The night train

It’s just after 10pm, and instead of just drifting through Derby as I should be, I’m sitting on the last train North at St Pancras, in the oldest and ugliest 125 I’ve been on in years (presumably the late night train from London has a higher than normal level of over-indulgence than most, so they use the carriages they care about least…).

My wait here is directly linked to a different couple of hours spent waiting somewhere else entirely.

My story actually starts 36 hours ago, on the final leg of this Bangladesh visit.

Chad, our pilot, had been keen from the beginning on taking us to see the north east of the country. Counter-intuitively, this area, rather than the southern central coastland is most at risk of seasonal flooding, because of the rivers which converge on the area, carrying water down from the mountains of India and Nepal. The south is regularly affected by cyclones, which bring a similar but unique set of issues.

Chad had talked about how he felt the area offered an insight into how the rest of the country might look as and when sea levels rise.

Twenty five minutes flying north east of Dhaka takes you into a totally different landscape from the expansive paddie fields and tree-lined roads of the south, into a world where villages are built up on fortified platforms to fend off the encroaching water.

We landed at Itna and through a slight mis-underhearing (as my son might say), were speed-boated half an hour up-river to a village sitting ten feet above the water level, and surrounded by ranks of tea trees, planted to absorb storm waves and protect the village from erosion.

The light was good, there were people working, washing and drying rice, and despite a very short time frame, we gathered some interesting and illuminating stories.

So far so fine, but we were running short of time for the flight back, so the plane came to us rather than us to it, with the added joy of us not really knowing where we were. We could see them, but from the air, we were just one more of the hundreds of boats out on the water. Hence the excellent use of the Nikon Speedlights (a pair of SB-800’s) as landing signals, which, combined with our speedboat wake, moved us from the ‘not found’ tray to the ‘found’ (as hinted at in my previous post).

My mind was already halfway to Delhi at this point – never mind how good a trip is, when you’re about to leave for home, the part of you that yearns for family and known things starts to assert itself.

And so the crashing juxtaposition of worlds that travelling home brings began. We came from this water-whelmed village to our float-plane, to a shared meal out with the program team, to the (clear, sunny) Dhaka-Delhi (grey, cloudy) leg of our journey, where the sitting and waiting began.

And there were the two hours of delay to a connecting flight, caused by bad weather in Kathmandu, which were passed on to us, which mean that instead of my bed, I’ve got three more hours next to the hiccupping man who’s just finished his KFC.

It’s not quite butterfly wings in the Amazonian rainforest, but a storm in Katmandhu seems like a rather good reason to be on the last late-train home.