You know what? I never found that phantom chanting. Eff you, Kumbh.
The cars were supposed to pick us up at 6pm to take us to Varanasi, where we were catching our flight to Goa. They don’t arrive until 9:45pm. Who cares? We’re out. We gratefully toss in our packs and settle in for a good car sleep. We didn’t have a hotel room booked, but figured it would be easy enough to find one once we got there.
Again, India had the upper hand when it came to our well-being. I think it was around 1am when we rolled into the outskirts of Varanasi. We wanted to stay near the airport, since our flights were early. Originally we thought we would just spend the night in the airport (have done that in London twice, Panama, Spain and Ecuador…what was one more?) but the Varanasi airport closes at midnight. So that was out. That’s fine. We’ll just drive around and find a hotel, right? Nope. Of the few hotels we found (like, 1) there were no vacancies due to the Kumbh. Plus, there was generally nothing in the vicinity save a few a murdery fields and scary looking buildings which I’m sure were haunted.
Our drivers pull into a restaurant, which resembled a cinderblock with a few dirty tables, and a handful of grim looking Indian men watching a fuzzy television. Why are they still awake? Why is there a restaurant in the middle of nowhere? Who are they feeding at this hour? So many questions were going through my sleep-deprived brain.
We all go inside, and the men negotiate with hand signals a way for us to stay there for the evening. We are close enough that we can just walk to the airport in the morning, but we don’t actually want to sleep on the street if we can help it. But I’m thinking, everyone needs at least one street sleep in their lifetime, right? This might be my moment.
I’m watching all of this from a table, shivering and miserable. It’s so cold. Eventually, they seem to reach an agreement. We can stay in a bare cement room next door, for $140 for the night.
Then they start bringing out dirty and stained blankets for us to use, dragging them along the floor and beating the dust out of them, creating a cloudy haze that seems to hang in the air.
No. Just no.
We then ask the drivers if they will let us sleep in their cars until the morning. We were that desperate. But they said no, they had to get back for another job. At 2am? Whatever.
The boys revisited the cinderblock option, and convinced the owners to let us sit at the tables until 6AM for $40, and include food. That seemed to appease both parties. But as you can see in India, nothing ever works out like you think it will…