We had a horrible experience last night that I never want to repeat.
We arrived at the train station around 10pm and found our platform, someone told us the train was an hour late but we took that bit of information with a pinch of salt and the time flew by as we got talking to a family from Leicester. At 10.50 the train arrived and we battled our way through and found our carriage. As our tickets were 3rd class sleeper this means we have to share our compartment with two people and when 2 scruffy old hippies get on I’m a bit nervous. They seem friendly enough though and we help them decide which station to get off at in Goa.
Ali is tired so he gets in the top bunk and settles down and I start to get Maisie sorted out. The conductor then appears and asked to see our tickets and imagine our horror to realise we have in fact got tickets for the 16th which is tonight. We offer to pay extra for any available tickets but he insists the train is completely full and boots us off at the next station. The feeling of being stood in a train station in Mumbai past midnight with no accommodation and no train ticket and two brave looking children was awful and I had to bite my lip not to cry.
Lots of people seemed to want to help us but no one from the train station was interested and trying to think clearly and make a decision about where to go was really hard. The conductor told us there was another train to Goa in an hour but the taxi drivers seemed to be saying that the chances of us getting a ticket were nil.
Eventually we got in a taxi, as most hotels close their doors at 11pm we had to ask the driver to take us to a hotel he recommended and we were both painfully aware that this would put us at risk of paying well over the odds and we could end up somewhere really dodgy. The drive to Victoria seemed to take ages and neither of us could recognise any landmarks to get our bearings. I had to fight to stay calm and not panic.
Eventually we pulled into a side street and outside a hotel, Simon ran in while I stayed in the car and came out giving it the thumbs up. I ignored the monster rat sat watching us on the steps and we finally made it into our room at gone 1am, exhausted and furious with ourselves for not checking the tickets properly.
This has been a lesson to us both; we have tried to be so careful and mindful of the fact that we have precious Ali and Maisie with us and I guess until something like this happens its difficult to foresee every possible eventuality.
We are now a bit lighter in our wallet, but this hotel is fine and a vast improvement on the last place. In the cold light of day it’s easier to stay more objective and actually everyone last night was really kind. From the old hippie on the train who gave us a hotel number and carried my rucksack off the train, to the taxi driver who, seeing me clutching the kids hands tightly kept saying” Don’t worry, I’m a family man, Bombay is very safe at night and everything will be ok”
I was just asking Simon what to call this document and his suggestion was “Simons fuck up” I know he feels bad about it but I don’t blame him, I didn’t check the ticket either and all we can do is learn from it to ensure nothing like this happens again.
Its 5pm now and we have had a very quiet day, I rang home this morning and had a chat to mum who was surprised to hear we were still in Mumbai. The area we have found ourselves in is not touristy at all and when we went to a cafe across the road the menu wasn’t that appetising with a choice of brain plain fry, brain butter fry or brain masala fry.
We settled on some fried rice and pepsi.
We spoke to a friendly Muslim family from New Zealand who were on their way to Mecca for their sons pilgrimage and they told us we are in fact not far from Victoria Station and weren’t skinned too much last night by our taxi driver. In some ways I guess we were lucky but this does remind me that although I often worry about stuff and am quite wary of people on the whole most people are good hearted and kind and will help you out in a crisis.
We are going to check our emails now and then plan to go out for dinner, if everything goes to plan we should catch the train to Goa tonight at 11pm. I’m keeping my fingers crossed. Second time lucky I suppose.