Thursday, August 20, 2009

19th to 21st August - Varanasi

What a pleasure the overnight train journey was...... so, to sum up... I spent 12 hours on a train in a bed made for a midget, with the snoring championships of India taking place in the next cabin and with a bag rifling gypsy making his way through our stuff at 2.00am...

I didn't get much sleep... I was on guard duty after Mr Bag Thief tried his tricks... It was a weird experience... I had just drifted off to sleep... it was about 1.30am and it had taken me a while to settle. It's difficult to sleep when your legs are at a right angle to your body but exhaustion took over... I then heard and felt this presence next to me... I woke up and saw some guy pulling all of both Allen and my bags out from under my bed...

"Oi... what do you think you're doing?" I said...

insert a series of grunts here...... came the reply....

"Leave our bags alone now...!" I said more forcefully... pulling myself up to my complete and imposing 5 ft 10" size.... (that must have scared him....)

Grunt grunt gruntedy grunt came the response...

So I grabbed our bags and shoved them back under my bed and pushed the guy away... Bloody idiot... He got off the train at the next stop but it was difficult to sleep after that...

We arrived in Varanasi and it was more chaotic than any of the previous places we had got to... Uttam our tour leader was mobbed by people trying to get him to use their rickshaws... the traffic was just a complete joke... I don't know how anyone can get anywhere in this place...

The heat was stifling and i'd been wearing the same pants for 30 hours... I needed a shower and a change of clothes before my smell scared even the cows...

The hotel room was basic but it had a bed and running water so I didn't complain. We went out for lunch and then came back to the hotel for a nap..... and then the building work started.... great... no sleep at all...

So, surviving on say 1 and a half hours sleep in 36 hours, I joined the group for the orientation walk. It was very interesting.. we walked to the banks of the river Ganges and I started chatting to these kids selling flowers with candles in them.

From Agra and Varanasi


From Agra and Varanasi


From Agra and Varanasi


From Agra and Varanasi


They are used as an offering... you light them, float them on the Ganges and make a wish. So I bought one off this little kid and said to him:

"Mate, you light it and make a wish.... I think you need more luck than me."

From Agra and Varanasi


From Agra and Varanasi


From Agra and Varanasi


From Agra and Varanasi


From Agra and Varanasi


So he did and I felt really good about myself afterwards.... then his uncle appeared and clipped him around the ear... not sure for what reason but I don't think the wish he made came true somewhat.

Then we happened upon this goat which was either brave or stupid... you decide.

From Agra and Varanasi


Then we got to one of the more bizarre places of the trip. It was the place where families cremate their dead on the banks of the river Ganges. It was quite an eery place and I felt quite rude just standing there and watching people burning their loved ones....

So we walked along the banks a little and I started talking to this young girl who was also selling flowers. Her english was very impressive and she told me she goes to school from 7am until 12pm and then sells the flower and candles after that. She likes to learn English and History and would like to be a teacher... She was such a bright thing that I really hope she gets to be a teacher... I bought a flower and candle off her too and donated my wish to her also... I hope she has more luck than the last kid...

From Agra and Varanasi


From Agra and Varanasi


Today we took a trip to Sarnath where Buddha gave his first reading. It was a stifling day again and I think the group are templed out.... We came back to Varanasi and had lunch.

From Agra and Varanasi


From Agra and Varanasi


From Agra and Varanasi


From Agra and Varanasi


From Agra and Varanasi


From Agra and Varanasi


From Agra and Varanasi


From Agra and Varanasi


From Agra and Varanasi


From Agra and Varanasi


From Agra and Varanasi


From Agra and Varanasi


I took a walk for a bit and got talking to this girl and her mum who owned a store near the hotel. They invited me in for Chai and we had a chat for about an hour. It was great to find out about their family and life in India. They invited me to dinner at their house but I had to decline as we are taking a boat ride along the Ganges this evening but it was a lovely way to spend an afternoon.

The boatride on the Ganges was very special. It was just turning from day to night and we were sending out 108 wishes on floating candles into the Ganges. We then went to see a religious ceremony which was an amazing experience. Almost poetically, a dry storm sent lightning forks through the sky in the distance. It was all very special.

From Agra and Varanasi


From Agra and Varanasi


From Agra and Varanasi


From Agra and Varanasi


From Agra and Varanasi


From Agra and Varanasi


From Agra and Varanasi


From Agra and Varanasi


From Agra and Varanasi


From Agra and Varanasi


From Agra and Varanasi


From Agra and Varanasi


From Agra and Varanasi


From Agra and Varanasi

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