Travel Journey to Kanchipuram in India

After visiting the temple of Venkateswara on the hill of Tirumala, we left in the morning in the direction of Kanchipuram. The journeys by car in India, are always animated and surprising. It was at the same time long, because we go through many small towns with an intense commercial activity. It means seeing many people in the streets and a devilish traffic.

After three hours of travel we arrived at noon to "Kanchipuram". It is one of the five cities that represent the five elements in Hindu mythology of wind, water, fire, earth and space. It is also one of the seven sacred cities of India. If we had to choose a city to see the range of religious architecture of South India, it would undoubtedly be this. It has the peculiarity that unlike in the rest of the cities that are the territory of Shiva or Vishnu, Kanchipuram is the only one that is sacred to both. In this city, more than a thousand temples were built. Today there are 108 of Shaivism and 18 of Vishnuites. To add some other curiosity to say that there are also two temples dedicated to Jainism.

As soon as we get to the city, we go to the temple of Ekambareshwar. It is one of the largest in the city with almost 12 Ha of extension, dedicated to Shiva. It that is clearly distinguished by its colossal gopuras of more than 60 meters of altitude. As soon as we get off the car in front of the main door and as we are the only tourists, a group of sellers surrounds us with the firm intention of selling us some pretty ugly flip flops. Before our little desire to buy they give up for the moment and move away, although at the exit they will return to the charge again. But before entering the interior of the temple to visit it I will briefly tell you about the history of this city.

Kanchi, was the capital of several dynasties. The notable among them was the Chola Dynasty in the 2nd century BC and the Pallava Dynasty between the 4th and 9th centuries AD. Kanchi was called "the golden city". People say that when the Muslim invaders sacked it during the 15th century, there was a lot of gold and precious stones. But they took everything else away without touching the gold. Also during the 6th century BC it was important enough for it to be visited by the Buddha himself.

Besides the aforementioned Ekambareshwar temple due to its varied architecture is highly recommended to visit. There is the Kailasanatha, Devarajaswami (dedicated to Vishnu) and Kamakshi Amman. If you have a full day and the night, it would not be bad to go to Vaikuntha Perumal. It is a temple that is more than 1200 years old, where there are some cloisters with lion pillars. It is also important to take into account the visiting hours, since some temples close between 12.30 and 4 in the afternoon.

To visit the most common is to arrive by plane to Chennai and depending on the time, go directly to Kanchi, and continue to Mamallapuram. In either case you have to visit both cities and the order of visit will not alter the result.

On the sidelines of the Australian Open in Melbourne

Melbourne was the great surprise of the trip. We had no preconceived idea of ​​the city. We just knew that this is where the Australian Open tennis and a Formula 1 Championship race are held. First of all I thought Melbourne useless. I would have preferred to see other sites. But finally I really liked this city.

Melbourne, capital of the state of Victoria, great rival of Sydney, born of the gold rush of 1851, is a very pleasant city to live. Although I love tennis, I have only been to Roland Garros once. So of course, I was very happy when I knew that we would be spectators of another Grand Slam tournament.

We arrive at 9:40 pm in Melbourne after a stopover in Hong Kong! Arriving on Australian soil in Melbourne, we were surprised to be sniffed by a very small dog, poodle type. All our hand luggage lay in front of us and it suddenly stopped in front of a purse. The person in our group, the owner of the bag is very surprised when asked to open his bag. The object of the offense was a clementine which was immediately confiscated.

We were pleasantly surprised when we discovered a big city, with a big Yarra river, skyscrapers, and Victorian houses. The first thing on our arrival was to look for accommodation. We passed in front of an hotel and we did not think twice. However in Melbourne two surprises awaited us. The first was that the price was high than what we had paid until then.

Even so we decided to stay as it was getting dark and we were too lazy to keep looking. The second was that the room was a very modern suite, with a spacious living room with a refrigerator and stove, and a huge bed. That justified the price. That night we simply went out to dinner in a crowded Lebanese restaurant where we dined very well and left the tourism for the next day.

On the sidelines of the Australian Open in Melbourne

Day 2

We have not got up early as it was great in bed. When we left the hotel we approached the car to the beach in town to see it but is nothing special. We take advantage to enter the supermarket and buy some fruit for breakfast.

Before taking the road directly to Melbourne we wanted to see the London Bridge and the Arch, which are a little further from Port Campbell. The ride was very pleasant, as there were almost no people, but only a couple of cars and the day looked great, with a radiant sun.

