I'm going to write about the journey from Pokhara, Nepal to this train. Being the lazy travelers we seem to have become (Lazy as in not booking ahead etc.) we booked our bus the day before from Pokhara to the border, it was an early start and after some waiting around we were sitting on a rickety bus by 7:00am. A pretty uneventful journey, apart from whizzing past a lorry a little to close, so close in fact that it ripped part of the drivers door off and made a beautiful metal on metal screech, as the two vehicles slid past each other. Not to long after some driver - driver discussion before we were back in motion.
So we get to the border and realize from other travelers that booking a train to Varanasi would have been a good idea. We did the crossing, adding a few more souvenirs to the passport and decided on a local bus, cheap as chips. Less than a quid for a three hour drive to Gorkhapur. Less than 30 minutes in we were sat next to a petrified looking goat, who was so scared it relived its self in the aisle and onto my bag ! We found ourselves racing another bus, the other bus on the wrong side of the road, as our driver did not get in the other bus had to screech to a halt narrowly missing a head on collision with a truck...interesting...even more interesting when the same bus managed to overtake us and then performed a cop car maneuver pulling front of us and forcing us to an abrupt halt. Our driver jumped out and a driver - driver ensued to cheering from our bus. Finally made it to Gorkhapur, couldn't figure out the trains and settled for a hotel and a street Thali....our first Indian curry -> Bloody fantastic!
So that puts us here! On the train, next stop Varanasi... well not the "next" stop but you know what I mean...that's where were heading. Just to add we opted for sleeper class - no air - con, bloody hot! But comfortable and no tourists ! What are the gun laws in India? Because three guys just got on the train in plain clothes with automatic rifles, old looking things but still powerful and scary looking guns...plus I just saw a bloke on the platform with a bolt action rifle!
The next day: Survived the train trip, only injuries were a body full of bites from some insects I did not see. You may notice I am still writing on paper and copying straight to my blog instead of writing from memory... I like it, it keeps it fresh. ***I did say that a few paragraphs ago so obviously not too fresh!!** I'm sat on a table drinking masala tea in our guesthouse, ZoŽ is next to me teaching the Indian dude who runs the hostel how to play 500, a slightly complicated card game, I will leave her to it. The rest of the train journey? Pretty uneventful, just had a chat to a guy with 8 kids! Very nice family. We found a rickshaw and whizzed through the night to a guesthouse.... I think I mentioned we have become lazy. We still are. No guide book. No guesthouse knowledge / recommendation so we relied on the rickshaw driver. We got to the guesthouse to find 2 of the biggest spiders I have seen this trip in our room. I'm ignoring them and hopefully they will ignore me too!
Today we wandered... one of my favorite travel activities, wandering...just taking in the sights sounds and smells of the city. We wandered along the Ganges, people bathing, cows bathing...not seen any burning bodies yet though! Had a curry for breakfast, we are playing curry lottery...order something you have never heard of and see whose tastes better. Its currently 1 all. Tried to find a cooking course BUT there are none! Even says so on the net! Fingers crossed for Mumbai! How did today start for me? With a good luck gift from above..bird Sh*T.
Back again... we met a Russian girl called Albina and arranged to share a boat down the Ganges, she brought an Israeli couple with her. A good gang, we got a bloke to row us down the river... a really nice guy with a friendly face. From the river we watched religious ceremony, people washing, then we made it to the funeral area to see bodies burning. We did not get close or take pictures of this area out of respect. We are just back from a restaurant where we continued curry lottery, a draw this time so we remain at 1 -1. Walking back from the meal, the path was slightly blocked by a wooden cart I pushed past to realize that I was looking at a dead body getting ready for cremation on the river banks.
I am about to sleep but I just want to share a world with you. It is a world where every meal is a different curry, each meal comes with a different type of bread, be it Nan, chapatti, or roti. In this world you can eat curry three times a day, breakfast lunch and dinner. If you are interested in this world a bottle of sprite costs less than 30 pence. Roll on breakfast. Sleep.
