Today I needed to return my bike, or rent it for more days. Still wanting to see other parts of India, I decided to make this my last day in Goa.
After tea, Ulrike and I rode scooter and bike to Candolim beach for breakfast, and a last look at the Indian Ocean. We debated the obsession of the largest of the Brits to come to Goa to lie in the sun and turn a painful shade of red; and places we wouldn't travel, based on reputation or hearsay.
We took the ferry to Panjim, dropped the bike off, and stopped for a cold coffee in the air conditioning, during the hottest part of the day.
Ulrike took the scooter back to the house. We weren't sure if it was able to take us both up the long hill to Porvorim, so I took the bus.
Ulrike watched Downton Abbey, as I studied the rail schedules and booked the next day's journey.
India has one of, if not the foremost, rail systems in the world. On this trip I wanted to see at least a couple of its particularly cool parts.
When I visited India with my parents in 1981, steam trains were still widely used throughout the system, and indeed our trip from Goa to Bombay was by steam train. Today, steam has been eliminated from the system, with the exception of one tourist train that runs every other Saturday. I would have liked to have experienced it nonetheless, but unfortunately I would be back in Canada during the next expedition.
While most of the system has standardized on broad gauge track, there are still some lines that use metre gauge (one metre between tracks), or narrow gauge (as little as two feet between tracks). These were constructed particularly in mountainous and hilly regions to accommodate the small radii required for winding mountain paths.
The highest concentration of these metre and narrow gauge lines are to the North, in the Himalayas. The famous Darjeeling line in Sikkim was crucial to the East India Tea Company's delivery of tea and spices from the mountains.
Another line, from Kalka to Shimli in Himachal Pradesh was built for the Viceroy to transport him from India's heat to his cool summer home in the mountains. This line, more than 2000km from Goa, is where I was headed.