Varanasi was OK. It's incredibly old and I'm afraid that I missed most of the holiness of the place. I got glimpses of it, when we could experience it without being hassled. The guest house we stayed in was right on the banks of the Ganges. We had a room with a balcony, so we could sit up there and look at life pass us by without being observed or obtrusive. We saw the whole funeral rites prior to a cremation, and that was very nice to do.
Our hiring of the car for the trip to Bodhgaya was not the experience we were planning. It was a complete nightmare, and I will write to the Tourist Bureau advising them not to recommend it to anyone. The road is absolutely atrocious, with potholes 20 inches deep, so the going is extremely slow. Add to that a kidnapping about halfway there, with the police stopping all traffic in both directions, with a traffic jam for over 4 hours. Fortunately we were only caught in it for about 2 hours. We had lunch at a Indian truck stop. Not a bad meal for the four. It cost Rs45 -not even A$2- and none of us got sick! We were quite a novelty there, with truckies coming in to look at us.
Our driver also turned into a maniac. First he scoffed down as much breakfast as he possibly could, even rushing to the chai shop after we'd eaten to gulp down two serves of yogurt and grab a huge cup of chai before we'd paid. Next he tried to get us to pay the entry tax to Bihar even though we had not been stopped at the border to pay tax. Added to that, his driving was completely incomprehensible! He would go slowly when the road was driveable, then pass when there was no room at all, drive on the wrong side of the road and signal everyone on the right side of the road to get out of the way. It was without a doubt the worst road trip I have ever had, and that includes a 28 hour bus trip in Zambia!
It was here that I misplaced my prayer books and family photos. I keep them all together, and realised when I went to do my practice that night that I had lost them. I was very upset, and couldn't sleep for trying to see what I actually knew by heart of my practice and all that. Then I spent most of yesterday trying to contact the tourist office and the driver to see if I could organise how to get them back. All to no avail, and a fair amount of Rupees spent on phone calls. Then, on return to our hotel, we had a message from Marianne and Carl, with my prayer books! Yay!!!
We have had some nice meals here, mostly tukpa and stir-fry noodles. On each occasion, we have been joined by Tibetan monks who are keen to talk in English, so our meal time turns into a very nice experience and the food is secondary. And tomorrow, the teachings with his Holiness start.