Chugging Along on the
Ooty Toy Train...
The toy train cruising along...
November 18, 2007

Considering this is the main reason I came to Ooty, it only made sense that I take the thing. But I had a few hurdles to cross.
The main one being that it was full for the next few days. The best I could do a couple days ago was the Wait List. I didn’t
really have the vote of confidence from anyone at my hotel or the people I spoke to at the different travel agencies. Their
rationale? It was a Sunday so they were concluding that most of the people booked for the train had to get home. Oh. And then
there was the fact that there were only 16 seats in the compartment.

After a lot of frustration and running around this morning, I went to the train station since I was told ‘the list’ (i.e. seating map)
was opened at 1:00pm. Even though the people I had spoken to discouraged me (I still think the guy from the travel agency
was doing this so that he could get my money from hiring me a driver), I decided to give it a try. As I said, this train was the
reason why I came to Ooty!

I handed my Wait List ticket to the guy at the ticket counter along with a friendly smile. He turned to his sheets of computer
print-outs and was marking different things. It looked promising.

And it was. He told me I was in luck. I got a seat! I was so happy I practically hugged the guy. Now I just needed to go to my
hotel and pick up my stuff so that I could go on a ride on a true choo-choo train.

I noticed something funny on the train. When the train would be chugging along and releasing steam/smoke, the Indians
around me plugged their noses because I am assuming they couldn’t handle the smell. I just wanted to shake them and say
“Are you kidding me? This smells like roses next to all of the urine and feces I smell on a daily basis out here!”

I have a tendency to compare lots of things to Disneyland. I don’t know why I do this. Maybe because Disneyland is such a
great representation of the world? Hah! Yeah, right. But this next comparison is dead-on. Trust me. The choo-choo train went
through many tunnels. The rocks that these tunnels were carved out of looked absolutely fake…almost like something in a
(sorry about this) Disneyland ride. In fact, Thunder Mountain Railroad (to be specific). But this ‘Disneyland’ feeling was even
more intensified when people on-board the train would scream and make those noises (that people tend to do on amusement
park rides) when we were going through the tunnels. If the ride wasn’t already aesthetically pleasing, now there was also a
sense of excitement involved. Though there were no big drops that come along with the train ride at Disneyland, this ride did
come with waterfalls, bridges, streams, tea plantations, jungle, palm trees and a sunset. Not too shabby, eh?

Once we got to our destination, it was time to buy a train ticket onto Coimbatore. All that was left was ‘Second Class’. This is
something I have avoided at all costs while in India (literally as I would rather pay for a taxi or driver). I guess with just a few
days left out here somebody was trying to tell me that I should experience this before leaving in India. And when would be a
better time than on a 40-minute train ride? I could handle this. Of course I could.

The truth is that the 40-minute ride was my threshold. My butt could only take so long of sitting on a rock-hard wooden
bench. Oh. And then there were the feet dangling courtesy of the man sitting on the bench above me.

A place called ‘Coimbatore Train Station’ had never looked so beautiful.

I am off to bed now. Tomorrow morning (practically still the ‘night’ since it’s so darn early!) it’s off to Cochin for my LAST
public form of transportation in India. Yay!!!

November 19, 2007

I had a surprise this morning when I went the train came to the station. The surprise was that I wouldn’t only have another
‘train ride’…I would have another ‘overnight train ride’. I wasn’t really a big fan of this surprise.

Oh. Let me begin by saying how incredibly lucky I was this morning. I checked out of my hotel pre-5:00am. I was walking to
the train station and I heard running coming from behind me. I didn’t think anything of it. Turned out a guy from the hotel was
chasing after me. He had my debit card in his hand. The guy at the front desk forgot to give it back to me and I was too tired to
notice. This guy was my life-saver. Next to my passport, I can’t think of a worse thing to lose. I can’t even imagine what would
have been going on in my mind when I realized it wasn’t in my wallet. Well…at least I never had to go through that experience.
Phew! But it was great to have yet another experience with how great people in this country are.

In the end, it turned out to not be that bad.  The three other men in my compartment were already awake and sitting on the
bottom beds when I got on the train. I had one of the bottom beds. I did a swaparoo with one of the men and got his ‘upper
berth’. All I had to do was wait for the man to come around and give me my sheets and pillow (had I known this was going to
be a sleeper train I would have had my ‘cocoon’ ready for the occasion). I got my bedding and I was out for the next four-and-
a-half hours. When I woke up, we were practically in Cochin.

I think this whole overnight train ended up being a good thing after all. It’s weird to admit that I have gotten some of my best
sleep on these overnight trains (with the assistance of ear plugs, of course).
Back to India.
The toy train in action.