I’m not sure that getting back from Darjeeling was our worst travel experience – the train from Kolkata left two hours late & well past midnight, and we were basically a wreck by the time we finally made it to Jaldapara – but it wasn’t really a high point. Siliguri is the travel hub for the northeast of India – it’s hard for trains to make it up to the Himalayas. I’m sure it has them somewhere, but the city’s charms are nowhere apparent in its train station.
We have some familiarity with this train station. Our train was scheduled to leave – and actually did leave – the station at eight; however, the woman at our hotel dramatically overestimated how bad traffic would be (there’s an election, which presumably affects traffic, but exactly how I could not say) and accidentally provided us with the most competent driver we’d had so far (little to no extraneous honking, great knowledge of faster back roads), so we arrived four hours before the train. And so we waited.
There is a First Class Waiting Room, but it is exceeded in misery only by the Second Class Waiting Room and the Sleeper Car Waiting Room. So we installed ourselves on a sky bridge above the platforms, where at least there was a pleasant breeze and we were mostly outside the crush of people. Were we better prepared, we would have brought a tarp with us that we could install ourselves on, but we are not the sort of people that travel with tarps. Instead, we did as the Indians do and bought this fine sheet of Chips Ahoy! packaging for 40 rupees:
You could also get Skittles, but Chips Ahoy! was clearly the more fashionable choice. On closer inspection, these turn out to be uncut packaging – probably the factory that’s packaging your cookies is nearby? It was a nice solution to our problem.
Travel from Darjeeling was a bit fraught as Harriet had caught some sort of stomach bug that made her throw up immense amounts, after which she was immensely cheerful and would like more food. This had happened at 1 a.m., 10 a.m., and 2:30 p.m. The mathematically minded may notice a geometric sequence here and see why we expected her to explode at about 7. That did not happen, though we had plastic bags ready. Harriet was entirely fine. Five minutes after throwing up, she was immensely pleased to meet this goat:
(This was still on the way – we stopped to get ourselves together and have some tea and meet a goat.) And one of the few redeeming features of the Siliguri train station is that it is overrun with cows:
Night fell over the railyard:
Our train arrived in the station an hour before it was meant to depart, so we boarded and settled down for the night. In the morning, we arrived back in Calcutta for one last day.