The Holy One!!
Trip Start Sep 14, 2009
78Trip End Aug 16, 2010
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In fact I have become very astute (apart from this one case) in negotiating hard with the bicycle rickshaws, auto rickshaws and taxis
Varanasi takes you by surprise. It is madder, more chaotic, frenetic, and not the spiritual tranquil place I had as a preconceived idea. The roads are small and loaded with everything you can think of. Even more so than in the other cities you see the road pecking order; the low life is the pedestrian and nobody cares about them. Next are cycle rickshaws which can be very vulnerable to the auto rickshaws that barge them out of the way and then come the taxi cars which the auto rickshaw cowers down to at junctions. The king of the road is the bus and the steamroller is the lorry however all of them become cowardly sheep when faced with a sacred cow occupying the road. The cows, although clearly being totally stupid, do have a confident "you can’t touch me pal" look about them which reminds me of a night out in Liverpool.
We took a death defying drive down to the old town in an auto rickshaw which dropped us at the no motor traffic old town perimeter limit
In walking down to the Ganges, Liz struck up a conversation with a youngish bloke who attached himself to our family. He was very pleasant and adamant that he was tired of hearing from foreigners about how they were ripped off by the local scams and he could show us the real Varanasi for no charge. Humm I thought, you are sooo right Liz said. Needless to say he had a shortcut, which we followed! In fact he took us through the very back, back streets which are five foot wide and still accommodate people, cows and motorbikes at four abreast! Issy started to get the wobbles and we reassured her whilst at the same time beginning to have second thoughts of our own. We saw small temples cut into the buildings which he explained to us and obviously a large slice of poverty and squalor that is difficult to imagine. We did get to the river and he joined us on a boat ride down along the bank where the true spectacle is laid out in front of you like a living National Geographic article. At the far end we came to the smaller of the two cremation ghats. From the boat we saw the fires and bodies wrapped up laid out for the ceremony. Isobel did not want to get off the boat but Aidan and I took the chance to go and see at closer hand the ghat. I was fairly transfixed but from what I remember our guide explained that the bodies are wrapped in a white sari which is then tied onto two long bamboo poles and again wrapped in coloured material
We also visited Ramenager Fort on the other side of the Ganges having taking an hour long cycle rickshaw to get to the bank of the river where the pontoon bridge should be. I say should be as it is dismantled each year for the monsoons however our “pilot” did not tell us this until we were at the muddy waters edge and he introduced us to a boatman. How convenient. After much negotiation he took us across and we went round the rather shabby but interesting museum at the Fort.