November 13, 2009 – Varanassi Part II – Train Journey and Arrival

November 13, 2009 – Varanassi Part II – Train Journey and Arrival

sunset concert

I had considered not writing about my train journey to Varanassi figuring nothing interesting could happen. But I am enjoying this trip so much I have to find words to express my gratitude for this newfound peace and total acceptance in joy of everything I do.
We easily arrived at the station in Haridwar about 45 minutes before the train pulled in. Ate sandwiches in the first class waiting room and when we boarded the train a lovely older Indian couple were eating their dinner on the lower berths. It took us a full 45 minutes to get ourselves settled in but by the time the train left the station we were comfortably in our berths up above.
Other people had taken up the extra space for luggage in the cabin but with the help of the Indian gentleman we got everything safely chained up and out of the way.
I changed into comfortable sleeping clothes (the train left Hairdwar at 8:30 in the evening) and except for 2 bathroom trips slept very well until the couple woke us at 8 am to say goodbye at Lucknow where they got off. They urged us to move down before someone else occupied the lower berths they had just vacated. And we did.
I went to the bathroom, brushed my teeth, fixed my hair, creamed my face and then came back to the berth which we now occupied alone, and

changed into regular clothes.
We both ate breakfast and then settled down to enjoy the rest of the trip which would take until 3:30 in the afternoon when we were scheduled to arrive in Varanassi.
The landscape is flat and just miles of beautiful fields of various crops. I slept again for a short time and then a chai walla came around. I amnow listening to music on my IPod-reading a fabulous choice of book for the journey- “Walk in the Woods” by Bill Bryson-a must read and simply and totally feeling bliss!
We will arrive in about 4 more hours and I am truly sorry that the journey is almost over, and sorry that I haven’t taken any train journeys over the past 2years.
I DO LOVE being in India, and even moreso now that I am “free”.
Another hour passed-nice chat with my lovely traveling companion, R, from Germany – 68 years old and coming to India every year now for 10 years to do panchakarma with Dr. Arora which is where I met her last year. I couldn’t ask for better or more suitable company for this journey.
The train has been almost empty since Lucknow and is very qyiet. We will arrive in about 3 hours and then the next step of the Varanassi adventure will begin.
Well, we were doing fine, just one hour behind schedule which would have brought us into Varanassi still in daylite – but we have now been sitting for almost 45 minutes just 5 minutes out of the Varanassi station. (We sat there in total 1 ½ hours!). It seems that Varanassi is a very busy through station to many places, so that the trains which need to stay on schedule to get other places, are allowed to pass through the station first. Since Varanassi is the last stop for our train, we were left to sit outside the station, waiting for a platform to free up for us to pull into! The Indians on the train (who finally explained this to us) seemed completely at ease – seems this is a regular occurrence with this train – and they apparently take it into consideration as they were all just laying down reading and relaxing while we were sitting up ready to disembark!

AND THIS IS INDIA!!
ARRIVAL:
After being comfortably met at the train – something which could be traumatic – I was wondering how we would ever find our driver outside in the busy (more so than I could ever imagine actually) station. Just before we got off the train a nice Indian guy said he would help us up and out of the station and see that we found our driver. We left the carriage and just as we began walking up the steps to get out, someone approached me and asked “are you going to sita guesthouse?”. I was really surprised and asked if he was the driver. He said no, but the driver is right this way and brought us over to the other door of the carriage where he was waiting with a sign with our names on it. He was smart enough to know that if he waited for us at the wrong carriage door, he would never find us, so he posted someone at the other door as well. I was not expecting this at all and was ever so pleased. Saved us a lot of hassle, and the India guy who accompanied us wished us well and disappeared into the mass of people.
We had a pleasant enough rickshaw ride through Varanassi but having arrived in the dark, there was not all that much to see except that it was much larger and city like than I had imagined.
To our great surprise, our guesthouse was situated in a location that could only be approached by foot! So at one point the rickshaw stopped and the driver said “now walking”. I asked suspiciously “how long” and was told “only 5 minutes!” Well, only 5 minutes in India basically means anything over 4 minutes but less than 15! And so we began to walk with the driver luckily carrying our main bags. It was dark, I had no flashlight out, it was drizzling, the stones were slick and full of God knows what, we were wearing sandals and trying our best to keep track of the driver through the twisting alleys while watching where we were placing our feet…both to avoid muck and to keep from falling into or over something in the way. It was not a pleasant introduction to Varanassi, but we finished this part of the journey successfully as well and arrived at the guesthouse where we were warmly greeted by at least three people on staff. We were taken to a room which we found unsuitable and shown another, which was fine, our luggage lugged up all the stairs and we quickly washed hands and face and went up to the roof to eat, being starved by that time. Had a light dinner, both took steaming hot, very full pressure showers, and fell exhausted into bed where we slept wonderfully until morning. Our room had a fan, AC, windows with screens, extremely clean bathroom, clean sheets and towels and a lovely balcony overlooking the Ganga. We were both quite happy and I was ever so proud of myself for having done this much so far, without a single fear or moment of stress or tension to speak of.
I even found Internet in the lobby and while my friend showered, I reconnected with family and friends for a short time.
We woke in the morning to a blessedly cloudy day

cloudy morning on the ganga

which was not great for sunrise, but perfect for a full day of walking ahead of us. The temp around 32 degrees all day and so muggy. I was dripping with sweat in 5 minutes and no matter how much I drank, could not quench my thirst and did not have to pee for hours! For a short span of 15 minutes the sun appeared, and then we had no recourse but to sit down in the shade and wait for the clouds to return.
Tears of joy overwhelmed me several times once again-total freedom from fear and anxiety and complete comfort and contentment.

More to follow in Part III

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