Well, we went back to Varanasi after an attempt to leave and head to Darjeeling…
After I finished writing “Varanasi is Very-Nicey” we had (what we thought was) our last meal at the Lotus Lounge and hopped in a cab to the Mughal Sarai train station, about 40 minutes from Varanasi. We thought we were cutting it a bit close, arriving about half an hour before our scheduled train departure.
Then the lunchbag letdown happened – our train was running 12 hours late. Prepared for a long and unpleasant evening, we settled in to the train station restaurant, pulled out our Kobos, and waited.
Around 6am the next morning (3 hours prior to the delayed departure time) we checked the board again… 21 hours late. As the day went on, this extended to 24 hours, then 26, then 27. By the time we figured out our train was not going to be arriving by midnight that night, we made the decision to go back to Varanasi… but since all the guesthouses close their doors at 11pm, and many were very full, we had to wait it out in the train station until the next morning.
After almost 36 hours spent at the Mughal Sarai train station, with very little sleep (and no REM to speak of, sleep happened in 30 minute bursts), bug bites, dust ingrained in our clothes, and only chips, cookies, bananas and Coca-Cola in our stomachs, we were pretty miserable. We managed to get a room, have showers, and nap for a solid 5 hours. While it was the worst experience we’ve had in India, we came here knowing the odds were that something crappy was going to happen… we just hadn’t expected it to be quite so bad!
We gave up on the Darjeeling dream and decided that it was time to slow down, relax, and stay somewhere a while. Varanasi is a pretty nice place to do that!
We spent several days reading, eating, and walking along the ghats, soaking up some sun and generally enjoying the atmosphere of Varanasi. This was the first time since we left home that we have stayed somewhere for longer than 2 nights, so we’ve enjoyed the well-needed stationary time.
While relaxing in Varanasi we ventured all the way to the Assi Ghats where we found the Pizzeria Vaatika Cafe, and the most wonderful freshly squeezed juice and thin crust pizza (like real thin crust!) We stayed most of the nights at the Puja Guest House, which is one of the first places we have encountered lots of backpackers.
The one day we tried to do some more adventurous sightseeing was a major flop. If anyone tells you to go see the Ramnagar Fort in Varanasi… Just don’t do it. We made the mistake of taking a rowboat there, which was a painful hour of watching our oarsman struggle to propel the boat with oars of different lengths. The Fort itself was dark, smelly, and in serious disrepair. The museum parts were incredibly dusty and poorly organized and labelled. The steps outside were interesting, but there are some significantly nicer forts in India, and this one was not worth the 150 rupees admission fee.
We managed to salvage the day by heading to Vishnu Tea Emporium, meeting the famous Vishnu, and sampling masala chai tea. We also learned the proper brewing method for classic Indian chai (the secret is an 80:20 ratio of milk to water – despite what the sign says).
After a relaxing 5 days in Varanasi, we headed to Kolkata for our last stop in India! I snapped some pictures on our tuk-tuk ride to the airport, as part of saying goodbye to India.
Also, my goal of being all caught up blogging about India hasn’t happened, but hey, such is life. I am now in Cambodia with Beth and we’ve met up with our wonderful friend Jacquie!