Next day: MAAHuussive spider next to shower, no deodorant for three days, dust, dirt, extreme heat and sweat....today I feel fruity, or maybe pungent. Yes Pungent. This morning I ate stuffed tomato curry for brekkie...stuffed with tasty cottage cheese! We then jumped on couch surfer.com looking for possible couches across India we could crash on. It is hot! After another stroll down ye ol Ganges we are getting some fan action in our now pungent room before curry time !
Some time has passed: How much time? I think it was yesterday when I last put pen to paper. What have we been up to? lots and nothing at all, have been trying different restaurants, spent time reading, watched some south park and wandered some more. Today we hired a cyclo (bloke on a bike pulling a passenger carriage) to ride us around for a while, as I filmed the cows, people and rickshaws whizzing past. ZoŽ took pictures. We tried a famous desert called "Hello to the queen" - Biscuit layer, banana layer, ice cream layer and lots of choco sauce - Tasty! We have also moved guesthouse, the new one has cooler rooms, its in a perfect central location and the rooftop restaurant is where I am writing this from. It is 8.30 and I have been here since sunset. There is a gorgeous view of the Ganges and monkeys own the area , they were pretty active at sunset, babies and adults bloody everywhere, on roofs, the side of buildings, our roof, ventilation ducts, I watched them play as the sunset and had the sensation I was in a zoo. The sensation came to me because the restaurant has caged windows and every now n then a monkey would stop by and peer at me through the bars.... I did get a little nervy as they are the same monkeys we saw being viscous in Vietnam. We were protected by the waiter though as he has a rope that he scares them off with Indiana Jones style. ***This blog is feeling a little scatty... maybe I am not so keen on the journal style of writing*** So I am waiting for pokaras (onion baji type things) and then off to "monkey temple"... There is a five day music festival there with Indian musicians playing through the night until sunrise. EAT-> RICJKSHAW -> ENJOY MUSIC... that's the plan.
I have learnt that tomorrow is election day! Police have built some barricades on the street and with the recent bombings etc I am a little apprehensive. I have been told that the streets will be full of voters and police, everything else will be shut. I am going to take the opportunity to snap some pictures o the goings on but will defiantly have my wits about me.
Opinionated people - off topic I know but I write what I want. I suppose opinionated is the wrong term, its good to have an opinion to feel strongly about, to have passion... I guess I am talking about "Know it all - I'm right your wrong " kind of people. The only reason I bring it up is because I was just talking to a bloke with this attitude and I realized the only way to keep the peace is to agree, if like this guy they think they are so right it will be argued to the death. So I agreed, although really I don't agree, I probably agreed for the easy way out, and that to oppose this guys opinion would have come across as rude and all the niceties of the time would be interrupted. Babble I know but what I have decided is that these type of peoples attitude to discussion is leading them to miss out on other opinions, that is if others are "keeping the peace" like I was and essentially they are living in their own bubble of a world. ***Ultimate babble - but its nice to put your thoughts to paper - try it***
Election Day! I have been in bed alllll day, pretty disappointing really I was looking forward to roaming the empty alleyways and checking out the police presence. It is only 2:00 I guess I still could.... But probably not. If I talk about last night I am sure this will become clearer. So I ate, getting ready to leave for the festival, ZoŽ threw up and I started feeling poorly. I really wanted to check out the festival so I made sure ZoŽ was OK and left for the festival with Albina (Russian girl)... I also didn't thin it was fair to let Albina go on her own. We took a cyclo, the bumps making me feel much much worse. Listened to some amazing sitar playing accompanied by bongos, but couldn't really enjoy it feeling so bloody rubbish. The return journey was even worse and after bursting into our room me and ZoŽ took it in turns to projectile vomit all night long J So ZoŽ is sleeping, I am feeling rubbish...fingers crossed for a speedy recovery (we think it was "Hello to the queen" that did it)
Some time has passed: After being poorly we spent the next day resting and eating rice. Our last full day in Varanasi. The net day feeling a bit better we watched the sun rise from the rooftop, the monkeys woke and started getting active around us. If reincarnation is possible I always wanted to be a bird of prey, I'm now leaning towards a monkey in Varanasi. We were super looking forward to the 12 hour train ride to Agra because we had booked Aircon Sleeper class! A treat, proper luxury... let down though as at the station discovered we were only on a waiting list a "Pay the full price for two sleeping berths, see what happens when you get here, possible class change waiting list" We were told we were lucky as one sleeper was available for us to share. I did not feel too lucky trying to sleep on the most cramped bed ever with a ZoŽ next to me.... Obviously I am very luck to have the opportunity to be traveling on a cramped train in India so I am happy!
