A date with a Palm Reader…
Day 10, and we woke up to another beautiful day in Udaipur. With only 5 days until I would be back in London, it felt like the end of the trip was getting ever closer. With this having been the longest trip I had taken so far, I wasn’t sure how I was supposed to feel. I certainly wasn’t missing London, and I definitely didn’t feel ready to go home.
Thankfully I woke fairly early, as it wasn’t long until I received a text from Afshar to let me know the palm reader had arrived. After hearing everyone talk about him the previous day, I was excited to see what he might have in store for me.
Although palm readers can be found throughout the world, it is thought that palm reading may’ve begun in India. It is said that palm reading has its roots in Hindu astrology. Palm reading is hugely popular in India, and is more often than not practiced by Hindu priests. My palm, however, was about to be read by a former mathematician.
The whole experience was like nothing I had experienced before. I had expected him to delve into my past. I thought he would mention the heartbreak I suffered when I lost my best friend, or even that my younger brother has disabilities, but none of this was spoken of. This seemed to go against the grain, as most of the group had been told things about their past. Instead, with me, he focused largely on the now and the future. He talked a lot about the Ring of Solomon (which is apparently quite rare according to old books about palm reading, but more common today), he could see that my parents have very different personalities, and he reassured me that I would always have safe travels.
Overall, the experience wasn’t entirely as I expected, but I was pleased I had been. Over the coming days, I would return to our conversation and the things he had told me. It took me a few weeks to rationalize the experience and to take some of the conversation with a pinch of salt. He taught me some valuable lessons, but it is important to remember that my destiny is in my own hands. Palm readers are there to guide you, but ultimately, that is all. I do not believe they can see the future, but they certainly can tell a lot about you by reading your palm.
Back on the road
After breakfast, it was time to leave Udaipur, as we made our way, by coach, towards our first overnight train of the trip. We would be travelling by coach for around 5 hours, heading north of Udaipur, through the Aravalli Mountain Range to a restaurant in Ranakpur, before travelling onto Falna, where we would be boarding our overnight train to the West Coast of India, and the second largest city in India, Mumbai.
I became incredibly good at taking naps on transport while we were on our travels. We were on the go so much, with plenty of early morning starts, so napping in between cities, turned into the best way of catching up on sleep. For someone who is prone to feeling travel sick on public transport, I adjusted to napping pretty well! However, it almost caused me to miss out on some of the most incredible scenery whilst we were travelling. Thankfully, I woke up just in time to take a few pictures!
I would love to go back to the Aravalli mountains one day. The one thing missing from our tour was a trip to some of India’s National Park’s. Driving through the Aravalli Mountains was just wonderful. The photo’s do not do it justice, but it was amazing to wake up post nap to these wonderful scenes.
Mid afternoon, it was time to make a stop in Ranakpur for something to eat. We would be ordering two meals at the Maharani Bagh Restaurant, one for lunch, and one to pack up with us to take on the overnight train for dinner that evening. It was a beautiful place to stop, and was the closest I’ve ever been to feeling like I was in the jungle or on safari!
After a late lunch, and collecting our food for that evening, it was time to get back on the coach as we made our way to Falna.
Overnight Train to Mumbai
After driving through more of the beautiful Indian landscape, we soon arrived in Falna. There seemed to be some concern on our arrival, as the road leading to the train station had been blocked. So with no other alternative, it was time to unload our bags, and take a short walk over the train tracks in order to reach the platform! Only in India would there be no other alternative than to risk your life by walking across the train track! I laughed as we crossed the tracks. If it hadn’t hit me already, it certainly hit me at that moment, that we really were most definitely in wonderful, chaotic, colourful India, where health and safety just didn’t exist. What a refreshing way to life!
You don’t get an awful lot of time to board trains in India, so it was important we knew exactly which carriage we would be boarding. As with our other train trips, we were going to be split into smaller groups, and there were no guarantees we would be in the same set of beds as anyone else from our group. Thankfully, myself and Donna would be in the same carriage, so there would at least be a friendly face amongst the chaos which was about to ensue. Afsha had done a great job at pre-booking tickets, so once we arrived on the platform, we were informed which carriages we would be in. The train stations across India seemed fairly easy to use, despite the language barriers, with the coach numbers coming up on screens along different sections of the platform so you knew where to wait for your carriage.
As the train pulled into the station, it was time to fight with the masses to make sure we got on the train before it made it’s speedy exit out of the station. We stepped onto what already appeared to be a fairly packed train. And it was already hot. And very sweaty.
We found our section of the carriage which had already been comandeered by a group of students who were making their way back to Mumbai after a trip away over Christmas. They asked us if we would mind sleeping the other side of the aisle so they could all be together, so myself and Donna obliged, and sat in our cramped space listening to them chat away.
The beds were folded away, with the exception of the bottom bunk which was used as seating during the day. As bedtime approached, the other beds would be unfolded, and bedding (a sheet, pillow and blanket were supplied in most cases, although myself and Donna certainly didn’t have pillows on this train so opted to use our less then comfortable rucksacks as pillows instead) prepared.
I had read so much before the trip, about making sure you had a good bike lock with you in order to lock your bags to the seats on the overnight trains. However, there simply wasn’t room or time (or patience) to do this on a cramped train, but thankfully, we had nothing to worry about. We certainly weren’t going to be sleeping soundly enough to let any thieves pass by unnoticed!
Some members of our group had got changed into their PJ’s in the toilets at the train station whilst we waited for our train. However, the toilets stank so badly, I decided I would wait until I was on board the train. Mistake. There was no privacy in the compartments, and certainly no room to do what I had intended, which was to change under the bed sheets. The toilets were swimming with god knows what by the time we located those, so Donna and I both slept in our clothes. Fact: Jeans are not comfortable bed wear!
The groups of students next to us were incredibly friendly and were keen to know more about us. As soon as the boys found out that not only was I a football fan, but that I also worked in football, they were so excited! They offered us food, and helped us get our beds sorted, niceties we may not have accepted if we had known they didn’t intend on sleeping for most of the night! They were up playing games until the early hours. I drifted in and out of sleep, but there definitely wasn’t any quality to that sleep. I couldn’t wait to reach Mumbai. I was desperate for a shower and a more comfortable bed!
As we pulled into Mumbai the following morning, I felt relieved that the only issues we had had to contend with were sleeping in our day clothes (which were now starting to pong), and not getting any sleep, as some people on our trip found that their seats had been double booked. There had been a crisis moment, where it had appeared that some of our group may have to get off the train and go back to Udaipur, before being flown to Mumbai the next day. Thankfully, a couple of Indians gave up their beds to allow them to stay on the train. This says so much about Indian’s. Can you imagine this happening in the UK? Er no, me neither!
Thankfully, we had all arrived in Mumbai in one piece. It was time to jump into taxi’s as we headed to our hotel to freshen up and have a rest before we headed back out to explore the delights of Mumbai.