Well a coupla nights ago, we caught the night train from jhansi to Allahabad. Certainly not as festy as the Vietnam train, but quite cramped. Managed to sleep on and off. From allahabad we took vans to the Ganges river. There was a heated discussion between our tour guide and the driver about what speed was appropriate. There were no seat belts in the van also.
CRUISE ON THE GANGES
The boats were 4 person dinghies with a tarp cover. For the toilet, either a coy dip in the ganges or we had to go ashore. There was no outboard motor; it was either oar or sails. Since we had not slept so well on the train, the gentle rocking and swish of the water of the ganges sent us all for naps. later, lunch came from the kitchen dinghy. It was delish.
During the heat of the day, we chatted about india and her philosophy, society and religion, read books and waved hello to the kids along the shore. After a few hours of sailing (once tackling the oars myself), we found a sandy bank to camp on. Our trusty crew in the kitchen dinghy pitched our tents, set up a campfire and dug a latrine. We watched the sunset,ate dinner, took some photos and shooed moths away. We slept very well in our tents and in the morning i excitedly stuck my head out of the tent, thrilled to remind myself that i was camping ont he banks of the ganges, one of the world’s holiest rivers.
We ate breakfast while our crew packed up, then got back on the boats. We saw a pod of freshwater dolphins and some flying fish. We saw a wedding ceremony and water buffaloes bathing. i got some amazing photos.
After lunch, as the heat bore down, we jumped in to the ganges for a swim. It is said that swimming in the ganges washes away a lifetime of sins(and drinking the water even more!!). I dunno about that but it sure felt nice.
We called ashore near Varanasi and got back in Jeeps. In the hotel we gratefully jumped in the shower and changed clothes that we had been in for 2 days.
Last night, a walking tour of colourful, spiritual Varanasi. We caught a bone-rattling rickshaw ride into town to look around. The streets were crowded with people, cows, goats, dogs and vehicles. We wandered through narrow alleys with shops selling silk and beautiful beaded sarees. We went to the cremation ghat where people send off their loved ones,and we were quietened by the solemnity overall. We went back, dodging cow pats and dogs. I saw a leper beggar and felt saddened. We walked along the ghats and watched the evening unfold – kids selling flowers, kids playing cricket (I reflexively covered my head against errant cricket balls) and we took in all the temples. It was quite surreal.
Very early this morning we boarded a boat to watch the sun rise over the ganges. Even at 0530, there were many people (and animals) around. People bathing and washing their clothes, gurus chanting, praying and singing, and dogs barking and fighting playfully. It was just magical.
then – breakfast with strong turkish coffee and internet. later, we will be sampling varanasi’s beauty salons and I will be taking a yoga class. Another boat trip and a candle ceremony later still.