12 December 2008
We left Mandawa at 05h30 – much too early for my liking. When we stepped out, the air outside was cold and the entire town was in darkness apart from the dim lights from the sparsely spaced street lamps. Ramesh sped through the back roads, dodging potholes and try as he might, the uneven gravel road gave us a bumpy ride nearly all the way back to Delhi. We eventually made it in time to Connaught Place by 11h00. We ran into the office, greeted Mansoor, picked up our tickets and it was straight to the station to catch our train to Varanasi by 13h30. Needless to say, navigating through the station, getting lost and walking up and down the numerous flights of stairs in the hopes of finding the correct platform with our backpacks in tow and pushing through the crowd was an adventure in itself.
We eventually found the right train and carriage, a second class reservation and for the half of the journey, it we had all four bunk beds to ourselves. The windows of the train were in desperate need of cleaning so the view outside was not great. The outside was barely visible and looking through the glass, everything was a blur. At every stop, vendors would come onto the carriages and sell paan, water, tea, soaps, bananas and basically anything that could possibly be sold.
13 December 2008
After a whole night on the train, we arrived at Varanasi station at 07h00. We were meant to arrive at 05h20 as per the schedule but I later learned that these “slight” delays were a common occurrence in most train journeys in India. So arriving 2 hours late, our pick up was nowhere to be found. A couple of phone calls and some irritation and arguments later, we finally got a driver who took us to the hotel Hindustan. After a much needed shower, we hit the town and went on our city tour and up to Sarnath, a Buddhist enclave in this holy city of ghats.