Monday, October 25, 2010

Onboard the MAQ-YPR Express

The rather famous train route reopened a couple of years ago between Bangalore and Mangalore, with there being a train every night between the two places. More famously, the day train started last year some time, on alternative days from both places.

The Sakleshpur ghat section is super good, even if you choose to drive through. The Kumara Parvata (on the Kodagu side, it is called Pushpagiri, the second highest peak in the district after Tadiyandamol) rises up like a wall to the sky, the Sahyadris are, as always, soothing green and the air blows slightly cold. There are the other standards as well, green rolling fields, coffee estates, winding roads, the works. Not that any of these is new to me. But there was much raving everywhere about just how beautiful the train journey is. The original plan had been to take the train from Bangalore to Puttur and then take a bus back, the journey being the destination concept, with friends. Never happened, never got tickets.

So all of last week I was home (sigh, the mountains, I miss them!) and after a brief stop near Puttur, had to be back to the damn city (Now why is it that I come back again?) I even managed to get a ticket on the day train. Lucky me, I told myself.

By now I have decided that, after much thought, and many thousands of miles accumulated by various means of transport, I love train journeys. Not so much the trains themselves, but the journeys, the swish of air that blows in my face, the chance to people-watch, and the face that there is something slow and unhurried about trains. More on that some other time.

Now listen carefully. Here is a tip for a getaway for under Rs 1000. If you live in Bangalore, take an overnight bus to Mangalore or Puttur. Don't stop anywhere once you reach the bus stand. Head straight to the railway station and board the MAQ-YPR Express, that's train no 6516. Take a sleeper ticket, put up your feet and trust me when I say this, you will soon see the BEST view of the Sahyadris that you can ever hope for. The ticket from Puttur, where I boarded, to Bangalore, cost me just Rs 118!!! Add a few hundred for the bus and a couple more for food and for within one grand, you get the whole day to yourself, to just be. Another tip: don't do the Bangalore to Mangalore trip, by the time the train passes the mountains, it is evening and the view isn't too clear. For a weekend, the train runs on Saturdays from Mlr to Blr. There are no trips on Sundays. The disclaimer being that you are one of those people ok with continuous travel. I am. Or you can always stay some place and then do get the idea.

The route, when it was closed for many years, was very famous among trekkers. I was told that no more trekking trips were allowed along the railway tracks, but thankfully, that turned out to be not so. I saw some trekkers along the way and was incredibly jealous. There are plans to go on that route soon. Is anyone interested in this trek? Call or mail if you want to join in, I intend to do this sometime soon.

That said, well, the journey from Sakleshpur Road to Yedakumari/Sakleshpur is fantastic. Seasoned though I am with mountain views and thick forests, the route that is almost parallel to the Western Ghats took my breath away. There are several tunnels that the train goes through, I didn't keep count after 10. Immature college boys yelled out sidey Kannada film dialogues when the train was passing each of these, created hell of a ruckus and I was suitably irritated. But then, I also discovered that there are few things more wholly in tune with each other than a moment that involves a train journey, a view of blue shaded mountains outside, an iPod that decides to play just what my mood needs, for once, some coffee, even if it's the railways' very watered down apology of a coffee, and a great book.

Perfecto. Until of course I get down in the city and start a fight with an auto driver and it takes me 30 minutes to go home, a distance of 2 kms!! Remind me please, why am I still here?!

Highly recommended. The train journey.

The 400-odd km trip takes the whole day. After the mountains, I took to people watching....always a great time-pass.

Need I say more....


Sharmi said...

Beautiful pictures, Deepa.

Debanish Achom said...

It's a relief to see these pictures. I can feel I am on the train reading this! The last photo takes the prize. The combination of a train ride and seeing mountains is something I want, and most of the time my train rides are in the hot flat plains of North India. I told you about how beautiful the route from Cochin to Bangalore was. We will do something soon in Feb-March again. Cheers!

Deepa Bhasthi said...

Thanks Sharmi! (Is that Sharmishta, by any chance?)

Deb, thanks. I have better pictures, actually. Went berserk with the camera. But didn't want to put them here and risk them being stolen! Will mail them.

I have been on the Kochi-Bangalore train. It's ok-ok compared to this. Do this sometime too. a long train journey is coming up for me soon too.