Hurry Up and Wait: Agra to Varanasi

February 8, 2013 § Leave a comment

January 16th:

After two days in Agra it was time to hit the road. With my bags packed, I took a Xanax (to help me sleep, of course!) and caught a ride to the train station, with my sights set on the “holy” city of Varanasi, some thirteen hours away.

I arrived just before nine o’clock to discover my train had been delayed by nine hours, making my new departure scheduled for six in the morning – woohoo! Nine hours!?! How does that even happen? I mean, I can understand three, five… but nine!?! Feeling a temper tantrum coming on, I marched out to the road, coughed up another 100 rupees, and back into town I went!

Instead of returning to my previous digs, I stopped to check out another place closer to the station, where I ate earlier in the day. Boy am I happy I did. Nice folks, a relatively warm room, and hot water – yay!!! It’s amazing what a hot shower can do for your soul, especially since that was my first since arriving. As much as I wanted – and probably needed – I couldn’t bring myself to take a cold shower in a cold room prior to this, which means I was looking and feeling pretty scuzzy. Cold showers were practically a daily occurrence while in Africa, and often refreshing due to the heat, but that’s certainly not the case now.

I awoke just after four to prepare for my “overnight” journey, to discover the power had gone out while I was asleep. I was so tired the night before that I neglected to pack my things, so I had to scurry around the room with the help of my flashlight app. As much as I hate to admit it, my iphone has come in handy on many occasions. I really, really want to hate it, but it’s just so darn convenient! Ugg!

The guesthouse was pitch black and eerily quiet. I kept thinking someone was going to pop out around every corner, as I made my way down four flights of stairs. Fortunately I missed stepping in the dog poo waiting outside my door. It’s the little things that make your day.

The train arrived shortly after I, and I found myself assigned to a sleeper carriage. The trains here are hands down, the filthiest I’ve ever seen. If someone arrived expecting those on The Darjeeling Limited – all cute, cozy, and colorful – they’d be sorely disappointed. Apparently Wes Anderson has never ridden on one. He should check it out.

Each carriage is a never-ending line of thin, flimsy bunks, stacked three high. The colors inside are a mix of chipped blue paint, orange rust, and a nice layer of black grime. I was lucky enough to be placed near the toilet (squatter that dumps on the tracks), so the air smelled of human waste and a mix of spices from passing vendors. I was on the bottom with two large windows, which made the morning freezing, but afternoon and evening pleasant.

The ride, which I had initially assumed would be long and uncomfortable, actually turned out great. I met some really nice people (two girls from Korea, and a guy from London), which helped to pass the time! The Londoner, Adam, is doing exactly what I did a couple of years ago: quit his job, bought a one way ticket, and doesn’t have a plan. That gave us plenty to talk about.

The four of us laughed, swapped stories, and shared in each others hunger pains. We all neglected to pack snacks, and the lunch that we ordered three hours in, still hadn’t arrived, twelve hours later, when we reached our destination! A fifteen hour train ride with no food is not a good idea. Lesson learned. Next time I’m stocking up!

Looking back, I’m really happy the train was delayed. Had it left at its scheduled time, all aboard would have been sleeping – or at least attempting to – therefore I might not have met them, and I would have missed out on the scenery along the way. It was really interesting to pass through the tiny towns and villages. I could have done without the hoards of people lining the tracks to go No. 2, though. Wouldn’t you at least want a bush!?! I certainly would…

I still have yet to take train photos – in due time. These were snapped with my handy-dandy iphone. See, there I go again. I’m never going to rid myself of this thing, am I? Grrr.


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