When this tour was planned, I was searching for a train from New Delhi to Trivandrum. But unfortunately no such trains were found until at last I got to know of the Amritsar Kochuveli weekly Superfast Express. It starts from Amritsar every Sunday and reaches Kochuveli on Tuesday afternoon. It is a good train but lacks amenities required for such a long journey in terms of pantry services. I was later told of a Rajdhani Express from Hajrat Nizamuddin that travels to Trivandrum in comparatively less time. But it was quite an experience travelling by the weekly train.
This train had very limited stops, for instance, after starting from Delhi, it traveled non-stop through the states of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh to reach Kota in Rajasthan at around 7:30 in the evening. My first feel of the climate there was the same as it was in Amritsar and New Delhi. We were all feeling very hungry and had planned to get down in search of something palatable. After a look around the platform I was rewarded with something unique: two humongous puris with chhole. That was what Kota had to offer. But we were looking for something substantial that could keep us going till reaching Vadodara at quarter to four in the morning and Surat at 6:25. Yes, that was the next scheduled stop: from Rajasthan to Gujarat, non-stop. But sadly nothing was found to our choice and we left Rajasthan with a heavy mind!
Our prayers were answered when a considerably yummy vegetable biryani was served at close to 8:30. And in no time I was done with it and was yearning for more. But the servicemen were gone by then!
Journey by superfast trains are a great delight. I am very fond of the sight of speeding through empty stations at night. The bumpy ride when the train is at its full motion, especially at night, makes for a spirited journey. Peeping through the curtains of the thick glass window panes whenever a station comes at night excites me a lot. So despite being fast asleep I got up when the train reached Vadodara at close to four. That it was cold outside was evident when I spotted a man with a huge pullover. After passing through Surat, we reached Vasai Road in Maharashtra where I had a feel of the famous vada paav. It was nothing new except for the paav and spice on offer. Soon Panvel followed and then we travelled straight to Madgaon in Goa. But the road to Goa was picturesque to put in simple words.
It was my first sojourn through the amazing Konkan tracks. Tunnels after tunnels, big and small, went past us as the train made its way through hills and mountains of varied size and shape. Initially it was very tempting to keep a count and measure of the time taken to cross each of them. The views on both sides of the tracks were alluring enough to have inspired a painter. The picture perfect mountains, the pristine lakes, the idyllic backdrop of small hills raising its head and falling back, the spectacular view of red patches breaking up intermittently and fading into the western horizon, the sight of the enormous conflagration bidding farewell sent me to a state of deep amazement and stupor. And the trance continued till darkness had taken over completely. Madgaon is perhaps the best place for having a variety of sea fish delicacies. My co-passenger, who was from Mangalore, told us such good stories that we were eagerly waiting for a chance to feast on some of them. It was quite warm when we reached there. The scheduled stoppage time was about 10 minutes and hence we had to be swift in our endeavor to spot a vendor. But the only thing I could find was a vegetable sandwich!
We reached Kochuveli almost an hour before the scheduled time. It is a small station compared to the busy Trivandrum Central junction (TVC). TVC is almost half an hour drive from Kochuveli. After freshening up at Samrat Hotel, which is one of the finest in Trivandrum, I headed for the iconic Sri Padmanabha Swamy Temple.