We got up at 3:00am to make it in time for the 5:05am train to Jaisalmer and arrived at the platform at 4:40 sharp expecting the train to arrive any minute. We couldn’t believe how many locals were sleeping on the filthy concrete floor and how complex it was navigating our way through them all with our backpacks. Many appeared to be waiting around for trains, sleeping with their luggage wrapped up in their arms tightly. Others looked homeless, disheveled, in need of shelter from the monsoon rain and intense sun that was about to rise. Families lay on the floor, babies and toddlers entwined around their mothers and older siblings, we wondered what type of life they all led outside of the station, it pulled on our heart strings and was very difficult to see.
We soon came to realise our train was delayed, so we perched our backpacks up against a wall and took a seat, watching the world go by. The fact that we had taken a step back, slowing down from our morning rush meant the smaller details began to stand out to us, like the black rats scurrying around the platform, climbing on people bags and over the sleeping bodies. The children playing with small pebbles on the floor, entertained by the smallest things.
No sooner had we sat down and started to relax, I had to warn Mr Vine, the dreaded deli belly sensation had come on. Panic set in as I went extremely nauseous and faint with no toilet in sight! After rushing back to the entrance and spotting a small toilet icon, I breathed a sigh of relief thinking ‘that’s it I’ve made it.’ This however wasn’t the case, with a queue of woman coming out the door, I realised I was going to have to wait my turn. We have found in India so far that the queuing system so evident back in the UK is not followed here, with locals pushing in where they please and previously we’d been hesitant to pick them up on this. However this moment in time I was in no fit state to be made to wait longer for the toilet, and abruptly scolded four women who attempted to push in front of me, YES, go Katie!!!
At the front of the queue I hadn’t realised I would need to brace myself to such an extent. The squat toilet experience was one I will never forget, it will haunt me till my dying day! Excreta swarmed by flies covered the entire floor, my flip flops became wet in seconds and the wrenching began. It was a test of will, balance and speed to keep myself on tip toes, holding my bag off the floor whilst using the squat toilet. Angry women banging on the door in impatience, as I shed a tear behind the door, purely from feeling so unwell in such a diabolical environment. J was relieved to see me after my harrowing experience, with the comforting words of reassurance “Jesus, you look like you’ve been ten rounds with Mike Tyson!” “I feel like I have,” I replied.
The train finally arrived, 2 hours late! Our cabin was extremely small with 8 beds crammed in a 2 by 3m space, with our bunks (3rd ones up) being so close to the ceiling our foreheads were almost touching it. What a laugh we both had trying to climb up to our beds without disturbing the other sleeping passengers. As tired as we were, there was no option to drift off into a deep sleep as every time the train reached a new stop, locals selling chai (Indian tea) would rush on board to sell their drink, bellowing “CHAI,” as loudly as they could.
As tempting as it is to have a cup of chai from a street vendor, it’s risky business for sure. The tap water in India is undrinkable for any tourist wanting to keep healthy and minimise the risk of becoming seriously ill with a stomach bug. The chai although served hot, may not have been fully boiled, so the harmful bacteria may not have been killed. The same rule applies to the fresh juices served in India, often having tap water mixed in to them. Steer clear and stay safe.