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.

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.

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.

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

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