After the ride we left for Melbourne where we arrived in about 3 hours stopping only to pour gasoline. Luckily we had the GPS because the entrance to the city seemed quite complicated. There are many different exits, with different lanes plus there was a lot of traffic and lots of trucks.

The day had changed. It was already cloudy and I do not know if it was that or what, that the first impression I had of Melbourne was an ugly city. Sydney had set the bar very high. We walked through the Crown Center and its casino to the Eureka Tower, and already as a ritual, we climbed to the highest vantage point in the city.

We go past MCG, the biggest Cricket stadium in Melbourne, and Melbourne Park where the Australian Open tennis is held. Do you know the Australian Open? It is the first Grand Slam tournament of the year held annually in Melbourne. Well this year I was there!

We enter the margaret court arena, the most important ancillary course. With the view of the city behind was pretty cool. I see the first match of Nadia Petrova in the women's singles. It is an incredible heat, but we stay in our place. And in terms of heat, our neighbors have chosen the option I hydrate without interruption to have the beer!

We go on move a little. There is a lot of people. We tour the stands and various sponsors arrange contests to get some free gifts. Then we continue our walk around the main court to the Rod Laver arena. Attracted by the fact of taking a photo of the main court that I approached the entrance of the court.

We then attend the end of the match of Jelena Jankovic, before being fired for cleaning the court before the big game between Roger Federer against Marat Safin. We continue our tour of short annexes and shops, before finding the Margaret Court for a last match between Stanislas Wawrinka and Tomas Berdych. To say that right now, Roger Federer and Marat Safin are playing their game a few meters from us.

We have already been lucky once, so the idea of ​​trying a second entry to Rod Laver is very tempting. Believe it or not, but we managed! We attended the match between Federer and Safin! We have 30 minutes of happiness before being fired but it was worth it!

We crossed the river, passed by the station and went to Federation Square, where we watch the end of the game quietly. It is a square where there are several museums or exhibition centers and people sit on the big steps to see the street performers or spend time chatting or watching the other people.

The buildings are quite interesting, with lots of glass, geometric shapes and a lot of contrast with some of the buildings they have around, such as the station. We went up Swanson Street and entered some shops to do the last purchases. The prices maybe a little cheaper than in other cities or that seemed to me.

After that we went through Chinatown and also here there were some souvenir shops but mostly restaurants. We went to Spencer Street and a few meters away we saw a restaurant with large windows and people were eating giant soulavkis. So although it was 5:30 we went to have a look to see if we can have dinner there.

Just upon entering we met a Chilean who advised us that if we wanted to have dinner there we should do it right then, because in 10 minutes it would be completely full. So we sat down and indeed the food was very good and at 5 minutes it was full and with a line at the door waiting for a table.

After dinner, on the way to the hotel. We entered a Greek pastry shop that was next door. We see that this is the Greek neighborhood since it was full of Greek restaurants and shops. We bought some cakes for breakfast the next day and we went walking with the idea of ​​taking a tram, which is free and goes around the center of the city, but it was over. So we had to walk.

When we arrived at the hotel I went to the pool to have a swim and to relax a bit in the jacuzzi. When we return to the room we arrange the bags so that the next morning we do not stop there and take the opportunity to sleep until the time we leave the room.

Jaipur Literature Festival

A week of great writers and books is not to be missed at the Zee Jaipur Literature Festival, considered the biggest event in the world related to literature, where you can discover the best of Indian writers. It has completed ten years and is one of the most beloved events of literary enthusiasts.

The Zee Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) is held during January. The appointment, with a crescendo of events, conferences and meetings now boasts the title of the festival of wider authors in the world that is held at the famous Diggi Palace, a historic building in the Indian capital of gemstones.

It is an event that marks a full year in which it does not to lose sight of the world under many points of view whether it be the recent slump value of the pound due to Brexit, the world's concerns about the new US and braking undertaken by the giant neighbor China and India that gain worldwide exposure to the detriment of the other two (former) superpowers.

It may, in its own right, present itself as a new center of world culture. The Jaipur festival shows a selection of pioneering and excellence in the themes and in the choice of guests. This is referred to displacement of marginalized women, sanskrit literature and colonialism. The co-directors of the giant event, the writer Namita Gokhale and historian William Dalrymple, aims to make the five days a real concentrate enthusiasm and writings.

