After missing the border office of Nepal, it doesn’t surprise us that the Indian office is hidden as well. We could just cycle into India without showing our visas, but to avoid problems we try to find an officer who can give us the right stamps.
It takes a while, but after 30 minutes we are facing the head officer of the Indian Customs. He writes our names in a big book, he stamps our passports and puts his hand in the air in front of us.
Roepies? Why…..since when do we have to pay at a border crossing?”
“Yes you have to pay service costs. That’s very normal.”
“Really? That’s a special service for you, isn’t it?”
Marlous and I are looking at each other. We shake our heads and jump on our bikes. With corruption this man is on the wrong address and with the passports in our bags he can try to stop us.
The roads are terrible in this part of India. Big holes are filled with the rain of the monsoon which leads to a lot of mud. At first sight we would like to avoid the main roads like last time. But after 20 kilometers of working hard trough the mud we are convinced of the peoples opinions. “During the monsoon a lot of roads are useless!” We heard this sentence many times, but……. Back to the main roads where we find more tarmac than on the local roads.
We have to get used to the traffic as well. Overloaded trucks drive by trying to keep their trucks on the road. Wagons with oxes, riksja’s, tuktuks, cyclists, cows, cars in various forms an sizes and last but not least the deadly busses. They all drive like crazy and all make a lot of noise.
We aren’t two strangers in this country where we spend almost 10 months all together. Despite this the difference between Nepal and India comes almost as a shock. Don’t even try to compare it with New Zealand… It’s monsoon time which makes the streets in the cities, which aren’t the cleanest normally, enormous dirty. To let the holes in the street disappear, the people fill them with garbage and with some help of the traffic it changes soon in a disgusting layer. We won’t talk about the smell this brings….
The people in this part of India are laid back towards us. They stare at us from top to toe but the big crowds aren’t there. We can leave our bikes without someone touching our gears. This was totally different compared to Rajasthan, where everybody wanted to touch our bicycles. We cycle trough flat country where people are working in the fields everywhere. They are busy in the field with their rice and they don’t have to worry about water, because there is plenty. Almost everyday we take shelter while a big shower comes down, but the rest of the time the sky is blue. It’s very hot and we are happy with a bit of wind which cools us down a tiny bit.
Our beautiful new camera stops working. Instead of giving us all the colours of the people and scenery all the pictures are purple. It’s a pity, because we see so many nice things worth a picture.
Just before Patna we cross the holy Ganges River. The bridge we have to take is a couple of kilometers long and there is no shade. In the middle of the bridge the traffic is stuck, and the only thing we can do is listen to a concert of loud horns. We find a way along the traffic on the footpath and we are happy to leave the bridge.
Patna is our First big city we pass and we are very surprised that we haven’t found a room after 15 hotels. Every hotel is full and after two hours of trying and sweating we decide to leave the city and find a hotel in the next place. Just before the town ends we try one more time and we are lucky. It’s even a room with a nice cold shower and airco.
Two days later and many kilometers further I feel myself getting weaker every second. We are cycling trough a part where there is nothing and I feel a fever coming up. The first India Bug is a fact and the only thing I can think about is a bed. After 125 km I fall down on a bed in the only hotel in Mohania. We have to change rooms because we find rat poo on our pillows. The guy in the hotel sweeps the poo away with a towel and thinks the problem is solved. But a very clear Marlous insists on a clean room with clean sheets. When he is convinced I can finally sleep.
We continue cycling from Mohania on a highway towards Varanassi. The kilometers we cycle to the holy Hindu city are a bit boring. Varanassi is the most honourable place for a Hindu to be cremated. Cars and cabs are passing us by with corpses on the roof, all on their way to Varanassi. The corpses are covered by a colourful sheet and are tithed by some ropes on a ladder on the roof. They are brought to one of the gaths along the Ganges in Varanassi where they are cremated. After the cremation they throw the ashes in the holy water. Before we are getting close to the river we have to wrestle ourselves trough the old centre of the city. This is where you get the closest to the gaths and the temples and there are many guesthouses here. Two kilometers before we get to the old part there are already two guys running besides us. They want to ‘help’ us and they don’t listen to us when we tell them we don’t need their help. These guys want commission for bringing us to a hotel. We can’t get rid of them and we are not happy with them. One of them runs in front of us and goes into a guesthouse and tells the owner he brings two cyclists. This way he hopes to get commission of the owner, but we have to pay a higher price for he room.
Marlous is fed up with those guys soon and tries to get rid of them by telling a police man that we are being followed. This helps for a few minutes, but than it starts all over again. In the end we find a guesthouse which doesn’t go along with these type of touts. We explain to the hotel owner that we didn’t want their help and that we don’t think he should give them money. It works out fine and we end up in a nice guesthouse.
Now we are finally in Varanassi we will explore the city the coming days and find out what makes this place so special. Two years ago we wanted to visit this place but at that time we decided to move on faster to Nepal because of the strikes.
Border – Matihari: 54 km
Matahari – Muzafapur : 106 km
Muzafapur – Patna: 84 km
Patna – Arrah: 61 km
Arrah – Mohania: 125 km
Mohania – Varanassi: 74 km