I was beyond pleased to see my autorickshaw driver awaiting me at 4:20am outside the Karma Temple’s gate. I shook his hand, he started the motor, and we were off in the dim pre-dawn light. I realized my decision to take the early train to Varanasi meant a peaceful, cool ride back to Gaya which was in stark contrast to the “like a bat out of hell” rickshaw ride to Bodhgaya two days earlier.

The 5:15am train arrived on time, and I boarded my 3AC carriage to find most people asleep. I heaved my pack onto the upper berth, grabbed a pillow, turned on my mp3 player, and began to enjoy the air-conditioning.

After a few hours, I descended from my perch to a friendly Indian family occupying the other berths in my section. I asked one of the guys to help me ensure I got off at Varanasi, which he did. Otherwise, I watched the farmland fly by, and the mom playing with her little daughter on the seat opposite me. At one stop, a young child missing his left forearm (below the elbow) entered the carriage and approached me for money. I nodded “no” and averted my eyes. He took care to point at the scars with his right hand. An older Indian guy next to me said something to him, yet the child just kept repeating “money” and holding his scarred arm in front of me. I didn’t relent, and the mother eventually gave him a one rupee coin. Satisfied, he left.

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  • David Lee

    In late 2007, I quit my job and left the comfortable life in the USA for the open road with nothing but a 20-pound backpack, a …

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