Riding the Rails in Southern India

Temple in Panjim

An Overnight Bus to Hampi

From Mumbai we took an early morning train to Panjim in Goa, Southern India. We spent the day exploring the temples and sampling the local cuisine before catching an overnight sleeper bus to the holy ancient city of Hampi, in the state of Karnataka.  On arrival we were besieged by the local guest house touts.  We had already booked to stay at Shanti on the other side of the river, so strode off purposefully (having checked the map on the bus, so we wouldn’t stride off purposefully in the wrong direction!)

A Magical Landscape

We took a small boat accompanied by a jolly sadhu.  The cottage we stayed in overlooked some vibrantly green rice paddies – it was a beautiful and peaceful spot.

We spent several days in Hampi. Defying the extreme heat (we arrived pre-monsoon) and a nasty bout of food poisoning, we hiked through the boulder strewn landscape visiting the many ancient ruins that the area is known for. It is a captivating place, a hippie heaven in magical surroundings and remained one of our favourite places in India.


A Nightmare Train Journey

The next stop was a brief encounter with Mangalore. There wasn’t too much to keep us there and we spent most of the time in our hotel room recovering from the overnight journey and persistent sickness that we still hadn’t been able to shake off. Leaving the comfort of our room, we headed to the railway station by tuk-tuk to catch our 10 hour overnight train to Ernakulam.

 This turned into the trip from hell, and by far the worse journey we took in the continent!  The bunks were tightly packed and there was barely enough room to turn over. The heat was unbearable and we were located adjacent to the toilets from which emanated a terrible stench. We somehow made it through the night, practically falling onto the platform at about 4.00 am. Still feeling extremely unwell (in fact even worse!) we waited another hour to take a tuk-tuk to the ferry, where we joined the early morning workers on their commute across to the island of Cochin.

Kerala Backwaters

We spent a few days there, relaxing and recovering. The breeze from the Arabian ocean felt wonderful, the first breeze since arriving in India! The food was good and the old town fascinating to browse around. Our family-run hotel Sonnetta Residency was lovely. We took a trip on the tranquil Kerala backwaters and watched the fishermen haul in their catch using traditional nets.

Kerala Backwaters

We planned to go to Sri Lanka next and were due to fly from Chennai. Originally, we had decided to go by bus, but having packed a combination of long train/bus journeys into two short weeks, we decided to treat ourselves to a flight to Chennai.

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