A Busy Road Back to Gaya

GAYA, India — My departure from Bodhgaya was similar to my predawn arrival in at least one respect: The taxi ride provided an interesting lesson in local transport customs.

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Ride-sharing taxis are common. At top, passengers hang on. (Photos by Bruno J. Navarro)

I call it a taxi because it was a standard Bajaj three-wheeled, open-air scooter with a canopy, but in this case it functioned more like a bus, stopping to pick up rush-hour passengers, dropping off others and juggling fares all the while.

Like the monk-filled taxi I saw on the way into town, other vehicles with literal hangers-on passed us en route to Gaya Junction. The most number I could count on a single jeep was seven passengers — inside, on the bumper and atop the roof.

The monks had those guys beat.

By now, I was used to most anything I might see traveling India’s roads — or maybe it was more about expecting the unexpected.

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Is that a cow or a water buffalo?

I didn’t, however, think I’d see a cow — or maybe a water buffalo? — set hoof directly into the path of our little tuk-tuk.

At the highway speeds Westerners are accustomed to, such an incursion would present a potentially fatal road hazard, but at barely-faster-than-a-speeding-bicycle velocity, there was plenty of time to pass the creature by driving into the oncoming lane of traffic. (Indians drive on the right, as does most of Asia.)

Tank-like Tata buses squeezed through streets sized more like alleys, and horse-drawn carts rattled down the streets alongside bicycle taxis — no hand-pulled rickshaws here.

Much of the traffic ended up at Gaya Junction, where my overnight train would take me eastward to my next destination: Varanasi.

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Some of Bodhgaya’s streets are hardly wide enough to accommodate big Tata buses.
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Horse-drawn delivery carts share the road, presumably, with Hyundai vehicles.
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Get your Super Kwality ice cream before heading out of Bodhgaya.
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Gaya Junction serves as the main railway link to Bodhgaya.
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Livestock cooling off on the side of the road.
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