This is going to be a long old blog..

Trip Start Sep 14, 2009
Trip End Sep 14, 2010

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Flag of India  , Uttar Pradesh,
Saturday, October 10, 2009

Hi All,

Ok its been a while which means were way behind on the blog front so here is almost a months worth of stories for you.. I have obviously edited so not to bore you all senseless just yet....

We left Agra heading to Varanasi back on 9th October, we took an overnight train and just this once we didnt go dirty sleeper class, oh no we went in 3AC which was amazing, the floors spotless, we even got blankets and pillows for the beds imagine what 1st class must look like!!! The reason for this momentary upgrade was not for the luxury it was for the safety aspect.

The Agra-Varanasi train is rife with theives and it was a safer bet to pay a bit more for a more secure carriage than that of the usual sleeper class which are pretty open and easy access for cunning thieves and as we were sleeping all the way we wanted to know we were a bit safer in 3AC..

When we arrived in Varanasi (Home of the famous Ganges and burning Ghats/Cremations) we grabbed the usual rickshaw to our hotel and suprise we got done over.. the bloody thing dropped us miles away from our hotel so we had to wander the streets each with our 15k backpacks on and in about 37degree heat for about half an hour until some kid helped us out thank God!  We stayed at the Ganpati Guest House which sits right on the river with views all along to the burning Ghats and the prayer ghat was close by. Every evening hundereds of people gather at the Prayer Ghat to see 10 monks perform a ritual prayer lasting about 1 hour with boom box hindi music blarring out and incense and candles everywhere.

On our first night there what we didnt realise was just how many bugs we would get in our room, there were thousands of flying, jumping, crawling creatures all attracted by the faintest of lights whether in our room or on the veranda outside and even in the share bathroom which made it fun for the middle of the night wee time when I went and its a squat toilet, a horrible cricket thing jumped so close to bum I got a bit worried about where it had gone to but I assure you it was fine..

The next night after a restless itchy one before we switched off all lights on the veranda and toilet and thus the bugs went and attacked some other poor travellers further along.. horrible things especially when adam got one in his ear... not pleasent.

We took a sunset boat ride down the ganges and witnessed the burnings, its incredible, they burn people 24 hrs 7 days a week, apparently old people flock from all over India and beyond to come and die in Varanasi and then when they are cremated their bones are dropped into the river by their family members and this takes their souls onto paradise. They only burn the old there, anyone else children, pregnant women, man bitten by cobra or leporasy victims are wrapped in cloth and weighed down with stones to then be taken out by boat and dropped into the middle of the river where they sink to the bottom, who knows how many bodies are in there!!  The river is also a place where children wash and brush their teeth, farmers bring their water buffalo for a swim, women wash clothes, its a brown sludge yet they drink it etc.. we however did not and thus are still living and breathing, I hate to think whats in that water other than the bodies...

We only stayed a couple of days in Varanasi before we made our way up to Nepal, we had to take a train to the India/Nepal border or close to it, a place called Gorkana, we stayed over night here and after ordering 2 toast and tea for breakfast and having to wait 45 mins for it only for the tea to be just piss water and the toast just singed on the sides we headed out in a share taxi for 2 hours to Sonali where we crossed over in to Nepal, we then spent 12 hours on a bus to Kathmandu crossing through some beautiful countryside although our bus driver was insane and as we came down the mountain into Kathmandu we thought our days were numbered as he drove at about 90mph overtaking on blind bends with sheer drops each side.. nutter!!  We finally arrived at 1am so it took about 18 hours to get there overland.. we were there to meet our friend Tom and his mates who had all been trekking for 10 days nearby so we spent a few days to ourselves seeing some sights and relaxing before we met up with them. The hotel we stayed in was called Hotel Paknajol run by a brilliant guy called Chandra and his daughter Rina they are such amazing people, Rina is so lovely and we hope to keep in touch with her. Her dad, Chandra is hilarious, from the moment he arrived the first questions were,. where you from? do you drink? you want some Rukshy?  and from there on out we were hooked on Rukshy, its the local moonshine, kind of tastes like saki and is about 25% proof, our first night we met Chandra at his local drinking hole where we also met some other travellers he had befriended for Rukshy drinking, Simon and Katherine from the UK were in Kathmandu for 5 months I think taking time out here and there for trekking and then Susan also from UK was doing similar and then John the American was living in Kathmadu as a journalist. We had some Rukshy which blew my head off as it was about 99% alcohol and 1% mixer urrgghhh  The others had already had alot of nights with Chandra so us virgins were a bit slow on the drinking side but we soon learned and got a taste for it.

