I finished my last travel story (from my first time visiting India) in Agra. My traveller friend Michael and me arrived to the train station in Agra after sightseeing the whole day. We enjoyed the beauty of Taj Mahal and Agra Fort and some other places worth seeing. Our driver Ahmed even found a great place for dinner with a night view of Taj Mahal. I’m so happy I met Mike as he convinced me that I should see Taj Mahal. So after that dinner with a great view, there we went to the train station, waiting for the train to Varanasi. I told myself I would never board a train without proper ticket. But, I did it again.
Agra to Varanasi by train and without ticket
All trains that were leaving from Agra to Varanasi on the day we were asking, were full. They told us that the trains from Agra to Varanasi are full for the next two weeks. What to do? Since I had some experiences already with trains and no ticket (actually, wrong ticket), we decided we’ll just board the train and see what happens. Bus wasn’t an option as it was a very, very long journey. And I always prefer Indian trains over buses. Mike totally agreed on that one! There we were on that crowded and hectic Agra train station. Seating on our backpacks, reading our Lonely Planet guidebooks. Waiting for the train that was supposed to be a few hours late. It was just three hours late, how great!
The train from Agra to Varanasi was full until the last corner
And I really mean that. We boarded the train at one of many sleeper class coaches. Usually Indian trains have more than 20 coaches and most of these are sleeper class. I actually really like this class. There’s no AC, but you get a decent seat during the day and a berth at night. I prefer the upper of the three berths. It’s the most secluded one. The windows are open so there’s enough air and there are quite decent bathrooms at the corridors (once you get used to that a toilet is just a hole on the bottom of the train). There are always sellers walking through these sleeper coaches, selling snacks and more importantly, hot chai (Indian style tea). So we boarded that train to Varanasi and put our bags on the floor at the corridor. First, Mike walked through all coaches in search of an empty spot. There was none. Nothing besides that corridor between two coaches.
What to do on a train that is full and the journey takes over 12 hours
After Mike searched for a place and was unsuccessful, I tried. Again, nothing. So we stayed for a while in that corridor, listening to our music and reading Lonely Planet in search of any kind of help. Nothing. We started planning our night at that corridor. And then, some two hours after boarding the train, Mike walked through all of the coaches again and found a place! He actually found a whole berth. A very kind Indian man offered us that berth and he joined his wife at her berth. People’s kindness always amazes me. Even though we were squeezed, it was much better. In the compartment where we got that berth, there were 8 berths and at least 15 people. I have to tell you, these berths are no king size. Just enough for one, smaller sized human like me.
When the morning came, our train stopped
And most passengers left the train. We had a few hours more to Varanasi. There was a religious festival at the place where everybody went out of our train. We were so happy. Suddenly we each had a berth and what was even better, there were just three of us in a 8 person compartment! What is more, the chai guy came and we each had two chais, not one! What a luxury. After the chai guy, samosa guy came and we had some breakfast. The train started moving and for a few moments we enjoyed that fresh air and early morning views over Indian villages. Then the train stopped again. And didn’t move for hours!
Instead of a bit more than 12 hours we needed almost 18 hours to reach Varanasi
But, we didn’t care much. We had as much time as we needed. Take it easy, said Mike. I respected him so much for being that easy – going and trusting that each and every situation will be the best. So, we slept a bit, had some more chai, chatted with locals who were also bored with the situation. And in the early afternoon we reached Varanasi. Varanasi is that kind of city that you just can’t forget. Ever. It’s such an intense place, full of different smells, bustling with life (and death), so crazy and stunning at the same time. I love it. So much, that I returned a few years later.
One of the first things I did in Varanasi, was buying the train ticket for my next journey
And my travel buddy Mike bought a plane ticket. After staying in Varanasi for a few days together, we each went into different direction. He left for Kathmandu and I went to Chennai. But Varanasi was just great. I just love those narrow streets, full of people, shops, cows, restaurants, who knows what more! And those ghats, leading to the holly river Ganges. It’s just not possible to describe Varanasi with just a few words. It’s one of the most unbelievable places on our Earth. Here, life and death happen just in front of you. It’s so raw. At the same time, it’s so lively and colorful, full of strong faith.
I will have to write more about Varanasi one day soon, but pics tell more than my words.
Thank you for reading,