As a group we were apprehensive about this overnight train journey to Varanasi, the religious capital of India. However, as it turned out, all our fears were for naught as you will soon see.
At 5 PM we jumped into a number of cars and headed for the train station. Again, the trip to the station did not disappoint as we weaved through cars, bicycles, pedestrians, tuktuks, and street vendors. AJ says that you need three things to drive in India – Good Driver, Good Car and Good Luck!!
All three elements came together and we all arrived at the railway station in one piece. We obediently followed AJ through the station to our platform amidst the other thousands of passengers that all had the same goal. Our train had already arrived so even though we were early, we boarded immediately. We were all the in same carriage but as there is only six bunks per berth (three per side) we were divided into groups of four. We were paired up with Lisa and Louis and two local gentlemen rounded out our six. One of the fellows did not speak much but the other was very friendly and we spent a pleasant few hours enjoying Sachin Singh’s company. He told us his travel tales and gave us local information and tidbits. Around 9 PM I felt that I was ready for bed. Each bunk had a set of sheets wrapped in brown paper and a rough blanket. I was on the top bunk so it was bit of a struggle getting the bed made but it was good enough. After one last trip to the toilet, which smelled bad but wasn’t too dirty yet, I crawled into my bunk in the same clothes that I started the day with. The movement of the train rocked me to sleep and though I woke up a few times during the night, I actually slept pretty well. We arrived in Varanasi about 8 AM and after comparing notes, I found that most of the group slept better than expected. The toilets were still useable in the morning so the train journey was not nearly as scary as we imagined that it would be.
Leaving the station, AJ packed us all into tuktuks to take us to the hotel. This is the first time that Richard and I have been in a tuktuk and it was another experience that did not disappoint. The traffic is much the same as Delhi, though the streets are narrower and in much need of repair. So, as in Delhi, horns are honking and all types of vehicles are fighting space on the road. The difference is that now we are a much smaller vehicle and a scrape against us could do some serious damage. Richard took a number of videos but I do not think that they will begin to capture the sights and sounds that we were experiencing. Cows and pigs were wandering the streets or picking through the garbage on the side of the road. A few dogs and many people also added to the confusion.
We got to the hotel, had some breakfast, checked into our rooms and had a much needed shower. We are now ready to head out for an afternoon of sightseeing with an evening river cruise to follow. It should be nothing but interesting!!