Leafing through the program, the 30 languages represented include international writers that transform Jaipur into a veritable Babel of art and culture. In the program, leading players participate from the winners of the Man Booker Prize as Paul Beatty, Alan Hollinghurst and Richard Flanagan, the celebrated author of Mistress of Spices, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, the former director of the British Museum Neil MacGregor, the music critic Alex Ross, the writer and economist Ha-Joon Chang. And again, singers, artists, translators, editors are also there.

JLF is a journey through one of the most impressive cities of India, nestled deep in the cultural richness of the state of Rajasthan, with the discovery of new trends in world literature. What more can you want in the beginning of the year?

Trip to Allahabad Kumbha Mela in Makar Sankranti

In Rishikesh I did not stop listening to comments and recommendations to go to the Allahabad Kumbh Mela. Everyone said it was something spectacular. It was unique as it is on the period of Makar Sankranti. The recommendations increased after arriving in Varanasi. Since the fun of a trip is to enjoy the festivals and customs, we decided to go through Allahabad to visit this event.

In Allahabad, where the Ganges and Yamuna rivers meet and an invisible third, the Saraswati. Millions of people participate in a celebration that fuses mythology with cosmology. It is a unique cultural experience, among cold divine waters filled with pilgrims. In the month of Magha, when the Sun enters Capricorn, the Maha Kumbh Mela in Allahabad is the most important

Makar Sankranti Allahabad Kumbha Mela images wallpaper

Day 1

We got up early and headed to the Varanasi train station from where buses leave for Allahabad. On the way I could see that my karma was still quite bad because my camera under all the possible quality controls, decided that it had traveled enough. The karma is powerful. I go to the largest religious event in India where I will see a lot of gurus, sadhus and saints dressed in colorful ways and my only camera will be a smartphone.

We arrive in Allahabad late morning, after more than twenty-four hours in bus. All, however, are heading in the same direction to the east. I begin to find places for my stay in Allahabad. In the roadside, giant billboards announce preaching or the presence of a particular guru.

We had been warned of how big and impressive the Kumbh Mela was. The truth is that no matter how warned we were, we could not imagine what was before our eyes. Hundreds of hectares near the Ganges were covered with tents and people were everywhere. That was like a refugee camp of epic dimensions.

Then we continue towards Kumbha Mela, where we try to enter with the bus, without success. We do not have the pass and the cops are particularly intransigent at the checkpoints. The bus stops on the side of the road. Our companions get off, talk with sadhus-organizers and negotiate. We spend a good time.

Then the bus leaves, two hundred meters up to a cross, makes a first 360 degree around a fly-over pillar that acts as a roundabout. The traffic is dense. The bus stops on the low side. Then it redo the pillar a few minutes later, before stopping again. It leaves for a third round around the same pillar. We do not try to understand, but we see that we are still not going into Kumbha Mela, whereas we are going to Sector 7,

The bus comes back to its first stop and we re-leisurely after one hour, at the end of which it flutters, luggage out of the cargo hold or down the roof. The bus cannot get permission to go to the camp. And as we arrived late we will have to find another way to get to our final destination.

I see a tempo and find myself standing on a footstool, clutching where I can. Inside, the other passengers disappear under the bags and crates. Then the rickshaw enters the Kumbha Mela site, recalling familiar images. A sea of ​​tents extends to the horizon. Many floating bridges span the Ganges. The railway and road bridges of the Varanasi road overlook the whole.

Large perpendicular alleys, covered with metal plates, structure the space and gigantic orange flags float in the wind. The rickshaw engages on the temporary roads that crisscross what is usually the bed of the Ganges when its level rises during the monsoon. We jerk on the jolts. It climbs towards Sector 7, but obviously does not know where it is going.

We zigzag for half an hour in the Kumbha Mela before finally finding our location. We pass on the way in front of high porticos decorated to the glory of this or that guru. It is 1 pm when we arrive. Our camp is rather modest, set back in a small alley. A large rectangular tent used for ceremonies is surrounded by small tents. At the bottom, a structure houses the kitchen.

At the side, a large area covered with corrugated iron is used for communal meals. A palisade of corrugated iron surrounds everything. An unpretentious porch overlooks the entrance. A few light garlands adorn the walls of the camp. We settle in one of the tents with about ten people. The tents are not equipped and we put a floor mat, on which we extend some blankets.

It's spartan, and the soil is uneven. Exhausted by the night on the bus, we try to ask a moment for a nap, but we are immediately called for the meal together. The vegetarian meal, is succulent like all those that will follow during the week. There might be a god in the kitchen will become my mantra.

