Maybe it was but it wouldn’t serve the purposes of my blog to understate my return journey.
My train from Hospet to Bangalore was scheduled to arrive and leave at 8.30 and so at about 7.15 I made my way out from the Sloth Bear Resort by an auto-rickshaw. The thing about Hampi or any other similar town in India is how amazingly and completely it goes dark when night falls. The only light we could see on the road was the thin pencil of light from the head lamp of the auto. Which incidentally was enough to illuminate a pig that nearly got run over by the auto. The impact of the brake was so hard that one of my bags (I only had two btw) almost went flying out of the other side. The pig survived the fright and continued running away in exactly the same direction from where it had suddenly emerged. I could not have said the same about myself (not the thing about running in the same direction- d’ah! well maybe that too) but we continued nevertheless.
Soon we were, to my relief passing through more populated areas. At one point the driver got out saying he would be back in a few minutes. I am normally the worrying type when it comes to trains and flights and I was not very happy about the auto driver abandoning the vehicle in the middle of the road for a few minutes- however polite he may have been. But he eventually came back and we continued. Now we had been on the road for about 20 odd minutes when we came into another crowded night market. This time the auto driver yelled at another driver driving the opposite direction and promptly abandoned the auto once again. This time it took longer for him to come back and when he did he gave me bad news.
“Madam, my auto not working. You take another auto with my brother to the station.”
Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo. This is exactly the kind of things that happens in horror movies right? I was so ready to lose my temper out there. I would have- except that I was so anxious about getting to my train. So I dragged myself and my bags out one auto and got into the next and continued on my way.
We went on- and on- and on and on forever. It was unbelievable how long the journey to the station was. I had no inkling we had travelled that far out from the station into the town. Eventually I got to the station with about 20 minutes to spare before the official arrival of the train. The actual arrival was delayed by about 40 minutes which meant a total wait of about one hour. So much for my losing my cool in the auto.
The way Indian Railways works is that a delayed departure does not always mean a delayed arrival as the itineraries are always built with a lot of cushion room. But most passengers on Hampi Express that night were not aware of this golden rule and found themselves being rudely awakened by porters at the Bangalore City station which the train had reached about 20 minutes ahead of schedule. Not wanting to be outsmarted by the Indian Railways I quickly ran to the enquiries counter to find if there was an earlier train to Chennai that I could board. I was rudely reminded that this was not London Heathrow where you had a bajillion flights if you missed one or made it early for the next one. So could I please go back and come at 8 am for my actual train?
Eventually I made it to my train. I was once again tricked out of my window seat by the online reservation system (the same happened on my onward journey- next time I’ll choose middle seat if I want a window seat) which allocated a middle seat to me and I had to be content with being seated between a man who was intently reading his newspapers and a woman who very authoritatively asked the man for the lighter sections of the paper and promptly started filling in the sudoku boxes. Once she was done with sudoku she asked me for the time and expressed her outrage at the fact that only three hours had passed and there was still a while to go before we reached Chennai.
When she realised that I had both a book and an ipod to entertain myself and was not using both simultaneously she grabbed my book. Now you don’t mess with me and my books and I promptly grabbed the other end of the book and stared at her to which she replied “Don’t worry I’ll give it back to you!”. At this point, I had to concede and let go as I didn’t want to come across as being unfriendly to an older lady but I was furious and was cursing myself for having been careless. I was however amused at the random fashion in which the lady was perusing my book- read backcover, open page 138 and read completely, go to page 217 read completely etc etc. She soon got bored (ha! knew you were not the book type) and got herself some food. The man on the other side was still reading whatever bits of the newspaper the lady had still left him.
I think I laughed heartily at this point.
Inch by inch the train eventually crawled back to Chennai and although I was sad that my adventure to Hampi had come to an end, I was also glad that this would hopefully be a new beginning to more adventures ahead.
Btw the auto-rickshaw dude who dropped me home ripped me off…thought you would like to know!