Gina writes:

Finally, finally, finally, we are in the town that we are to call home for the next two years! Since we left Pittsburgh on November 1, we've traveled by car 12 hours, plane 18 hours, and train 38 hours. Our journey to Koraput has been long, but satisfying. Delhi was a fun experience, but we're looking forward to stop living out of suitcases and have a place to truly call our own!

Taking the trains from Delhi to Koraput was the last leg of our journey. The two train rides were 25 and 15 hours, with a 26-hour layover in between! We'd been told from quite a few people that the trains were actually very comfortable and that it was a good way to see the varied landscapes of India, so we were looking forward to another new adventure.

Our train from Delhi to Bhubaneswar (the capital of the state of Orissa, where Koraput is located) left at 5:20 p.m. on Sunday, so Raj, a VSO staffperson, took us to the Delhi train station that afternoon. His help was invaluable, as the station was as crazy and confusing as every other part of Delhi. He negotiated the services of a porter with a head of steel!

When the train pulled in, we had to hurry through the station to get to the right car and to our seats as quickly as possible, not because the train was leaving right away, but because we had so much luggage and were advised to find a place for it before all the storage space in our area was taken. After the mad rush to our seats, Raj helped us to chain our bags to the seats (the trains are notorious for theft) and then left. After VSO's hand-holding and guidance over the four weeks of in-country orientation, the fact that we were left to discover the ins and outs of the Indian railway system on our own was appreciated and frightening at the same time.

The seating was quite comfortable. There are groups of six seats/beds; two sets of bunks facing each other, perpendicular to the side of the train and then one set of bunks running along the side of the train.

At about 6 p.m., soon after we took off, we were served a simple meal of tea, a sandwich, sweet cake, and a vegetable pastry. It was okay, the Indian equivalent of airline food. We'd been told by Raj to expect ice cream for dessert, so we were waiting patiently when we got breadsticks instead. The breadsticks were served on a small plastic tray that had a menu on it; it was then that we realized that we hadn't actually had dinner yet! The tea/sandwich meal was just the afternoon snack! Soup came soon after, then an entire dinner of multiple Indian foods, all delicious, and then ice cream!

At about 10 p.m., the entire train quieted down, the lights were turned off, and everyone went to bed. Since we could lay out all the way and were given sheets and blankets and pillows to make a comfortable bed, it was easy to fall asleep and get a good night's rest. Corey was a little paranoid about our bags being stolen, so kept waking up, but I slept quite well on my top bunk.

The next day was fairly uneventful. We were served breakfast, then morning tea/snack, then lunch, then afternoon tea/snack. We were far from hungry!

When we arrived at Bhubaneswar, it was hard to believe that we'd been on the train for 25 hours. It wasn't a negative experience at all! We checked into the hotel and relaxed for the rest of the night.

Our train to Koraput didn't leave until 8 p.m. the next day, so we had an entire day to spend in Bhubaneswar. Since it's the capital of Orissa, it's bigger and busier than much of the rest of the state, but it was less polluted and less crowded than Delhi.

We decided to walk to the Orissa State Museum. After paying the foreigner's entry fee (10 times the fee for an Indian), we discovered that the museum hadn't changed much, if at all, since being set up in the 1960's. It was still interesting to see exhibits about Orissa's art, geology, animals, and people. We weren't allowed to take pictures, but couldn't keep from taking a shot of the special bathroom that our foreigner's entry fee paid for!

We then took a rickshaw to a famous temple, but weren't allowed inside (again because we're foreigners...). We were only allowed to photograph the temple from a platform around the corner from the entrance.)

Before our 8 p.m. train, we had a delicious dinner at a hotel near ours and then caught a taxi to the train station. We were a little nervous about finding our car and securing our bags, but settled into our seats without much problem. Since we were assigned the two seats that run parallel to the side of the train, we had very little space for our luggage, so had to impose on the passengers near us, but they were obliging, so no problems.

This train ride was not as comfortable, though it wasn't too bad. The train stopped at stations until about 1 a.m., so it was not as quiet in the car. It was also warmer and I was nervous about cockroaches, since we had killed two on our seats before bedtime. And our biggest suitcase was in the next seating area, hidden by curtains, so we were both nervous about someone rifling through the bag. We still got some sleep, though, and were in fine spirits when we pulled into Koraput at 10:15 a.m. on Sunday!

Here, here, here at last!