Lochgilphead to Chaparda

Emma Vaughan, Chaparda volunteer and World Medicine Trustee, describes her journey…

I live and practice Chinese Medicine on the west coast of Scotland. Ordinarily, I would say I live in one of the most beautiful parts of the world, unscarred by development and with a perfect combination of remoteness and community. However.. when it comes to travel the journey even from where I live to Glasgow can be fraught with difficulties and can involve 60 mile detours when we experience landslides through the hilly pass known as “ the rest and be thankful “, sometimes unexpected ferry journeys and often shocking weather conditions making driving extremely challenging.

So I wanted to describe this years journey to Chaparda to give a flavour of a different aspect of our time.

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On Tuesday the 7th of January a friend dropped me off with my cases at the bus stop in Lochgilphead. The journey takes 2.5 hours to Glasgow and it poured with rain the whole way. I feel excited but also vaguely sick. ( I am a notoriously bad traveler) To help with the nausea I eat crisps and chocolate. I feel more sick naturally.

Once in Glasgow, I have a 40 minute window before my train to Oxenholme in the Lake District, so I rush to Debenhams with my cases and get my eyebrows threaded… a travel essential. I am excited with my eyebrows ( I’m extremely vain sadly!) and lug the cases through the rain to central station.. where I find my train has been cancelled.. no driver apparently! I immediately text Barbara ( team leader and great friend) to share my panic and then Jude who I am staying with in Sedburgh. I am directed to another train pretty quickly however and am soon on my way on a 2 hour journey to. Oxenholme.

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Jude , my wonderful friend and world medicine colleague comes to collect me from station along with her husband and dog. We immediately compare baggage, stress about weight allowance and pick each other’s bags up to decide if the stress is warranted! It is! They feel very heavy but we are sure we can manage. We have 3 bags each. One large case, 1 smaller cabin size case and a small passport etc size bag. I stay the night with a Jude, and then lunchtime on Wednesday, Hugh drops us back off at Oxenholme to catch the train to London. It’s my son’s birthday and I ring to chat to him and feel a little homesick before I have even left the country! Jude and I have journeyed to India together 3 times now and each time we feel stressed and excited in equal measure. We have developed small rituals now.. almond cookies and a cup of tea on the train to London marks the start of the journey..and a travel sickness tablet for me! We then both rummage in bags for things we think we have forgotten and generally find them. It’s comforting!

In London we wait at Euston about 20 minutes for Barbara who is arriving in on a different train. We soon see her huffing up the concourse, pulling two ominously large bags with her.. so far so good. We are a team of three!

We jump in an Uber with all our bags and head across London to a Heathrow hotel. We have a minor hiccup with our room booking, but once sorted we dump our bags and head to the bar ( no indecent haste, rest assured)!

The following morning ( Thursday 9th January) we are up early ready to meet the rest of the team at terminal 5. One by one we find each other, Sally, Marta, Catherine and Satish. It feels so wonderful and we are all full of beans and full of chat. We have a few more issues…. Sally exploiting the luggage allowance!!! Catherine’s travel jumpsuit! ( don’t ask!)

The acupuncture team 2020!
The acupuncture team 2020!

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Our flight leaves for Ahmedabad on time but we have an extra 90 minutes of flight time as the plane was rerouted for political and safety reasons, giving us a 10.5 hour flight. I feel a little anxious about this as we have a train to catch from Ahmedabad to Rajkot and I know we will now be cutting it fine. Immigration clearance at Ahmedabad is a nightmare, long queues adding to the stress. Eventually, we emerge and secure a couple of taxis to the train station. We know we will be lucky if we catch the train!

It’s a wild ride in the taxi but we all feel we have arrived! Who doesn’t love an Indian taxi journey? We pile out at the station, a fairly shambolic group and race ( no exaggeration) towards the platform that says our train is at. We have a 5 minute window. We literally run with our bags, hurtle downstairs and find…. we are on the wrong platform. Out of nowhere 6 coolies arrive, pile our bags on their heads and instruct us to “ run” as they set off at an unbelievable pace to the correct platform. We hand over the rupees and jump on the train that our bags have been dumped on. The train is heading for Rajkot! We are now starting to feel exhausted, it is about 5am and we have a 4 hour journey ahead of us. The train conductor then informs us that only 1 of us has a confirmed booking and there are not bunks for everyone. Our fellow passengers were sleeping which we don’t quite grasp and manage to waken the entire carriage with the rumpus that ensues! Surprisingly several of them take pity on us however and make space until eventually we get a little cabin for the 6 of us. At this point we had lost Satish at the train station in Ahmedabad!! ( He found his way to Chaparda, don’t worry)

When we arrive in Rajkot we negotiate two tuk tuk drivers to take us to our overnight hotel. This process is rather chaotic as we have attracted a circle of onlookers and drivers offering to take us to our hotel, and demonstrating how 6 passengers, 12 pieces of baggage can fit into two tuk tuks! This journey marked my undoing! I have been on many tuk tuk journeys and this one was not exceptional. Fast, bumpy, thrilling! We get to the hotel remarkably with all our luggage intact and are shown to our lovely rooms. Jude and I shared, but within 5 minutes I am profoundly sick and need to lie down. Things settle quickly and after a wee sleep I feel much better. Jude and I have a cup of tea on our balcony and relish those first few hours of being in India.

We have a really nice dinner all together and then head to various beds ready for the last leg of the journey in the morning !

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We are collected from Rajkot by car and our driver Jay makes easy work of the 3 hour journey to Chaparda. We are all excited to be reunited with the rest of our team and the Ashram staff. We arrive Saturday lunchtime…. it’s been quite a journey, but one I feel privileged to make and hope that I will make it many more times yet!

So that’s my journey, home to chaparda!