Finally heading out of town after 2 hectic days going bank to bank to bank trying to convert old $$$ to New or ANY denomination available! Often banks ran out of all their cash early in the day or just couldn't get any! Finally, at 2 different Citybank ATMs we were able to get 2,000 rupees ($35 US) and go through the line several times so we'd at least be able to leave town with sufficient cash to manage for awhile. Luckily we had been able to buy our train tickets with the old bills!
We ended up the 3 of us in an AC coach and Daphne and Joey in regular 2nd class about 10 cars apart!All went well but you never know when Indians get on without tickets and crowd in...it happened in the coach just before theirs so when I walked back for a visit, the aisle was packed with passengers trying to get to their seats which were already occupied!
The family in our 6 passenger compartment was from a town 3 hours past Guwahati. He is a mechanic in the airforce working in Pune which is a 3000 km trip one way. He said he'd made the trip several times before via plane but it was too expensive for he and wife and young son. They were very nice although, the son at 4+ years was a handful. Not particularly offensive, just got board and needed attention with only a coloring book and a small plastic toy hammer
Beautiful agricultural countryside! Hopefully I will be able to post some photos!
Arrived here 4pm and at first went to check on Prashaanti Tourist Lodge. As it says in the LP it is central but we found that 1) Not very friendly 2) Could not accomodate 3 persons in a room 4) Provided NO sheets - mattresses looked very old. Crossed back over the RR and found a very nice, LP recommended place,Sundarban Guest House
...clean, TV, AC, and reasonable! They had all the things Prashaanti lacked plus the personnel were friendly! Amazing how tired travel on the train can be though! We all crashed until going to dinner nearby.
Had breakfast as room service...eggs, toast, tea...then headed out to find $$$!! Totally unsuccessfully finding long lines and very few banks open with money. Also, we attempted to find some tour agency that could help with planning forward travel...spent the entire day walking, walking and on tuk tuks trying to locate these places. At one point late in the day we had to take two tuk tuks and the instructions for our destination weren't passed along. Bon and Mari ended up returning to Sundarban GH and Daphne, Joey, and I got to the Jungle Travels India Office but since I thought Bon and Mari were following so I stood in the meridian watching for them for 20 minutes. Finally, the fellow who had driven us here returned with the other tuk tuk driver who told us that he had taken them back since he lost track of our driver.Very nice of him to follow up.
Got more info on travel with guide from Jungle Travels outfit which they later emailed to Daphne.
Once we returned there was a big discussion as to what to do since a tour is pricey but able to be put on credit card (no cash necessary) but it appears getting money will be very difficult outside of Guwahati! For the first time in all our travels, we have no way foward without Indian currency...they just have no rupees in sufficient quantities to supply the demand. It is very possible that the gals could get stranded somewhere with no way to go forward.
Discussing the possible travel to Nepal until we need to return to Calcutta for our flight to Andamans with the hope that by then money will be more available, especially on the islands where there are more tourists. Here we have seen NO other foreigners and no evidence of tourists!
12/1/2016 UPDATE ON INDIAS CURRENCY: Catching Some Corrupt Officials
The girls went out for the day to try again to get $$$ and were successful using US emergency money only because there was a UK citizen from India who argued with the bank officials, even threatening to call the news media to take pictures showing how they were treating visiting tourists so poorly! Watching TV news about India I discovered that the government has decided to REDUCE the amount anyone can withdraw to 2,000 rupees plus they are requiring each withdrawal person to get a black fingerprint so people don't withdraw $$$ for other people and suck the ATMs dry. They reported that only 25% of the population has debit cards or credit cards so the poorest people are the ones who are suffering most.
A very interesting result of this is that temples are experiencing a huge increase in donations, almost ALL in 500 and 1000 rupee notes!
Since they were able to get enough Indian cash from the bank to travel and could pay the tour fee and permit with US currency, the gals decided to go for it and 'travel the NE' like they had originally planned.
Gals all left today on their tour...an interesting departure in which Mari left her tablet behind! I speculated how long it would take for her to remember (her survival depends upon it, ha!). She returned about 45 min. later to collect it! They expect to return sometime around the 15th or 16th of December when we will carry on together back towards Calcutta...perhaps a stop in Darjeeling?!
I was able to move to a smaller room which only has a few TV channels, all Indian, and AC for 700 r. per nite.(was paying 500 r. in our 3 person room, but there we had AC and tons of channels many in English)