How to Get to Puri

First hail a pedal rickshaw to take you through the rutted streets to the local train station. Now dismount.

Next, cross the railway tracks via the pedestrian bridge. On the far side negotiate futilely with the autocab drivers, who will demand four times the normal fare. Then force your way onto a local bus, applying maximum pressure to squeeze your way between passengers who have already filled it way beyond any sort of reasonable capacity.

Get off at the ferry terminal.

Now board the wooden ferry boat across the Hooghly river, taking care not to fall over the sides, which have no safety rails.

After that, pick your way through the local market to the train station and take the first train to Howrah Junction.

At Howrah Junction, buy some food and drink to consume on the train, then board the overnight train to Puri.

Once on the train, locate your sleeping berths and remonstrate with your fellow passengers who have commandeered some of your spaces. This will have no effect whatsoever, but is part of local tradition. Then summon the conductor who, also in accordance with tradition, will side with the interlopers. Accept that your party will be split up.

It is now necessary to wait for the arrival of the train’s hijra (i.e. transsexual – often pre-op and always in a very cheap frock) whose role it is to create a lot of noise and maximum embarassment (for you) so that you pay “her” to go away.

Next, lower your bed into place, lie down and cover yourself with a blanket. Pretend to sleep for the next seven hours whilst enjoying your neighbours’ making and receiving ‘phone calls late into the night on their mobiles. Thrill to the stench of the latrines which fills the carriage each time the train slows down. Listen amazed to the call of the chai-wallah as he walks regularly up and down the train calling out his offerings of tea and coffee. And if you get bored, watch the cheery cockroaches frolicking around the carriage.

If your train appears to be on time, don’t despair – the driver will run into – or over – something at a level crossing to ensure that Indian Railway’s renowned record for punctuality isn’t affected.

On arriving at Puri choose an autorickshaw driver who can both be able to squeeze all nine members of your party plus luggage onto a vehicle that can reasonably hold five and can go to your requested destination*. It is recommended that you cling on for dear life on the way to your hotel, and pray to your favourite deity that the three-wheeler might not tip over on a sharp corner.

Once at your hotel, reflect upon the fact that in a few days you’ll have to make the return journey.

* Our trip organiser was concerned that if the group were split half might be taken to a different hotel (despite the fact that the rooms were pre-booked) in the hope of a little kick-back from the hotel. Not an unreasonable concern based upon previous experiences I’ve had in India with taxi drivers from both airports and train station.

[I2011 4]

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