At last! The final installment of Christine's 'Adventure Apprentice' blog.
So, the last blog saw Christine about to board the train with her tour group to make the final journey back to Delhi - but did she manage to get all of them on the train and back to the end point??? "Hi Everyone I am sorry about the late delivery of this ... the final chapter of Explore ! 1st Adventure apprentice journey to India..... so at last without further a do ...here it is .
So the morning of the final full day ... I am now in charge of 14 passengers and we are about to board a train from Jaipur to Delhi..with Fayaaz our caretaker. Fayaaz is pleasant enough but doesn't have much to say... and I ve had it on good authority from Rafeeq that he is a train journey expert so with this in mind the group and I are dropped off at the station with a lot of big hugs and fond farewells to our unforgettable friends Rafeeq, Irshad, and the forever smiling suman, not to mention the other guests who are lucky enough to be going on to new adventures...we are now in unchartered territory! Its quite early and the platform is seemingly empty for the 0815 Delhi express...we are able to purchase some snacks from the ever grateful man in the Kiosk ..who seems to find 14 English folk all trying to buy biscuits and crisps in various flavours and indefinable packets quite amusing !! so with our various unexplained flavours clutched we head off back to the platform, to wait for the unexpected. At 0800 a train, pulls onto our platform ....... ok we all look at each other...it cant be ours our train is 0815 we are standing right under the sign that tells us the exact carriage that should pull up in front of us is B1 ..we are B1 but B1 doesn't pull up beside us and I cant see Fayaaz for people ..he is lost in the massive throng of colour who have leapt off the train and onto the station it is pandemonium. I spot Fayaaz and sure enough he is waving at me from a carriage (not B1) to get on ...i call the group tell them to grab their luggage and just get on the train !!! with a few bewildered looks everyone rallies and tries to climb aboard....I am using the term try as this was virtually impossible hundreds of people and their luggage....(Indians love Bundles remember)..in all different colours shapes and sizes were trying to get off at the same time as we were trying to get on .....we were crushed up against everything and everyone ..and we still had to try and navigate our way on the train to find carriage B1 where we would hopefully find our seats for the 6hr journey !!
I couldn't find Fayaaz ....he was last seen beckoning me from the train door whilst we were still on the platform...in the rush and the crush of trying to board the train I had lost sight of him, I did however have the entire group in a line behind me with all their luggage. I advised them to follow me we would walk down the train through all the people and their bundles of life which they all seem to be travelling with,to try and find B1. Now trains in India are not the same as trains anywhere else. This particular train was a sleeper..so getting through the carriages was even more tricky ..people everywhere in triple decks seemingly dangling in blankets & sheets with naked children, food and general chaos everywhere with indescribable smells and sounds and there we were 15 brits trying to barge our way through .... with suitcases and a few polite excuses me's .
It was about 2 carriages down and the train starts to move.... we still haven't found B1 or Fayaaz...!! It was at this point a rather kind Indian man in perfect English asked me if I need some help...he gently advises me that B1 is 3 carriages behind us ...i thank him profusely and about turn the group and advise them to go back 3 carriages....where we find Fayaaz sitting in our reserved seats waiting for us rather bemused as to where we had been .. I point out to him that this carriage isn't B1 as the number on the wall indicates something totally different...in true Indian style !
A conductor sees my confusion and advises calmly that this is B1 but cant explin why the carriage says something different ... t i i everyone ! So at last I am able to allocate the group into their seats a group of 6 in one compartment a group of 4 and 2 sets of 2s ..we are all near each other and we are surrounded by indian families on the bunks above and around us, all sitting crossed legged children grandparents having breakfast having just woken up sheets and blankets dangling at all angles whilst others snored.
In true british style, as soon as the call of the Chai seller arrives from down the carriage up goes our hands, out come our rupees and our biscuits are opened in a flash ..sitting there enjoying the moment with a cup of sweet Indian chai discussing the events that saw us all nearly miss the train over the Indian equivalent of a digestive !! You certainly see life whilst sat on Indian trains and you certainly smell it too... if its not walking down a platform then its walking through your carriage.....absolutely fascinating...you can buy anything from a Sari to Jaffa cakes...most of the carriages have seen better days too,as the majority of the windows are barely see through ...if they aren't broken (shattered)then they are just to plain dirty to get any glimpse of the outside world from. Just dont go to the toilet unless your eyes are shut and your stomache is strong .....
The 6hrs go by quite quickly, we are all to busy talking reading going through our photographs...to notice that Fayaaz is indicating that ours is the next stop and that the train only gives us 2 mins to get off... so here we go again ..everyone in a line all our luggage ..we have decided that the girls should just make a run for it leaving the guy's with the luggage as this will mean less people in the way of the doors...it works like clockwork as planned al the girls get off the men then left behind passing the luggage from the train door into a group heap, the girls then distributing it ..with everyone off and our luggage allocated its back to a bus to navigate our way through the Delhi traffic back to the Hans Plaza for our final night.
We all arrived safe and sound at the Hans Plaza where I check everybody in as usual. I ask the group if they had any thought on how or what they would like to do for their final afternoon ...shopping is the overriding agenda..I advise that I know just the place, there is an amazing fair-trade fix priced emporium in the heart of Delhi, this is 7 floors of souvenir heaven, and its round the corner form the Hotel we could all walk as a group do some shopping and come back in time for a final meal. Its agreed so with everyone back to their rooms for a quick re fresh ...In true Chachi style a group expedition to the shopping emporium, a huge success as we were all finally separated from our remaining rupees.
The last supper was had in the same restaurant where we had all started ...more curry and beer and much reflection from the last 9 days, tomorrow was the long journey home back to the reality that had sent us there. The End
I would just like to take this moment to say a couple of things to several people....
Firstly to Explore ! who saw qualities in me that I never knew I had ... I would like to say a massive thank you for all you have done and for the once in a lifetime opportunity you have given me ..I will never ever forget any of this from the Boardroom to the Departure Lounge..it has been one of the most amazing things I have ever done..
Secondly ..to all in the group who embraced the concept and Me personally into their world ...for the best trip ..I only hope that I had the same positive impact on you as you did to me ... Thank you one and all ..I havent laughed for that long in my life.
Last but not least...to Rafeeq, Irshad, and Suman ..and all those at Sea & Sky who allowed this to happen ...and who supported me throughout ..I am only as good as those I follow....Rafeeq you are a gentleman and a professional I feel honoured to have worked with you !! Suman may your water bottles never run empty and Irshad may your tyres remain forever round.
All my love Christine" Christine took part in our 'Adventure Apprentice' competition for which the prize was to be an Explore tour leader for a one-off Explore tour in India 'Moghul Highights'.