Transportation in India, in any of the many modes and through any of the convoluted stages, can give you a coronary. Firstly, it is neigh impossible to book a train ticket. I have no idea what the process could possibly be at the station, but we’ve been doing all of our booking online and although it requires forward-thinking, creativity and a little extra cash, it is the simplest way. There was a moment when we thought we may perhaps be stranded in Varanasi for eternity (well, at least we’ll break the cycle of reincarnation). All trains out appeared to be booked for weeks in advance until we discovered an alternate route that required some switching and stop-overs.
When you actually arrive at the train station there is a moment of panic when you imagine that the train will roll away before you find the track, locate the reservation chart (train stations make a game of hiding this from you, I think), decipher if you made it off the wait-list and into a berth, then locate your compartment down a mile of heavily populated track. Actually, once this is all accomplished the ride is quite pleasant. Unlike any other mode of transportation, which plays out like a game of Frogger on crack.
But all of this confusion led to a bit of happy serendipity. Stuck in off-the tourist path Gwalior for a forced stop-over en route to Agra, we decided to visit the local fort and palace. The largely unvisited site featured Hindu temples crammed with intricate carvings and no elbowing crowds to share it with.
We eventually did arrive in Agra, a bit behind schedule, having learned that in India you must have a precise and pre-booked schedule or absolutely no schedule at all.