Delhi-Dehra Dun: The wisps of fog in the bleak winter sun as the Shatabdi tears across the plains of Western UP are an unforgettable sight. But the best part is the home stretch into the Doon valley post Haridwar. The track actually cuts across dense jungle that is a part of the Rajaji National Park and there is an upper limit to the speed for the sake of the elephants that may wander onto them. Pitifully, many a beast has lost it's life on these very tracks.
Konkan Railway: One cannot affort to sleep on this ride. The best train perhaps is the Delhi-Trivandrum Rajdhani as it traverses the entire stretch in broad daylight. The western Ghats are mesmerising as the train snakes in and out of HUGE tunnels and crosses bridges that are amazing feats of structural engineering. The best of them all is the span across the Zuari in Goa. The most picturesque station is Ratnagiri (can't find words to describe it). And after Goa, the sea plays a tantalising game of hide and seek with you. Beautiful.
Ratlam-Baroda: Picturesque. The hills look as if a gigantic hand has etched lovely designs on them. The terrain forces the tracks to take big, loopy curves enabling one to get a full view of the entire train as it cuts across the landscape.
Mumbai-Pune: Need I say more. I've been lucky enough to have traversed this one in the monsoon. It's the expressway that hogs most media coverage but it's not a patch on the rail stretch. Not by a long distance.
Delhi-Kurukshetra: Pure nostalgia. I can still rattle off names of more than half the stations that the EMU halts at.
Churchgate-Andheri: Nothing great, one would think. But at 6:30 p.m. On a working day. In a Virar fast local. Believe me, it's worth writing home about. (Ok, on a blog at least!)
The Metros: Both Delhi and Calcutta. Spanking. Delhi scores hgher due to the amazing views of the cityscape on the elevated section.
Food not to be missed:
- Chilled Rabdi at Abu Road.
- Piping hot Bhajjiyas for breakfast at Godhra
- Masala Chai anywhere in Maharashtra or Gujarat
- Chholey Bhature at Mathura
- Rajma Chawal at Jammu
Cant wait to pack my bags for:
- Delhi-Udhampur (and a few years from now, Srinagar)
- Any hill railway (I can't believe I've missed all of 'em - an ultra-short ride on the Nilgiri one notwithstanding)
- Konkan (again!!)
- Palace on Wheels (yeah, I wish!)
I wonder if anyone noticed two songs in recent releases (Dhadak Dhadak, Bunty Aur Babli and Kasto Mazza, Parineeta) didn't just feature trains extensively in the visuals, but the chugging and clatter on the tracks forms an integral part of the rhythm. Awesome.