The meal is over. I try to go to rest, but it is lost time. Our rajasthani friends do not stop moving. Because it is a no-smoking camp we find quite quickly that we are surrounded by sadhus, the latter refusing theoretically the consumption of any intoxicant, including tobacco.

So for each cigarette, I leave the camp, regularly followed by one or the other who discreetly came to take a cigarette from me. It also gives me the opportunity to see the life outside. Throughout the coming week, almost 24 hours a day, cohorts of pilgrims do not stop arriving in groups.

I'm starting to feel uncomfortable. Following the bug in Delhi, I have been wearing my only kurta for a week, while all our guests are dressed to the full. I will have to find an emergency solution. In the evening, after dinner, we allow ourselves a little trip in the neighborhood, just to drink a chai and start our exploration.

At the chai shop, we meet a German backpacker who has just arrived and is looking for accommodation. Being ourselves in the position of guests, we do not dare to propose him to come to the camp. Our walk confirms some feelings we had when arriving with the rickshaw.

The Kumbha Mela, in some respects, looks more like a fair than a place of recollection, with its porticoes covered with flashing diodes and the diffusion of various and varied songs and music. It is sometimes difficult to distinguish the bhajans and Bollywood songs at the moment. And it looks more like a concentration of ego than a detachment school.

A young saffron dressed babe with mobile phone in her ear goes behind the wheel of a big buggy jeep, before rushing under a portico on which giant posters display her smile. The first night plunges us a little more into the mood. With piercing speakers, all in the treble and installed throughout the Kumbha Mela, it emits prayers and bhajans without stopping.

It create an impressive cacophony and it is to him who will have the most powerful sound. It is perfectly illusory to hope to sleep without earbuds. While all almost sleep, those who are still awake do not hesitate to turn on the light and bawl with friends in the tent next door. The soil is uncomfortable.

Makar Sankranti Allahabad Kumbha Mela images wallpaper

Day 2

Around 5 o'clock in the morning, even before dawn, I get awake early after a bad night sleeping on the floor. We decided to take advantage of the early hour to explore the Kumbha Mela. We also need to be alone. If the Rajasthani guys are good, they are also very demanding and, from sunrise to sunset, we have not had a minute without them.

But above all, we are feverish, excited to finally discover this famous Kumbha Mela! We depart for the Sangam, the holy center of Kumbha Mela, which is at the confluence of the Ganges and Yamuna, five kilometers to the south. Our camp is at the northeastern limit of Kumbha Mela on the left bank of the Ganges.

The Kumbha Mela, entirely located on the bed of the divine river is squared with straight roads. Metal plates screwed to each other form driveways in the fine dusty sediments of the Ganges that cover everything and fly away at the slightest breeze. During the day, when the sun is beating, tankers pass and repass untiringly by watering the ground. Despite this, dust infiltrates everywhere, continually.

We swallowed a considerable amount and my camera and computer equipment too. Between the main roads, are a sub-grid of small dirt roads. Our camp is on one of these secondary roads, on which haystacks have been thrown, in anticipation of rainy days. The main arteries are usually lined with stalls selling ritual objects, clothes, blankets or religious books.

Sometimes we see a little food stall selling pakora and samosa, but there is no real restaurant. At almost every junction, there are chai shops and cohorts of cops who hang out all day long. At first, we look for landmarks. It's nice to go and discover the Kumbha Mela and its four or five million permanent residents, but we will also have to find our camp back. And that's where it gets complicated.

The streets and intersections are all alike. So we take the first big street, the one that passes next to the camp. Slowly, as in a theater in darkness, the shadows gather details, colors, features. Then comes the time of the ubiquitous chai (tea), the chapati, the vegetables and the pungent smoke, which make me perspire despite the cold of dawn. Whispers give sounds to the multicolored scene.

We drink a chai at the first crossing on which we fall and we look around. A high voltage line goes right by. Then we continue our route until we reach a temporary bridge that spans the Ganges.

We take one of the big alleys which goes in the direction of the south and thus of the center of Kumbha Mela. We do not see the end. It is lost in the distance in a mixture of haze and dust in suspension. We meet a few people, but by far not as many people as I expected.

What strikes me as input is the lack of modesty of the gurus. Everyone has their own camp, with their meeting space that can sometimes accommodate several thousand people. Each camp has a portico supporting large effigies of the said guru. Decorations with strong diodes seem to be popular, especially those that flash, which gives a carnival atmosphere.

