Day's run: 26 km - to train station
Total: 1,861 km
It was a spur of the moment decision...... I'd been zig-zagging around south western India for about 5 weeks and was now comfortable with and accepting of all that had amazed and confounded me in the early days. I had 2 weeks left. I could either carry on up the beautiful, scarcely populated coast to Mumbai or relocate to Delhi. Distance-wise, like moving from north Portugal to London. To be honest, once you've seen 10 pristine unspoilt beaches, then you've seen them all.
Nationalised in 1951, and probably under-invested-in ever since, India Railways has one of the largest networks in the world with 115,000 km of track, 7,172 stations and carries over 8 billion passengers per year. Staggering. First impression's count ......Ratnagiri has a dirty rundown shit hole of a station. Now, with hindsight, I know it is no better or worse than the rest.
You have to reserve seats on long distance trains. Of the eleven enquiry hatches in the Reservations Office only one was open. The queue inched forward frustratingly slowly, with 'chancers' always trying to get in at the front resulting in heated arguments. As I arrived at the front a placard slid across the hatch and the teller disappeared. Tea break! I was suddenly transported back to RAF Lyneham in the 80's. Don't bother visiting ESG (Electronic Supply Group) at 10:00 or 15:00........the shutters would be down and locked.
As I cycle 'home' to the hotel I try and work it out. I'll have to leave for the uphill ride to the station at around 05:45 and be pannier-packed ready for a 30 hour train journey.......or an 85 km ride up the coast.......all depending on this mysterious text.
I'm sat in a restaurant when the text arrives. It's as clear as mud to me....
Frm RN to NZM
I have no idea what 'chart prepared' means. Have I got a seat or not? The staff cannot help, I wasn't even sure what I'd ordered to eat. Eventually an old guy comes in with good English....such a relief. "You are on Waiting List". Yes, I know, I just told you that, but do I have a seat or not? Vigorous head-waggling......not a good sign. Later, having found a 3G signal, I feed the PNR into the rather good India Rail website. It says I'm W/L 6 and quotes a coach and a berth number. Now I'm still confused but assume I'm still 6th on the list. Ah well, back to the beaches.......tomorrow morning I'll go to the station anyway, my status might change overnight and I have to go to claim a ticket refund.