Squits, ghats and mild concussion

Trip Start Jul 27, 2004
Trip End Dec 21, 2004

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Flag of India  ,
Monday, December 6, 2004

After much relaxation in Goa we decided that we really should do some travelling, we braced ourselves for the hassle, flew to Delhi (on the worst airline with the rudest air hostesses in the world) and then got an overnight train to Varanasi. We were sharing our 6 berth (2 lots of 3 tier bunkbeds) with four middle aged Indian people who were on a pilgrimage to the holy city of Varanasi. They were really lovely and keen to chat in English (apart from one man who spoke to us in Hindi and then waited for us to reply - v. funny)and kept us fed and watered for the whole 14 hour journey, which was very kind of them except it was so spicy that our heads were on fire all night and added to the fact that we were on the top bunks meant that we didn't sleep much at all.

We stayed in the Old City area of Varanasi which is a maze of old, narrow bricked passage ways lined with shops selling everything from home made perfumes to home made kites. The passage ways had a real charm & character about them & like the rest of India there was hussle & busle around every corner. Our hotel proved to be a little haven, built right next to the River Ganges with a view of the Ghats (steps down into the water) which have a beautiful magical feel. But, everywhere you go there is litter (huge piles of it), cow pats, dog poo, goat poo, human poo and millions of flies. Everything seems to have diarrhoah and it stinks.

Apart from that though we absolutely loved Varanasi. The river Ganges apart from being very holy in the hindu religion is also the centre of alot of peoples existence. The ghats are constantly busy with people praying and meditating, washing their clothes and bathing, selling anything and everything from boat trips to flowers to massage and palm readings. Priests preach there and festivals of offerings to the gods take place. It is a very lively and colourful place which instantly captivates you.

On the first day there we did absolutely nothing as to fit in with the local fauna Paul got food poisoning and couldn't leave the room or the squatter toilet with no flush mechanism (the sewers go straight into the river). He was really miserable and shouted at all the beggars and boat trip sellars when he finally ventured out.

On the second day we were much more active and did the obligatory sunrise boat trip along the river. It was absolutely beautiful watching the sun rise over the river and so interesting to watch the locals performing their morning routines. It was so serene and relaxing that we forgot about the rubbish and the smell and enjoyed the surroundings.

After the boat trip we went on a tour of the city in an autorickshaw to visit various hindu temples. Each temple was for worship of a different god and had a statue of that god in bright colours and gold. It was really odd to see such a contrast between the clean and relatively posh temples and the dusty, decrepid streets that house them.
That evening we did nothing as Kerry couldn't leave the room after sustaining a head injury on the roof of the rickshaw when going over a big bump in the road (they aren't really roads but dirt tracks)and experiencing concussion!!

On our last day in Varanasi we explored the old city and fell in love with the place even more. Wandering through the narrow streets, dodging cows and bodies being carried to the burning ghats; it was all so surreal but brilliant and we really didn't want to leave. We ended our time in Varanasi by watching a private concert by one of Varanasi's most famous sitar players in a shop in the old city and the music summed up perfectly the friendly, serene, mystical and lyrical feelings that we had about the dirty, stinky, unhygeinic holy city.
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