Powerful loudspeakers fixed on the walls of the camps emit prayers and bhajans 24 hours a day, in a deafening cacophony. The more one camp increases its sound, the more the neighbor increases its. The sadhus all have their mobile phone in their ear and many fancy driving in large cars, when they are not parading on the roof of the vehicle. We meet people from all over, from all social levels, from all ethnic groups, in a dominant of yellow, saffron and orange.

So we walk south, skirting these camps in the dust of the Ganges. Small sellers spread their tarpaulins on the floor, with a few items, such as cords or tilak powder cones. Some invite us with a gesture, but we decline, too eager to cross the Kumbha Mela.

After an hour of walking, we arrive at a large pyramidal structure, from where we take a bridge to cross the other side of the Ganges. Along the river, pilgrims bathe, protected by barriers, under the more or less attentive eye of lifeguards perched on boats. We meet true ascetics, bling-bling babas, honeymooners, the members of a brass band dressed in the box of a truck, as well as a cohort of cleaners spotted in their yellow vest.

All day, they clean the streets, toilets and camps, sprinkling the places with quicklime. We do not see a Westerner so far. We stop at a chai shop from time to time to observe the world around us. Everywhere, groups of pilgrims arrive, walking along the streets with their bards on their backs or heads.

After passing under the two bridges, that of the railway and the road that connects Allahabad to Varanasi, we arrive at the Kali Marg. It is the main street of Sangam, where in the camps congregate major gurus and large congregations of sadhus, including nagas. Gigantic porticoes line the path and the crowd grows.

Western tourists, with cameras in play, appear. One of them passes me a garland of carnations around the neck. The subjects of photography are innumerable. The heads are often surmounted by turbans, the foreheads proudly display Shivaite or Vishnouite tilaks. The looks are sometimes smiling, sometimes proud and serious or sometimes provocative or hostile.

Naga sadhus parade the body covered with ashes, or smoke the shilom with impunity before the cops who patrol. The traditional religious consumption of ganja by the sadhus is indeed tolerated in India, where the authorities do not dare to oppose the holy men whom they fear and worship at the same time.

We do not linger and we continue our journey towards the banks of the Yamuna, where a denser crowd of pilgrims bathes. Here, in an atmosphere more festive than pious, families do their ritual ablutions or immerse themselves with their children, while the younger ones splash. On the bank, sticks of incense are lit and planted in loose earth, offerings of flowers are delivered to the waters of the river.

The waters of the Yamuna reflect an intense, bluish and transparent color. We navigate through them among hundreds of barges that transport a crowd. In the cold dawn of January, during the boreal winter, other waters begin to mix. The brown is that of the Ganges. We reach the exact point where two rivers meet to the Sangam or union, in the city of Allahabad, also named Prayag.

Stunned, I hear the murmur of millions of pilgrims who pray and immerse themselves in the current, in the chilling cold waters.

A little behind on the sandy slopes, women, who bathe dressed, dry their saris in the sun or wind, holding them at arm's length. Groups of devotees sitting on the ground sing bhajans, accompanied by harmoniums, while sellers sell candy floss and toys. A group of tourists passes by strafing everything that moves.

We head towards the fort along the Yamuna. The closer we get, the denser the crowd becomes. Located at a strategic crossroads, a sadhu accompanied by a decorated cow ostensibly poses for the photographers. Small street vendors set up their booths and sell everything for a few rupees.

There, also begins the court of miracles. The aisle is lined with disabled people of all kinds begging, sitting or lying on the ground, with a bowl in front of them. Some receive some coins, while some rice.

At the other end of the aisle, the crowd becomes so compact at the approach of the Hanuman Temple that it is difficult to find a way among the pilgrims and sadhus. We pass the hill and we descend towards the great plain that extends beyond. There is a small market selling clothes, ritual objects, some restaurants. I take this opportunity to buy two or three spare kurtas that I need and we eat an excellent masala dosa on a terrace.

We go back on the hill and we follow the road that goes along the ridge. We enter an off-center district of Allahabad overlooking the Kumbha Mela. At a crossroads, cops cut the street with vaubans. However, we slip without anyone telling us anything. We are about to go under the railway bridge a little further when we see a human barrier at the entrance to the bridge.

We cross a small camp. The babas obviously broke down shilom and we reach the city where thousands of arriving pilgrims arrive, with their baggage still on their heads. After having crossed the Ganges, we pass near the strange pyramid sheltering an impressive amount of small altars. Poor but high-quality photos and drawings adorn the outer walls of the building.