We made it to Agra yey! That is where I am writing this now, what have we done today after arriving at 6:00am? We hired a rickshaw and driver for the day... a 17 year old lad with 1 month driving experience behind him and he took us around the sights. First the baby Taj....actually Backup! The reason we decided to ht all the sights today -> It is world heritage day...yey! Now we are super lucky... all sights are free for this one day of the year only. Soo baby Taj.... Bloody gorgeous and empty, I will let the photos describe how beautiful it really is. Then we viewed the back of the Taj Mahal from across the river in some stunning, untouched green gardens. A perfect introduction to a truly spectacular masterpiece. We sat in awe for some time then refreshed with a bottle of water...sneaky sneaky water.... They had cut the top off the lid halfway leaving the seal in tact, and then refilled the bottle... The benefit, I am not actually sure thinking about it..who drank the water in the first place hmmm, maybe not so sneaky, factory error? Can anyone enlighten me?
From the gardens it was Agra Fort (read about it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agra_Fort
). Very very hot exploring the fort...we knew India would be hot, we knew we had picked the wrong time of year for India, but we had everywhere else so damn perfect we had to go somewhere off season, it is hot, drain your energy, fray your temper, make you want to stay naked in your room hot! But we were mentally prepared and are pushing on. After the fort we visited the Taj Mahal (Just in case: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taj_Mahal
) and after wandering around some I videoed 20 minutes of the sun disappearing behind the spectacular building.
So we have explored Agra as much as we want to... happy to have seen some gorgeous sites. Plans for the future... ummmm, we need to look into that. Try and borrow someone's lonely planet or something and move on, but first we are taking a couple of rest days as we are both still feeling a bit crappy. We think we have about another month possibly one and a half months left in us or should I say in our budget! (A bit more than we first expected because it is so bloody cheap here J) I'm personally looking forward to some smaller cities to explore J
Books read.... None since the last blog... I am reading one book called "Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance" and it is taking me a while... the most complicated book I have read on this trip so I am digesting it slowly... although I am re reading passages again and again, it is such a good book I will be re reading it afterwards....probably after a month or so when I have had time to digest it !
Photos as before are found here:
Love to all
P.S Had a beard trim in the barber the other day, it included a facial massage...very nice. He did a good job at making my bad beard look as best as it can...bad.
P.P.S India is HOOOOT
P.P.P.S We have moved on from Agra now and i did write this a little while ago.... we are currently in Jaipur enjoying the sights and once again enjoying the curries...... i will write about everything upto Jaipur when i can face the ultimate heat of the internet cafe and the slooooooowwww Pc's Maybe in a week or so :)
P.P.P.P.S Were now thinking around a month to go! I bet it will whizzzz by :) Planning on some Goa beach time before we leave ;)
P.P.P.P.P.S Some of the exclamation marks are capital J's so replace J with ! in your head because i dont have the energy ;P
Enjoying my first train ride in India! From Gorkhapur to Varanasi (if you haven't noticed this is a direct copy from my notebook like before). I like writing onto paper, it's a good way to clear my mind. Might even continue when I get home? Hmmmm ...someone mentioned Twitter? What is it? I have lost connection with current events while traveling, its been nice, someone said something about throwing a shoe at Bush as well, missed that. Its Nice.