Based on the quest I did the day before the road to Bodh Gaya is a good one, a 4 lane road and it takes about 5 hours including the exit from the city. We left at 6 am and on the way out I met Anin, the tuk-tuk driver who will wait for me when I get back. We tried to get to the ghats on the Ganga in the morning but it was no access even if we drove all the way out of the city.
But this was good because we came closer to the highway on a short cut route and we were able to join the traffic that was moving well. But at one point the entire traffic stalled and it was not clear at all what happened. As usual you can see lots of accidents, trucks smashed or tipped, trucks parked on the first lane for km that make the road not a highway anymore, or even worse carcasses of trucks that are stored on the highway . I saw too many of these to think that the stalled traffic can be caused by an accident. I took a lot of pictures of these accidents that are disconcerting at least when you move in a car and you can see how the car might look after such an encounter. You don’t stand a chance! Even when you drive on a four lane road, these truck move OK but some of them are quite erratic and you have to be careful with them.
For example, they can veer and cut you off, when you already started to pass them because they decided to pass themselves the vehicle in front. Of course this happens with no signaling from anybody. After they finish the pass, for the first time I see the use of the signals: they signal you to pass them!!!! After a long wait during which some faster cars took one of the lanes on the opposite sense, it turned out that it was nothing like an accident but a whole convoy of trucks that were driving on one of our lanes. The direct result is that some of our traffic moved to drive on the opposite sense, transforming the 4 lane highway in 2 roads of two lanes each!!!! I saw before trucks coming occasionally but not an entire convoy of 10-20 trucks. Soon after that we entered Bihar, an area famous for its mob and bandits. There are two types of them working together: the real professional ones and ….the politicians. The drive went fine with no incident. The driver fixed the car the previous day and it was no more clunking.
We arrived around 12 pm in Bodh Gaya, that is 22 km off the main road. Bodh Gaya is a small village but having a very important place in Buddhism because here, under a Bodhi tree, Buddha attained enlightenment after a long meditation. The temple and the tree are not the original, the original temple built by Ashoka being demolished, rebuilt latter and modified repeatedly and the tree died but another grew from its leaves and currently is a very sumptuous tree on the spot. No matter of all these the place is very pleasant but quite hot when you have to walk barefoot on the marble temple that burns your feet. Beside that famous temple whose architecture was copied in many others in India and SE Asia, the village has a lot to see and is very interesting. Because the place has such an important place in the history of Buddhism, all the countries that are Buddhist settled here one Maha Bodhi teple or monastery in the style of the country/culture. So you walk the village’s alleys and you find full fledge temples or monasteries that are typical for Thailand, Wat Thai Maha Bodhi, a monastery from Bhutan, a Vietnamese Monastery, a Nepalese temple, a Sikhim temple, a Chinese Temple, 2-3 Tibetan temples for each Tibetan Buddhist sect, a Japanese temple with its own Daibutsu, a copy in stone of the famous statue in Kamakura.
It is like you are hoping from one country to another in South-SE Asia and you are on the same street. To visit all of them take some time and I feel that I am constantly running out of time and this is because of this daily driving. But I remember from last time in India that this is the norm here if you come on short intervals. Meanwhile I was able to have lunch of Paner, a rare occurrence, and purchased some Tibetan music prayer flags, etc. dinner of crepe of banana and chocolate, a very non-Indian dish and and the daily internet and phone. Talking with some guys who were asking me if I returned by train to Benares I found out that the train does not run because the Maoists just blew up the rail track between Varansi and Bodh Gaya somewhere….It happens everywhere but mainly in the eastern part of India now. Tomorrow we will start the return , Bodh Gaya being the furthest point in the trip, and drive back to Varanasi and stop in Sarnath, the place where Buddha had his first sermon in the deer park.