We were going to fly from Kathmandu to Delhi. But that meant a 6-9 hour bus from Pokhara to Kathmandu, and then a pricey flight from Kathmandu to Delhi, so we decided to take an 8 hour bus from Pokhara to the Indian border, take a 3 hour bus from to border to Gorakpur, and then take a 7 hour train from Gorakpur to Varanasi. Basically a little less than double the travel time for about a fifth of the cost?
This made complete sense, until our first bus broke down on the side of the Nepalese mountain road we were on. Forty (I think possibly more) passengers climbed off the bus and sat on the side of the road and watched the driver assess the situation. Some passengers offered to help, pouring water on the steaming brake plate, or maybe it was the axel itself? Whatever it was, it was hot, and everyone was surrounding it, trying to help, or taking close-up shots (I have no idea why) of the conundrum. After about an hour, some got ansty and started jumping into passing buses, many of us needing to cross the border before it closed. We followed suit and ended up on another crowded bus. Women and children were kicked out of their seats for us, which made me feel terrible until I saw that they (along with the majority of the packed bus) got off at the next village stop less than ten minutes later.
We arrived at the border and saw everyone (except the two Koreans) who were on our original bus. We chatted and made our way through the Nepalese immigration and sighed with relief when they didn't demand we pay the $30.00 extension for being one day late on our visa. We bumped into everyone again on the Indian side at immigration, and then Andrew and I headed for the government bus to Gorakpur where we had tickets for the overnight train to Varanasi.
And then we see the Koreans. Their hired jeep broke down and they were waiting on the side of the road for the government bus we were on to catch the same train. We smiled, waved, but then lost them once we got into Gorakpur. Once we arrived at the train station, we were worn out and hungry, and not necessarily prepared for all of the looky-loos in the station. After living in Korea for five years, I'm a little familiar with sticking out… Sometimes being the only Caucasian on a train platform, train, or even in a whole part of Seoul. But living in Korea for five years had NOTHING on how many stares we received walking onto the Gorakpur platform. Unabashedly, people would just watch. our every. move. At one point, a man stood in between us facing the platform, and the platform itself and just stood two feet away, looking down on us, for about ten minutes. I have to admit, I was more amused by it than uncomfortable. I always am amused though, when I get attention for the color of my skin, size of my face, and shape of my eyes. Growing up in a 99% white community does not prepare you for these conversations, nor experiences of being the minority. It's interesting, and gives me a completely different perspective on life in a homogeonous society- be it Korea, or where I'm from in Kentucky.
Our Korean friends, and two others from our original bus showed up on our same train platform, and we all waited (miserably) through the hour delay before the train arrived and we crawled into our appropriate bunks for a cold, mosquito filled First Class (that did not feel like it) overnight to Varanasi.