After a 4 hour breakdown (we were told 5 minutes 2 hours ago — no-one really knows what the problem is) we’re moving on through the edge of the Alps, past Lake Maggiore, towards Milan. The plus side of the delay is that we travel this section in day light, eating our breakfast of pain au chocolat.
Couchettes are a bit small. We are Gregory, the tall, 58-year-old African-American preacher from Denver, Colorado, Gustavo and Lilliana, a large Argentinian couple (he tells us how much meat he eats!), and us. In terms of community minded international company we have struck it lucky. This is the travel fo real people living together in a mini couchette community for 18 hours, chatting, co-operating, communicating in basic Spanish and English beyond the boundaries of language and nationality.
Gregory is originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo, has 7 children and 4 MAs in mechanical engineering which he uses to explain to me why the brakes smell, braking systems, and how trains negotiate sharp bends… Gustavo has 3 children outside of his marriage of 30 years to Lilliana…
Callum slept! — at least from 12:30 onwards and even I get some sleep, and enjoy the sounds of the train stopping at some midnight station, the babble of Italian in an unfamiliar cadence, the slamming of manual train doors. I don’t even mind the intermittent snoring from Gregory and Gustavo (nudged lovingly and playfully into silence by Lilliana from the top bunk).