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Jaisalmer Express

As the train I was catching pulled into Jaipur station, a strange thing happened - all the other westerners headed off to their carriages at the opposite end of the train from mine. I began wondering whether, if, during the rushed booking process in the station queue, I'd booked myself into the wrong level of the many, many different classes that the Indian railway system has. Sure enough, I was stepping into another world.

The carriage was full f Indian men who seemed a bit surprised to see me there. I was in one of the top bunks, which were more like hard benches, in a 6 berth compartment that smelt of urine. The formica walls were filthy, the fans not working, and bugs swarmed around the bright, flourescent light fixed to the ceiling 12" from my face. Attempting to switch it off, I discovered that the switch was broken, and with sleep seeming impossible, I lay there listening to the old man below me coughing like he was about to bring up a lung.

Eventually, I managed to work my fingers through the steel cage, twist the flourescent tube out of it's connectors, and everything went dark. Still wide awake, I lay there thinking that I wouldn't sleep all night - but the next thing I knew it was 11am and we were almost in Jaisalmer.

The following evening I met some Austrians who put my story to shame. The railway carriage they'd been in had had rats running around the floor and cockroaches as big as a man's hand fought for supremacy.

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