I have never seen so many people at a railway station, it was packed, there were people sleeping everywhere - welcome to the holy city. Our ride from the station was un-inspiring, piles of rubbish everywhere, and I do mean piles!
To that fragrance, add the stench of stagnant water that has been lying around after the heavy rains and I think you get the picture - best described as an assault on your senses, eyes, ears & nose. Doris, Fred & I have endless conversations about the filth & rubbish, and can't understand why the government don't employ more people to clean up - it's not as though there's a shortage of man power. The problem is there are all these piles of rubbish everywhere, but nothing to actually put it in. We have observed people coming straight out of their houses with food scraps and rubbish and just dumping it in the street. Your immediate reaction is anger, like why don't they dispose of it properly, but if there is nothing provided, for example rubbish bins or rubbish skips, then what are they suppose to do with it? How can you blame them? It's so easy to be judgemental when you don't have to face these same hardships day in and day out.
We did an orientation walk with DJ down to the Ghats (steps) of the river Ganges.
We were meant to take a boat ride this evening, but due to the high water levels, the boat ride was cancelled. Varanasi is the holiest city in India. People come here to die, as in the Hindu religion, to die in Varanasi means a direct ticket to heaven. We walked up to a section of the Ganges where they build the funeral pyres and there was a ceremony about to take place. It is the eldest son who assumes the duties at a funeral, he shaves his head and it is he who sets the pyre alight. Fred was very interested and wanted to stay and watch the proceedings, but DJ explained that it would be at least another couple of hours before the ceremony got into full swing. (nb this may not be the correct term)
There is a religious festival tomorrow and we are told that most of the market stalls will be closed. The celebration is to Ganesh Chaturti - people keep statues of this God in their homes for good luck, then on this religious day they will throw the statue in the river. Fortunately the statues are bio degradable, but just imagine if they weren't - along with the rest of the crap, the Ganges would get totally clogged up with all these half man half elephant statues! I bet there are millions upon millions thrown in the Ganges each year.
Come evening, .another celebration has started, and there has been processions, dancing, and the loudest music ever passing by our hotel, this celebration is called Vishwakarmd this is the God of the labourers.
Doris & I got caught up in some very noisy celebrations in one of the narrow alleyways, we got trapped between the flashing light machine and the big fan that blew cold air from melting blocks of ice on to the frenzied dancers. These people definitely know how to party. We had a great time exploring the alleyways, there were all sorts of funny little shops, but mostly Varanasi is famous for fabrics, in particular sari fabrics in pure silk. The bridal outfits displayed in the shop windows were simply stunning.
On the way back to the hotel we passed a very large funeral party heading down the street towards the ghats where the burial ceremonies take place. The body was wrapped in sparkly fabric and held above the mourners in the procession. Just a normal everyday occurrence in Varanasi.
The Hotel Haifa is very pleasant and the food is excellent.
I'm really looking forward to dinner, shower and bed. It's been a big day, we've walked miles and enjoyed everything we've seen and done. Looking forward to tomorrow already.
Arrived Varanasi about 9.30am, and I can't believe that I actually slept on the train. It was no where near as hectic as the first train trip. We had a card school going till 10.00pm, which provided lots of laughs, and one of the other highlights was watching Doris climb into the middle bunk. She assured us that she was capable of climbing up the ladder. She forgot to tell us that she'd left the springs in her knees at home. The upshot of it was that Fred had to get behind her and push her up onto the bunk, she then did this kinda commando crawl to get to the top of the bed, we could hardly do anything for laughing, it was a commando crawl in slow motion. We were hoping that she didn't have to use the toilet in the night.