Night Train to Agra pt 2 – Reality bites

Well how cheerful I sounded when I wrote that last post a couple days ago now. There we were just waiting to be picked up for our train running an hour late and looking forward to our 1st class travel experience on the train. There would be the Starbucks coffee car selling Chai lattes as Mike (my brother) had suggested.The beds would be like those ones upstairs on Virgin Atlantic flights and we’d have a choice of in chair entertainment of course. There would be just enough time to fit in shopping at the luxury emporiums of MurghalSerai station. How very wrong we could be and no matter what our real pre-conceptions were nothing could have prepared us for what we were about to experience. I am afraid the Americans and Mike were right- what ever your expectations lower them, then again, then again…..
But what we do have to remember is that this lasted only 20 hours so we need to keep things in perspective. Easy to say now we’re sitting in Mr Singhs lovely garden at the Heritage Homestay here in Agra. So, here’s just a few highlights from our journey.
So we set off from the hotel at approx 9.30pm with our guide and driver and the first road we went down clearly hadn’t yet actually become a road yet. It was a dusty, bumpy track that the guys obviously use as a shortcut to get onto the main highway. It’s dark, dusty and foggy. We make it onto the highway NS2 which is the type you’ll have seen on television. It’s got 2 lanes either side and is full of huge trucks which go really slowly in the fast lane and won’t move over no matter how much someone flashes or honks them. The other occupants are vans with no lights, motorcycles which wobble there way along, bicycles with 2 or more people on board, pedestrians and of course cows and goats roaming freely. I particularly enjoyed the moment when we came across the cement mixer that had parked up in the fast lane. Well done mate.
So we arrive at the station and its a scene of mayhem. Crowded, noisy, foreign. Here we get an update that the train is now 2 hours late but our guide recommends that we should wait in the 1st class waiting room in the station. Excellent idea- shopping here we come!
But first of all we have to get there. We walk through the station concourse which is covered with people lying down wrapped up like corpses. I wonder how long they’ve been waiting for their trains? As our guide checks our tickets at the ticket office we get surrounded by staring hungry eyes. We quickly move our bags to where we can all see them. We have porters with us who are carrying our suitcases 2 per head but its all starting to feel a little uneasy.
Next we have to make our way over the platform bridge and our guide gets stopped by a policeman who asks him to tell us to remove our necklaces and hide them -‘this is a dangerous place’. Our guide looks distinctly worried- great!
We make it to the first lounge and sure enough reality bites. It is a dump. But the good thing is it is just us in there with our guide and a lady who lies on a piece of cardboard. Her job is to shout at all the scurvy fellows who try to come in and use our luxury toilet (now you know that’s just not true..) and she is extremely good at her job. You can see this room in the attached pic of Joyce and Enid below.
So here we wait ….for the next 5 hours. It becomes apparent that our guide and indeed no-one seems to know when this train will arrive. How can a train just disappear? We can’t sleep in here because there is the constant noise of a train arrival being announced by a lady and some bingy bongy music. The arrival of a train is also trumpeted with a loud TAH DAH. How very appropriate. In reality we are not alone either – we have a 5 inch guard gecko on the wall. I liked it when I said to Jane ‘I prefer the baby ones’ and she said in deep voice ‘What do you mean? I am the baby. Mum and Dad are behind the picture’. Oh how we laughed. But at that point it was only 2am…..
And then of course there was the rat that stuck his head in to say hello. The kerffufle we made woke up our guide and he looked equally perturbed but did manage to shoo it out.
Eventually, we got fed up of his vagueness (our guides not Stuart Littles) and I decided to get rather move assertive with him demanding that he went to find out what time the train would actually arrive. He looked really scared and scuttled off probably to have a good cry. Finally he came back with good news – he was pleased to report that the train was ‘most definitely coming’. Excellent but when? The next 10mins? Today? Tomorrow? A week next Tuesday?
He said the next 10-15 mins and things started to look more positive as the porters came to get our bags and even the lady on the cardboard woke up. The train did arrive as he’d suggested and on we got. It was now exactly 3.59am
We found our cabin B in the 1st class sleeper car and really it wasn’t that bad. 4 bunk beds and a door with a lock. We decided that the best thing to do was to go straight to sleep. Joyce was by now starting to feel rather unwell and our patience with each other as well as the situation was being stretched. The best thing to do was to sleep for the next 8 hours and wake up in Agra.
So what about that in chair entertainment then? Well you could take your pick from listening to the train blast it’s klaxon all the way or the kids next door slamming part of their bunk against our wall constantly. Or you could amuse yourself with the jolly cries of the chai waller selling his wares outside. Time for the ear plugs…
Funnily enough the thing that probably surpassed expectations was the toilet. It really wasn’t half as bad as you might expect and even had loo roll!
So here we stayed for the next 12 hours as the train got later and later. No-one could tell us what time we would arrive in Agra and now we knew why. The train seemed to stop at random non station places where the driver dropped his mates off…all the way and the name of the train Magadh Express was clearly an exaggeration.
When we arrived we were exhausted although all we’d done was lie around trying to sleep. Joyce felt even more ill and I think we probably all wanted to just come home. But we arrived at lovely Mr Singh’s and Joyce retired to bed. Mr Singhs daughter in law made us a cup of tea and gave us some Malted Milk biscuits and we started to feel better straight away.
My advice? Never ever take an overnight train. To anywhere.




Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

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4 thoughts on “Night Train to Agra pt 2 – Reality bites

  1. Amanda

    Aaargh you poor things! Deep sympathy all round. Jules, you’re wasted at the bank – your fantastic descriptive gifts should get out more often……I could almost see Stuart Little when you wrote about him. Wot no gecko pic?? Hope Joyce feels better soon. Love xx

  2. David Allen

    Fantastic description of your plight Julie! It all sounds really rather unpleasant! Im sure you’ll look back and laugh however! And to think I was considering spending 2 weeks on the Trans Siberian Express!

  3. Ian M

    Well you are really selling India to me now!

    I am going straight to the travel agents today to get my tickets for next year!!

    I don’t like using public transport in the UK so not sure that I would have been in my usual jolly mood if it was me.

    At least you can look back and remember the adventure!!


    • Hi Ian Ah yes…I think the train experience was a Cosmic re-balancing act for the upgrade on the flight out. Have you been sticking pins in your voodoo doll again? X

      Sent from my iPad

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