The road to Varanasi
Trip Start Aug 26, 2012
80Trip End Ongoing
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Getting back to the truck, there were a couple of children begging by the truck door and in the end they got some food from others on the truck and my empty plastic sanitizer bottle (hey the boy wanted it…they get money for recycling). We then drove over to the India immigration to get Amanda who was having trouble with the immigration officers. Basically they were giving her a hard time about the truck, but she gave it right back and eventually everything was sorted and we were allowed to go. The trip notes say that we are actually going to spend the night in Sonauli, but because it’s a border town with really nothing there the trip travels another 4hrs to reach a town called Gorakphur where we will spend the night.
Traveling through the town of Gorakphur from the outskirts was exactly how I’ve imagined India to be from movies, stories, etc. Traffic jams galore, incessant horn honking and everything imaginable darting (people, dogs, cows, bicycles, rickshaws, tuk tuks, cars and lorries) in front of the truck. I cannot accurately describe in my own words the chaos on the streets of India but I’m currently reading a book called "An Indian Summer" by James Cameron and would like to quote his very accurate description of Bombay but can describe any city/town in India;
“The rush hour traffic in Bombay is a nightmare – it is a chaos rooted in years of practised confusion, absent-mindedness, selfishness, inertia, and an incomplete understanding the mechanics
Finally making it to our hotel, for which another warning from Amanda of “this maybe the low point of the trip” we unloaded our bags with a bunch of local bystanders again bewilder by our presence. The hotel while looks decent on the outside is not so great on the inside. It made me think of the movie “The Exotic Marigold Hotel”, as they are in the process of fixing the rooms up and the smell of paint was overwhelming but better than the sewage smell outside the hotel. Despite the state of the hotel, our meal there was delicious and full of flavour and spice. Our entertainment for the evening was watching an engagement party take place on the front lawn of the hotel. Some of the party’s guest entertainment was watching us watch them.
Language and communication has started to become a bit more challenging since arriving in these small towns. Trying to order breakfast for the morning was challenging as we were asking for cold milk for the cornflakes and getting a response that they don’t have cold milk…only hot milk. We had to explain that we didn’t want them to make hot milk just leave the milk as is. Wondering what we would get in the morning we went to bed
Packing Josh again, off we headed to Varanasi which was only 200kms away but took us 8hrs to get there, due to the condition and chaos of the roads. There was never a dull moment as we made our way and whereas I so enjoyed waving to the children in Africa as we drove by, my new pastime in India while riding on the truck is watching the mens reactions to seeing a white female driver driving a truck. Their facial expressions range from shock and awe, to smiles and sometimes evil stares. Then when they see the rest of us in the back of the truck they do it all over again. The kids will sometimes wave after they’ve processed what they are seeing and for the most part the women completely ignore us.
Arriving into Varanasi, we again entered mass chaos and had a bit of a mishap with a jeep and contrary to stories or myths we did stop the truck and Amanda got out and assessed the damage. There was some damage to the back right light and the man was telling Amanda she had to pay. Amanda asked if he was driving (as was he in motion) and he said yes so she replied well then how do you know it’s not your fault? He started to argue, but another man intervened and Amanda explained to him that the driver admitted he was moving so how can he be sure it was our fault. He agreed and told her to go, much to the dismay of the other driver. Getting only 100m down the road we reached an intersection where we need to turn right. Although there was traffic cop there he was not doing his job and stopping traffic to let us through, so Amanda jumped out again and directed traffic so Ben could make the right hand turn. You can only imagine the stares she got by doing that. But if she hadn’t I’m sure we would have been there all night. She is a fire-cracker and very glad she’s our guide on this adventure.
After getting settled in our basic hotel but feeling like a palace after the night before we tucked into another buffet dinner and early to bed for a busy day in the city of Varanasi.