Grantourismo April Competition - Winning Entries
Theme: On The Road
FIRST PRIZE - UK
By Monisha Rajesh, from 80Trains.com
In which Ms Fogg and Passepartout make some new friends
Travelling great distances on Indian trains is like sitting in one long, cosy living room. Blanket-wrapped ladies feed kids from tiffin carriers, gossip passes between overhead berths and cross-legged I.T graduates play rummy on briefcases. Mobiles charge, laptops shriek bootleg copies of Three Idiots, and nappers snore behind curtained compartments, oblivious to the clamour. It’s a friendly confusion in which you can blend, or quietly observe.
However, after super-fast Shatabdis, comedy toy trains and the regal splendour of the Deccan Odyssey, only a clattering passenger train can take us from Trichy to Tanjavur – akin to jumping on the central line during summer rush-hour. But unlike the tight-lipped nods and snap of the Evening Standard, a fellow passenger will stretch out a gnarled hand to drop tiny bananas into your lap with a long blink and gentle head movement to the right, which means “that’s ok, you don’t need to give me anything”...
Continue reading on Monisha's blog
FIRST PRIZE - NON-UK
By Akila, from The Road Forks
On the bamboo train
I stared at my meager wardrobe that morning, discarding the dirty, frayed pants and the shorts that would not be considered modest in Cambodia, and settled on the skirt. I berated myself for that decision as splinters from the hard wooden shafts poked through the thin cushion during our journey on the bamboo train. The train is a bare platform of bamboo shoots attached to a four-stroke lawnmower engine laid on top of leftover military wheels and axles. Passengers sit upon the rickety structure mere inches from the ground as the train barrels along the uneven tracks at a heart-wrenching 40 kilometers/hour.
These trains were built in response to a need for public transport which, like much else in Cambodia, the government would not provide. Because the government had not repaired the train tracks wrecked by Khmer Rouge militants, the weekly train from Phnom Penh to Battambang often derailed or moved at a walking-pace, finally resulting in its closure in 2009. The Cambodians responded with an ingenious solution: a train system built on spare parts...
Continue reading on Akila's blog
By Jiffer, from Smash and Sniff
India by Rail: Going It Alone
We were running late. I had been in India for all of 16 hours when my friend Saurabh put me on an unreserved second-class train from Delhi to Agra.
“I’m so sorry I can’t take you myself,” he panted as we ran from our rickshaw to the ticket office. He had a flight to catch and I was going solo for a week before we met up again in Mumbai. I was simultaneously thrilled and petrified by the prospect of traveling around India on my own.
“You’ll be fine,” he said as he stuffed the ticket in my hand. I was not sure who he was trying to convince – himself or me. He helped me hoist my bag up the steps and waved sheepishly, then darted off into the distance...
Continue reading on Jiffer's blog
By Ant, from Trail of Ants
Me and My Mongol
They were crammed in like broken string puppets in a dusty backstage box; elbows twisted around ankles, and their shoes a peculiar mishmash of colours.
I forced my way into the pale grey cabin with my backpack, then squeezed out a seat on one of the two lower bunks. “Hi, I’m Ant. Don’t worry, I’ll save my farts for first class,” I joked.
“I am Anton, and this, is Eveline. We are from Austria.” We shook hands: One gay. One lesbian, I assumed. Another passenger grinned sinisterly. A mute Mongolian, I reckoned. “That’s Erdenebaatar” said Anton, “he’s a Mongolian. Does not say much.”
I’d only decided to go to Mongolia because my ex-girlfriend didn’t want to. I wound her up so much, we broke up...
Continue reading on Ant's blog