After some breakfast I caught an auto-rickshaw to the train station. I got a sleeper ticket on the slightly slower, apparently less fancy Quetta-Lahore ‘express’. Sleeper class consists of sets of parallel (across the train) bunks stacked three high that convert into seats. The sets of six bunks form an open compartment within each carriage. 2 AC and 3 AC being better with sheets provided, and apparently nicer clientel, but the AC not needed this time of year so I never bothered (in Pakistan nor India).
While waiting for my train, I hung around the station, then started to do some push-ups down the end of the platform, but got interrupted by curious young men who wanted to talk cricket and football. It turned out they were some national players heading off to a tournament, and we had a good chat.
Once on-board, I perched on the top bed, and shared a space with 8 others, including a proud, rude woman. The floor started clean, but ended up 90% covered in rice, sugar-cane, wrappers and all kinds of rubbish. Seat allocations seemed to be flexible, and I woke in the night with two other people trying to share my bunk. While sympathetic to a degree, I didn’t feel safe and over-rode their assurances that it was ‘no problem’ and made them sleep elsewhere.
Though I spoke little to people, most seemed friendly and we did little favours for each other to make the journey more comfortable. The train regularly stopped for 45 minutes or so around meal-time. At these stops the station platforms were covered in food stalls, and the train always started rolling slowly giving you a chance to run after it with your food.
The landscape turned from desert to cropping, the emergence of more and more tent accomodation, then into cities where the tents stayed in the same position and state (dilapidated, and right next to the rail line) while cities (and cricket pitches!) emerged around them. These tents are bent, bamboo-framed structures covered with a patchwork of fabric. Some contain raised cots, with either dirt or fabric floors, with effort clearly made to try and keep them neat and clean. They are filthy, often surrounded by drying cow-pats (fuel for the fire) and septic pools of water, but always with happy looking children running around. While poverty outside and mutiliated/defromed beggars in the carriage may take a loooong time to get tiresome (hopefully never), I did begin to tire of the constant calls of ‘chAAAIIIIIII’ as hawkers worked the carriages.
We arrived in Lahore about 5 hours late, and definitely got more dirty in that 24 hours of not moving than in the previous 14 days of traveling.