THERE ARE COWS EVERYWHERE HERE!
On the street, in the train station - this is a list I will have to begin to update as it grows!
There are cows everywhere here man! That being said, it is: hot, humid, sweaty, loud, dusty, aggressive, dirty, crowded, delicious, friendly in a way I have let to decipher and FULL OF COWS.
We arrived at the border crossing at Saunali to a crush of touts that should not have surprised me given ample warning, but amid the honking horns, yelling taxi drivers and dust choking the air it was impossible to tell which way was up. I hooked up with a Kiwi named Darren and grabbed a cab to Gorakhpur, the nearest stop on the Indian railroad system.
I am now in a team of two Germans and a Frenchman to continue on to Varanassi, a city on the Ganges that is an important pilgrimage site and a place where all Hindus hope to be cremated. This is a major tourist center, and is likely to be full on India - everyone trying to get a rupee.
I imagine there will be a few cows around also ;)
Engine Engine No. 9
Our 7 hour train ride in third class sleepers (bunks with three stakes on each side of a compartment) will not be long by Indian standards. I am looking forward to this as I seem likely to spend a lot of time on trains on this trip.
The Indian railroad is India's largest employer, with more than 6 million keeping the trains running, but not on time - our Kiwi friend is delayed 4 hours for his 17 hour run to Delhi (sounds like a US airport).
Where Will Those Trains Take Me?
A few days in Varanasi (as much as I can stand) and then on to Agra to see the Taj Mahal and Fatehpur Sikri (a fortified "ghost" city), which should total 5 to 6 days depending on whether I do night trains or not.
Then I will try to resist the pull of Rajathan and the allure of Goa as I boot south 34 hours to Bangalore to visit my friend Morgan. I hope to talk about a lot of what has been going on in my head on this trip, check out her school as a possible place for treatment and/study and maybe sign up for a Vipasana course in Bangalore or somewhere in Kerala.
I think I have said all this in other posts!
But is it Safe?
A few people have written notes to caution me regarding the dangers of India. I don't think that these concerns are necessarily misplaced, but am trying to be careful. For the few hours I have been here so far, I have been in good company - I hope that this continues to be the case!