Sunday, July 13, 2008


Last weekend we went to Hampi.
We took the train there.
It was an adventure.
I'm not sure I should even tell you the train story. Really, it is a bit appalling. But it is a slice of India so I guess I will share- but please don't make any rash judgments about us OR India based on this story!

So, we decided to take the "Hampi Express", a train that runs from Bangalore to Hospet so that we could get a look at Vijayanagara or Hampi, a 400-600 year old city that is absolutely amazing. Not quite ruins, but not quite abandoned, it is in the North of Karnataka and I'll tell you right now- it is a photographer's dream. But, back to the train. I had tried to book the tickets online but kept having problems and then Bryan's assistant, whose husband's brother's cousin- or something like that- worked at the railway office said she would be happy to handle it for us. Okay, no problem. The help is appreciated as I have been busy showing Isha around Bangalore and all. So, for some reason our tickets, once we finally received them, were labelled RAC. Looked like "Reserved Air conditioned" to me. Fantastic. Well, we arrive at the station Friday night (July 4th!) and discover that RAC is actually...

Reserved Against Cancellation.

Oops! But, as our names were actually on the list that was taped onto the side of the train we were told to get on... but where? What we had reserved (and paid for) was 2nd class sleeper. But those berths were all full. The conductor took us down to the regular non AC sleeper cars and sort of waved his hand at an under-occupied area and left. We had absolutely no clue as to what was going on. Our driver had said that we might have to give the conductor 1,000 Rupees. I suspect he took one look at us and figured we could afford it. I was irritated, but felt like we were sort of stuck. Anyway, the girls found empty berths nearby and Bryan and I sat down while we waited to find out where we were supposed to be. Soon it was 11, then 12. Bryan and I also took a couple of empty berths and tried to get a little rest. Then a couple got on the train and it seems that I was occupying the berth of the very pregnant wife. Okaaaayyy. I got up, gave my husband, who I love very much, a bit of a look and I soon encouraged him to go find the conductor. Good man. He got up and came back in about 10 minutes and said that we had two berths in one of the other cars. Honestly, at this point I would have been happy with any seat to call my own, but I followed Bryan up to the next car and soon Maya came along as well and we occupied the two bunks that we had been told were ours.

Unfortunately this is not the end of the train saga. Ten minutes after I had settled into my bunk the conductor came by and said "Where is your husband?? This isn't your bunk, this is someone else's, you have to get out." Now at this point, about 1:30 am I think, I am fed up. I have no clue where we were supposed to be, I have no clue if he is telling the truth or what. But I did know that I was determined not to move from that bunk. He wanted me to "go get my husband". Nope. Not moving. He came again about 15 minutes later and I told him that he could go talk to my husband in the other car. Then, I rolled over, covered my head and decided that if he wanted me to get out of my bunk he was going to have to remove me himself.

I did end up staying there, but Bryan had to give the guy 1500 Rupees (train robbery!!!) and he found spots for all four of us. Isha was nearby and Bryan was given a spot in the car we had reserved for, but that's his story. Ugh. We survived though and in the morning we were in Hospet, about 12 kilometers from Hampi.

Hampi. Wow. Normally this would be monsoon season there, so there weren't a lot of tourists. The weather was perfect, not too hot, no rain, and a nice breeze when you needed it. We had a great guide and really really enjoyed exploring it all as well as taking turns using our new camera! (none of which are posted here... these are all from my lovely little mobile still!)

Really I think that all I can do is to show you some pictures...

A view of Virupaksha Temple from Hemakuta Hill

Krishna Bazaar

I think I just need to call him "Temple Watchman Dude"

Elephant Stables

Hanuman Shrine

Gratuitous Cute kid photo

So we did learn something interesting while we were there. We kept having people come up to us and wanting us to take their photos. Apparently some believe that if you take a photo of them that you will make them one year younger -or something like that. I figure it was a rumour invented by some eager photographer!

In a few days I will post the rest of my photos up on Flickr. And tomorrow ...we are off to Kerala!


tiggerr said...

You are a saint!
I would have slapped someone after (or even during) all that.

But then again, I'm in control freak Bay Area and everything goes orderly here.

Love the pics from the temple!

Angeluna said...

Just think of all the stories of the train to tell in family get-togethers years from now. You will laugh then. And Hampi was certainly worth the effort.

After an even more disastrous train trip in India years ago, I decided from then on I would hire a car with driver for whatever trips I took incountry. Upside, nice driver carries all luggage and guards things. Downside, you absolutely cannot travel by car on Indian country roads at night.

Romi said...

Wow! What an incredible place!

Thank you for telling that story. I often forget how comparatively little graft and corruption we have in the US. Still....

And I would have totally had a hissy fit on the train. Sometimes it's the only thing that works. :)

Debbie Ann said...

I think that is a great story - and if you can cope with that, then you can cope with anything. I was never able to get tickets online for the train, but had a much better time going to the train station and getting the tickets. We took a sleeper train down the coast of Kerala (my favorite place! go on a houseboat overnight if you can, hang out in fort cochin, eat fish, and fried bananas, oh I miss the little bananas), anyway, we had a place to sleep but for some reason they would not give us pillows and sheets, but we just slept on the bunker anyway. It seems like there is always something, but, personally, you sort of go with the flow, though no sleep late at night would make me cranky too. The not moving was a good idea - let others adjust around you.

Anyway, we look back fondly on that chaos and miss it to some extent (though, wow, pubs are GREAT here, food and beer and wine and poker on every corner - and libraries, I love the libraries)

Maya said...

Ah, it's the crazy train trips that make the best stories later! And now that you know what RAC means, the next trip should go more smoothly, I hope!

I can't match your stories here in my mundane California life, but maybe I'll blog about riding the roof of the train in Ecuador 20 years ago... that was fun!

And Hampi looks just incredible. When I come visit (!), I want to go there! AND rent the houseboat in Kerala that Debbie Ann mentions!


Bogie said...

"Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas any more."

Thanks for sharing and I'm glad you made it to your destination and got to see such interesting sites/sights.

Yasmin said...

Wow! That was some train experience. I find it very hard to travel in India specially when you get used to living abroad.But then it's these things that mke up for the spice part of the journey - the scary parts of the story ! Thanks for informing about the RAC - now I'm better informed and will surely remember this when I go to India.
Humpi looks like a wonderful place and great pictures!

Debbie Ann said...

just read about the bangalore bombs and thinking of you and everyone there and sending best wishes from here.

cremesoda88 said...

What an adventure! Nice pictures too! Take care,

Mridula said...

Oh Boy! RAC means confirmed births but sitting seats. That means you had one full seat if you had booked two and two full seats if you had booked 4. And you need not give any money for that!! I am sorry you had so much trouble.

Also by putting your PNR number on the Indian Railways website you could see the seats allotted to you online.

Anil P said...

Unfortunate this had to happen to you.

I hope Hampi more than made up for it.

Tazeen said...

great pictures

Coorg said...

nice pictures, thanks for sharing your trip experience to all.

Coorg said...

hampi is the best heritage site, there is no argument on this. i like hampi temples ,monuments, nice pictures, great story, thanks for sharing.