the most stressful situations I’ve been in since I started traveling. I knew thinking about the scenarios of what would happen if we didn’t make our train weren’t helping, but I guess in times like that you just need to run scenarios through your head in the hopes you can plan accordingly in case they come up. In this case, I had no earthly idea how we would get out of the situation, and just hoped that local kindness would help us to find a place to sleep for the night while we regrouped and figured out our next move.

I couldn’t help thinking on the train about the fact that we were literally cruising across the Indian landscape at that very moment while everyone that I knew was back home, possibly sitting on the couch watching television, or just waking up to go to work. The thought got me excited, that the two of us were actually doing this and exploring a completely foreign country that would normally be outside the comfort zone for most everyone I know back home. As if this is something that maybe only a handful of people I personally know will get to experience it helped to provide a sense of adventure that we were doing all of this, and everything was working out way better than I had ever imagined. Aside from Mollie being sick, we were making our way across India and were discovering and learning things that we didn’t even consider before we had left. The kindness of the people, the ease of travel, the uncertainty of what’s to come next. This was the journey and adventure I was looking for, and I was excited that we had reached our next city.

And now, we were in the Blue City, Jodhpur!

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