Saturday January 7th: At home, planning the trip to the south of India
From the moment I thought about visiting Ramesh in the Tamil Nadu province in the south of India I knew I wanted to see the country and not fly over it.
In India that means you need to travel by long distance (sleeper) trains.
Searching the web I found a lot of information on the site that helped me to understand the Indian railway system. Below is the information about the railcar layout that I managed to book, click on the image to find the information on that site.
The black dotted line on the map at the right shows the route I will follow with the Mumbai - Nagercoil Express. Departing from Mumbai Dadar Central at 12:20 hrs on February 1st I will get off at Tirunelveli Junction at 01:25 hrs on February 3rd.
Ramesh promised to pick me up there for the last 25 kilometers to his farm house.
Click on the map and scroll down to find the current positions of trains on the route.
Saturday January 14th: Mumbai subway, local train and auto rickshaw
Indian rail has quite an impressive website where information about train schedules can be found and tickets can be booked.
Click on the map on the right or the train information on the left bottom to see examples.
The biggest problem I had was creating an account to book flights.
An Indian mobile phone number is required to activate the account. I was able to do that using the mobile phone of Ramesh.
Buying the ticket was more difficult. Again an Indian mobile phone number was asked for but not used. The issue I faced that no matter what I tried none of my 2 Credit Cards was accepted to pay 38 Euro for a 37+ hours ride in a AC2 sleeper.
I finally managed with the help of an Indian neighbor in my apartment building and was all set before leaving for India!
Mumbai CST and Gateway of India
The old colonial area of Mumbai can be found at the CST (Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus) train station area. The office building of Indian Railways is already a landmark not to be missed.
Traveling by train from Andheri train station to CST was an experience in itself.
A good practice for me to get a feel about the Indian railway system before my trainride south.
After Ramesh, Kseniya and I arrived at CST station we started to explore the area and get a taste of old Mumbai.
Feeding cows in the middle of the town, a scroll on the waterfront and having lunch at Leopold Café.
After the train and subway back to Saki Nada subway station Kseniya and I took a auto rickshaw ride back to the hotel.
Saturday January 21st: Mumbai - Local shops and Powai Lake
After a quiet morning in the hotel I finally did what I wanted to do from day1 in Mumbai: find a Vodafone shop and buy a local SIM card.
I had seen one near Saki Naka subway station and within 30 minutes I had my iPhone on the local web. Now I can stay connected and post when I travel south the frst week of February.
Before going to the hotel I walked along the south border of Powai Lake over the Lakeshore Promenade.
It turned out to be a bit of a (young) lovers lane on this beautiful Saturday afternoon. Had a great Indian dinner in the hotel.
January 26-29: Walking the streets of Ahmedabad
100 feet road
The Indian Independance Day was my first day in Ahmedabad and I decided to walk around the hotel area to get a feel of this part of the city.
The first impression was definately more organised than what I have seen of Mumbai and (although relative) also cleaner. The wide roads in a new part of town off course make a difference.
Walk from office to hotel
A walk on the sde of a busy highway that once again showed the contrasts of India: poor people sleepig on the street next to the goods they sell almost in front of a 5 star hotel.
Bahdra Fortress, markets, street food, Kankaria Lake and waterfront
The Sunday afternoon city hike through the old town with busy market and souk around the fortress. Eating street food on the side of the road and strolling the street where most foreigners never come. Enjoyed it so much that I decided to walk back to the hotel.
February 1-2: Mumbai - Nagecoil Express from Dadar Central to Tirunelveli Junction
1800 kilometres by train!
Most of my family and friends have asked me why I wanted to take a long train ride like this.
The main reason is that from 1982 to 1985 I worked offshore on the east coast and travelled between Mumbai or New Dehli and Chennai (Madras) but always flew over the country without seeing any of it.
This time I only had a few days between 2 projects and as I like to travel by trains I decided this was the way to go south.
I have not regretted that dicision for a minute of the 37 hour long train ride!
It would have been nice to be in contact with other travellers but apart from an olderly couple and their daughter inlaw that hardly spoke any English it did not happen.
February 3-4: Farming in Tamil Nadu
A different lifestyle from implementing financial software!
After a short first night at his home Ramesh took me for a tour of the farm. He has land on both sides of the road that lead to the farm and we crossed the road to see the mango-, berry- and coconut trees. Although he has 2 water wells drilled there was not much water in the pit that is used to water the trees. The area suffers from lack of rain for over a year.
Hearing about the drought it feels a bit akward to see one of the employee's climb into a coconut tree to cut fresh coconuts for us!
The first day Ramesh and I did some shopping in a nearby village and in the evening we went to Tirunelveli to deliver some of his fruits, buy vegetables and had dinner.
The second day we walked around the other parts of the farm as Ramesh had not been home for a few weeks and wanted to see himself. We also took the dogs out and sat talking for a wile on a rock overlooking the farm.
Ramesh cooked a South Indian vegetarian dinner the second day and we went to bed early as we wooke up at 3:30 am so he could take me to Thiruvananthapuram for the return flight to Mumbai!