Thursday, 29 December 2016

Train Ride from Gorakhpur to Varanasi

4pm came and I could not wait to leave the blasted town of Gorakhpur. To the train station and queuing up for the train ticket I have to bare the brunt of local cutting my queue just as I reached the window. Either shout at them or let it be. This is India ….. sigh.

Soon it was my turn and all I could say was Varanasi. Repeat it like a mantra and thankfully the ticket officer could speak a few words of English. Sleeper or general admission he asked. I gave him the Indian head wobble. He asked me again as if he was the tourist and I was the local …. So funny but I kept a straight face …. The third time he asked I said sleeper.

150 rupee he said and I placed the money over the window. Once the ticket was printed the officer took it and with his right hand he held it up and proceeded to do a toss with a pause just as the hand reached the peak arc and the face of a stuck up kid. It was like a snobbish toss …. Here you go and get out of my face toss for you are too low for me to even sully my hand passing it to you. I notice he did it for every people that purchase a ticket from him.

Find the train and the platform and here I was waiting outside a train set to leave in 15 minutes. The outside of the train was marked sleeper largely but I had no idea what my ticket mean. Do I have seats specifically or do I just randomly seat at any seat in sleeper class? Walking into one that was fairly empty I asked a local that could barely speak English. Showed him my ticket and after pondering a while he said general admission …. Not this train …
Train from Gorakhpur to Varanasi
India - Sleeper Class Bunkbeds
I have learn not to trust people too much … a pessimist but then it started me wondering if I did get a wrong ticket. Did that ticket officer cheated money off me ??? There was no clear indication that the ticket was sleeper …. Some marks here and there but I had no idea how to read it. Walking further down I saw a guy turn on the train internal carriage power. Must be a train officer or worker I thought.

The first attempt to communicate and all he said was NO ENGLISH.

I shoved my ticket to his hand anyway and after looking at it all he said was yes Varanasi .. yes sleeper … and pointed to the same carriage. At this point I just took a chance and got in and choose an empty bunk and plunk my stuff down and hope for the best.

An hour later when the train departed and more people crowded the carriage a ticketing officer appeared. Moment of truth. He took my ticket and with one glance it was pass back to me without a word. So I guess no seating arrangement. Time to sleep but before that I got the time eta to arrive at Varanasi …. 11.10 am … so only a 5 to 6 hour journey instead of 12 hours …

Food rationing, water rationing and finally toilet rationing. The train was so crowded that if I leave the bunk to go to the toilet there will be no more bunk when I get back plus there was also the trouble of how to lug a backpack to the toilet. I would have to take my chances and leave it there and hope to see it when I get back. Small bag was always with me of course.
The crowded sleeper class train - India
3 hours into the journey I decided I needed to know where the hell I am. GPS was not working and I needed open window or door to see the sky. True enough, leaving the bunk not even 2 minutes and I spot someone trying to climb aboard while I linger at the doorway. The kid actually looked guilty when he saw me looking and pause midway climbing. I waved him up and he scurried up immediately.

GPS locked on and I now know where I am. Right direction and more or less on time. I went back and waved him over to share the bunk seating. Me, the kid and my backpack on the bunk. No more sleeping but at lease it was combatable

I arrived at Varanasi at 1120 am.

Off the train and got a tuk tuk for 150 for I barely negotiate. I knew it was either 150 or 100 but I was too tired to care. Needed to find sanctuary. The driver was insistent to show me a few other places first that he said was great place near gangha and cheap for only 400 rupee but I turn them all down just by looking at the bed. The sheets looks so much like the one in Gorakhpur and at this point I rather have a clean bed in a dorm than a privet room with itching bed.

Finally he gave up and brought me to the hostel. 300 rupee for a dorm without aircon or 450 with one … I upgraded, thank the driver and gave him a generous tip making the ride 200 rupee.

Sanctuary …. Breakfast, wifi and a good clean toilet with hot shower …. Aircon was a luxury now that I am glad with all the sun burn I had accumulated in Lumbini walking.

Me = Indian Head Wobble.
Varanasi - India

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