Varanasi (India), 17.07.2013
It feels strange to write this post about the first leg of our journey that we drive in a different car. We don’t actually drive ourselves but are driven by a local driver, from Kushinagar to Varanasi. Last night at 02:30 the Europassistance truck showed up, we loaded the Evoque on it, and off it went into the night. Suddenly we were left with just a few bags, and it felt really strange how our way of travelling had changed from one moment to the other. The next morning we left town in an old Chevrolet car. The aircon saved us from a free hour-long sauna, but what a change in moving forward. No comfort, no music, the view from the back seats, lacking the familiar atmosphere and personal things we had on board. We miss our car!
Kushinagar lies directly on the highway to Lucknow, the road was good. We reached a stretch of it we had driven on a week ago. We also recognised the eastern exit to Gorakhpur, although the toll booth that was there last week with the shady guys collecting money from us had disappeared. The water level on the flooded fields left and right of the highway had dropped. Some paths and crossroads were recognisable again. Much of the water was now covered with water lilies. The vast brown area started to convert into a vast green area.
We drove like this for hours. The driver got lost a couple of times and asked locals for directions. Good to see it’s not just us that can’t always find our way on the first shot. And also good to see that we could detect the people that can give you directions and those who have no clue even before stopping. At 15:45 it started to rain suddenly, thick drops of monsoon rain hammered the car, that started to leak at several parts of the doors. Schoolgirls in uniform walked home through the rain, people on bikes got wet. 20 minutes later the rain was gone and the sun shining again. The poverty in the towns and villages we crossed was striking. Reed huts with mud floors, open air camps with just a canvas over them, spaces shared between men and animals were a common sight. We also noted in the conversations of our driver with the locals that words like “please” and “thank you”, “hello” and “goodbye” weren’t popular.
At 18:00 we finally reached Varanasi, our driver had no clue where to go. He asked several people on the street. At some point one man seemed to offer to guide us to the hotel, for a fee. The driver called his translator, who spoke to us in basic English. We told him we were not paying for this guy, but the driver was free to hire him. So suddenly a “guide” sat in the front of our car, and started an entertainment program for our driver. The further we drove, the less we were convinced he knew where we needed to go. The city in itself was as chaotic, traffic-jammed, dusty, colorful, dirty and loud as many other places we had seen in India. The streets are lined with commerce, shops or roadside carts alike. As we stopped in the middle of a street, the guide left the car to buy some chewing stuff at a roadside stand, then came back. He seemed to feel very comfortable in the car.
An hour later we reached our hotel. We checked in, freshened up, and left for dinner. Varanasi is known for people doing all kinds of things on the shores of the river Ganges – praying, washing, celebrating, cremating etc. We took a tuktuk to Assi Ghat, where we had a – attention tourist sin coming – pizza! After weeks of tasty and fiery curries, naans and tikkas we needed a change. And the pizza was not too bad, much better then we had feared and definitely superior to the last one we had in Bishkek several weeks ago. While we ate, an evening ceremony took place on the stairs leading into the river. There was quite a crowd participating and watching, taking pictures, including some hippie tourists that wanted to be more devout then the locals. Not being of the spiritual types, we enjoyed the ceremony as a show, watched the different people. We strolled along the river briefly, but the muddy riverside without light and the continuous buggers made us take off soon. Although we must honestly say that we came warned about Varanasi being a hard sellers’ and buggers’ paradise, and found the city less heavy then expected. Maybe we ere lucky, or had too tough expectations. A tuktuk brought us back to the hotel, and the ride through town closed our day.
No trip data since we didn’t drive ourselves