We have just returned from three and a half months in India and Bulgaria. A strange itinerary, as everyone we mention our trip to points out. It is. We know how strange, bizarre, almost insane it is to fly all the way (halfway) across the world only to visit two countries, especially in Europe. Because when Australians go to Europe we are like kids in a free candy store trying to cram as many countries as possible into our bulging pockets.
We are squashed in an auto-rickshaw, struggling to breathe and trying to ignore the headaches that are pounding insistently inside our skulls. The traffic is at a complete standstill, the fumes from every kind of vehicle and the dry dust of the street poison the air and the beeping is incessant and pointless. It’s hot. It takes us nearly an hour to travel the eight kilometres to the river, then we get out and walk. The auto driver resignedly heads back into the stifling crush. The traffic here is as renowned as the reason it exists.
Sleeper class. Two words that can fill you with nervous unease if you are about to take your first train trip in India and you can’t afford the icy luxury and scratchy blankets of the air-conditioned carriages- or you just don’t want them. But sleeper class is actually better than sliced bread. It isn’t what you have seen in so many movies- the carriages aren’t packed to exploding, there are no people hanging out the doors, you won’t have to cram yourself into a space meant for a child’s backpack. That’s in general class. You don’t want to travel in general class. Although it may be the only place you will ever see a grown man haul his tiny ancient mother onto the luggage racks above the seats, where she settles in for the journey.