We all went on to have some food together and a beer fuelled evening, our first since leaving the UK.. was great fun and for the next 4 nights we pretty much did the same one night it was just me and adam and Chandra and after 4 bottles of Rukshy and some raw green chillies which paralysed my throat we were truly drunk.. but suprisingly no hangover the next day..

When we met up with Tom and his friends we had lunch with them and that night we arranged to meet them as me and adam had been invited to go with Rina to her home which is the other side of Kathmandu to have food with her mother and sister. It was an amazing experience and we felt very honored to be invited into their home, they are pretty poor and it felt very special to be there. Her mum was amazing she brought me to tears with her openess and love, she gave me a lovely necklace which I have been wearing ever since and I will never forget her kindness.

After the meal we headed back to meet Tom who had been collared by Chandra and when we got there sorry Tom but you were pretty wasted!!! it was hilarious to see knowing Chandra too he doesnt stop unless you put your foot down.. ha ha it was brilliant..

The following day we booked a bus to take us to Kakabitta, the border with India on the West side. It took about 17hrs on a very bumpy bus to get there and then a very sweaty walk with backpacks across the border and back into India where we then caught a jeep up to Darjeeling which took another 4 hours so it was a bit of along slog but we got there in the end.

Darjeeling is about 2500 above sea level and surrounded by mountains and tea estates, we stayed there for 9 days. Its so peaceful and relaxing not like the India we knew and it was freezing but so beautiful. We took a walk to a tea estate and looked round the factory there, we went up to a place called Tiger hill at dawn to see the sun rise over the Himilayas spotting a very tiny piece of Everest, we did alot of walking up and down hills which just seemed to get harder each time for some reason, Im sure it should have been the other way around!!!!
We drank Tea everyday, had soup alot and just enjoyed the relaxing pace of life there..quite different to the rest of our journey.

Our next plan was to travel down to Tamil Nadu, if we did it by train it was going to take about 3 days so we cheated and brought an internal flight from Bogdagra (2 hrs from Darjeeling) to Chennai.. Oh My God, this plane was immaculate and the food really good.. nothing like old Sleazy jet and all that. this was amazing in comparrison.. It was a 4 hour flight and when we arrived in Chennai we took a taxi to a beach town called Mamallpuram.. Now the day we arrived it had been amazing sunshine apparently, the next morning monsoon started!!! and it hasnt really stopped since.. We spent a couple of days in Mamallpuram but it was so heavy with the rains we couldnt do much and the beach was pretty bad, full of cow and dog poo so not the best.

We moved on to Pondicherry about 1.5hrs south and although the rains happened there too it wasnt as heavy or frequent so we stayed for 3 days. Its a bizarre place, its an old French Colonial town so when your wandering the streets you could think your in France and then you see an Elephant and some indians and remember where you are. I really liked Pondicherry, we stayed in a lovely Ashram hotel with a view out onto the ocean and lovely relaxing balcony where we could watch the huge electrical storms brewing out to sea before hitting us in the night.

It has no beach but a long promenade to wander along. Its so expensive to eat there though, it was hard to find somewhere reasonible but was worth it as was a great place to see.

After this we took a bus to Trichy, it took about 3 hours and when we arrived we couldnt find a room in a hotel, wedding season was in Full swing as it was 1st November by then and we were stuck until some Aussies, Alicia and Michael spotted us and helped us out. They had arrived hours before us to the same problem but they knew somewhere close which was great. The room was good but FULL of mossies.. we had a fight on our hands for the first half hour until I think our slapping noises and swearing was heard and they kindly moved us to a less mossie infested room.. ha ha

We only stayed one night, the food sooooooo cheap there we had a huge meal with tea and water for less than 2pounds between us which must be the cheapest yet. We had a veggie Thali which basically is a serving plate with 4 different curries and Dhal and then some curd, raita, and another curd or at least thats what I thought it was.. there I was piling it onto my rice when the guy came over and informed us that that was our desert not a curd.. oh well it tasted nice with my curry all the same ha ha it was infact a rice pudding.. Im such a prat sometimes..

The next day we took another bus to Madurai where we just did a quick stopover before taking another bus to Trivandrum in Kerala, this took about 11 hours or so and this is where Im going to leave it for now.. Kerala is another story so till next time..

R xx

P.S. Sorry there are no photos, we will upload as soon as poss
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Frances x on

Good to hear from you and that all still fab and exciting!!.Dont blame you cheating and throwing that flight in though....Have super fond memories of Kerela ,I was there when I was 5 months pregnant!! much to everyones horror !
Will read your blog properly later ...looks like bit of an epic bedtime read for me !
hope your taking good care ...lots of love x

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