EIGHTEEN hours thundering through the Indian countryside on a train is the ideal way to cure insomnia.
Trust me, a restless night spent tossing and turning in a grotty, cramped bed, trying to fend off an army of cockroaches invading from above while blocking out the train thundering through the country before screeching to a halt at every stop does wonders for evoking sleep.
With health and safety well and truly blown out of the window, hanging out of the open train door as it races along the tracks is the norm, and the wind smacking you in the face provides the perfect way to forget about the lack of sleep while watching the luscious mango groves, endless paddy fields and bustling towns pass by.
Every carriage is alive with friendly faces, beaming grins and the constant chatter of inquisitive Indians eager to share stories and quiz you on where you’re going, where you’re from, your religion, your job, your hair, all over a steaming, sickly sweet cup of chai.
And there isn’t a chance of going hungry. At every stop, wallahs swarm the train offering everything from fried banana and pancakes to samosas and onion bhajis. With seconds to spare before the train continues on its long journey, as quickly as they appeared the hawkers are gone, leaving behind a mouth-watering trail of sumptuous smells.
In spite of all this, there was nothing I longed for more than the beach hut that was awaiting me at my final destination, Palolem in south Goa.