There is no better way to experience what a country has to offer than to travel by train. This couldn’t be more true of travelling on the Konkan Railway along the West coast of India between Mumbai and Mangalore. From the moment you step onto the train the adventure begins. Our train left on time from Mumbai’s busy CST station at 6.55 on that muggy subcontinental morning. Locating our seats down the busy narrow corridors of the train we had to jostle past passengers and chai sellers with all our film kit. Out the window you get a sense of India’s huge population as trains coming from all directions head towards the city jammed packed with commuters over flowing at the open doors as they make their way to work.
The differences between travelling on an Indian train and a train back home in the UK hit you. For a start travelling with the doors open in India does give you a better view and provides a welcome breeze but somehow it just doesn’t feel right or safe! You might struggle to get a cup of tea on a train in the UK but on an Indian train every couple of minutes somebody will appear selling hot chai or spicy samosas.
The views on the train away from Mumbai through Maharashtra, Goa and into Karnataka are breath taking. Look right as you travel South and you’ll see countless rivers flowing towards the coast. Look left and you’ll see green rice fields and lush forests leading to mountains.
Travelling and filming on the Konkan Railway we encountered a few unexpected surprises. One thing I didn’t expect to see were cows meditatively chewing on the platform at Ratnagiri station. For me I was particularly surprised to learn that my hat which I mislaid on the train was reunited with me after five days all washed, dried and pressed. It was handed into lost property and returned cleaner than it had been for a long time! I can’t think of many places around the world where this happens!
If you ever get the chance to travel on the Konkan Railway along India’s West coast, seize the opportunity, for the journey has something in store for everyone. And there will no doubt be some surprises to experience for yourself too!