Soldiers of all faiths, sometimes accompanied by a guru, are represented there, as well as several anonymous ones. It is a mausoleum in memory of the soldiers died during the various conflicts with China or Pakistan during the last fifty years. A few meters away, a show brings together spectators scattered under a large tent.

On stage, the actors, all male, play a piece of Mahabharata or Ramayana, the great epics. The feminine roles are played by men in disguise. I just love it! Other scenes play in other camps with sermons and religious or lectures are given here and there. Sellers of religious books crisscross the arteries. In places, food is distributed to passers-by and the poor. Everywhere, orange, saffron and yellow dominate.

Shortly before arriving at the camp, a man in his fifties approaches us at sector 8, while we are tired along an endless street. With some co-religionists, he offers each Kumbha Mela a camp for visiting pilgrims against a small donation. We start the conversation, then he offers us a chai. He also wants us to meet his sociologist daughter who is doing a study as part of the Kumbh.

We ride in his old broken car, heading to the next chai shop. He calls his daughter to join us. She arrives with some delicacies prepared specially for Makar Sankranti. Night is falling. We are obliged to withdraw and postpone the meeting to the next day, because our Rajasthani friends are waiting for us to eat.

We arrive at 6 at the camp. The concern is palpable. Not seeing us coming back, they are all stressed, convinced that we got lost in Kumbha Mela. They come one by one to ask us where we were, what we were doing, and why we arrived so late. After the explanations we go to the meal.

The evening is spent doing some portraits of our guests, to exchange our photos, to respond to the various requests of each other. While wandering in this huge spiritual area, we made some pretty incredible discoveries. In particular, we see a guru with Russian affinities who preaches the good word in front of a lot of enthusiastic Westerners.

At night, the atmosphere is totally different. It is very mystical, with a mix between end of the world and an apocalypse. Yellow lights are shining in all corners of the site and the camps are brightening up in Las Vegas style lights. Mist covers tents. Dust and pollution fall as campfires light up and puffs of marijuana (an integral part of the cult) multiply. The cocktail stings the eyes.

We go to bed. I put my earbuds to protect from the songs and religious litanies that still sound by the surrounding speakers.

Makar Sankranti Allahabad Kumbha Mela images wallpaper

Day 3

Today we return to Varanasi. There are still two major baths, the Maghi Purnima Snan and Shivaratri Snan, but there is no procession on these days. So we decanille this morning. The camp is almost deserted. Only the two stewards stay there. We fold our luggage, but we decided to make a good donation with all the stuff we no longer need, including the tent and thick blankets we bought at the beginning of the week.

We leave the camp in the middle of the morning and we head for the road bridge over the Ganges and Kumbha Mela to find a means of transportation to a bus to Varanasi. After a last chai in Daraganj, we come across a sadhu in trance along the road, then we get on the bridge.

The traffic is dense, but we find a free rickshaw in which we climb, before being stuck in a monstrous traffic jam. The whole center of Allahabad seems congested. Our driver ends up finding a parade by infiltrating a side street.

When we arrive at the terminal bus of Allahabad, it is empty. We go on the train. There, I'm a little nervous, fearing a phenomenal rush at the station and trains leaving Allahabad. But is there a choice? No, unless you beat the budget with a taxi. I can't even imagine the price up to Varanasi, which is 120 km from here. So we reach the train station.

Surprisingly, the station is not rush and I find a window more or less accessible. There is a train to Varanasi that leaves in 20 minutes, but it makes a small detour through Jaunpur, a small town north of the Allahabad-Varanasi axis. I buy ticket in 2nd class sleeper, and we bomb to the dock, which requires some zigzags through the station. We go up, we go down, we go back, we go down, until we arrive on our platform.

We find our coach and our seats. The compartment is almost empty. There is just a young student on the seat opposite. I go down to buy some food on the platform, when the train starts. I speed up and have to climb on one of the last coaches. I go up the train to our compartment and, strange thing, the train is half empty.

Despite my initial fears, the journey to Varanasi remain in my memory as one of the most enjoyable trips on an Indian train. The temperature is perfect. The compartment remains almost empty during the whole trip and our student is very nice and very kind. There are advantages to being on a small country line, off the major railways. I took the opportunity to take a nap on the bench, exhausted after the week just passed.

We arrive in Varanasi in the early evening.