The Mangy Ganges

Trip Start Jan 29, 2003
1
9
44
Trip End Feb 01, 2004


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Where I stayed
Mishra Guest house

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Friday, February 21, 2003

18th Feb :
On my last evening in Agra I decided still not to have another crack at Indian food for a while so settled with macaroni cheese, cheese toasties and french fries!
Good news is today I found out that Saints beat Norwich 2-0 and were awarded yet another home draw in the quarters against Wolves! Hopefully Phelpsy and Smudger will be able to give Leon some stick after trouncing them 3-0!
I am currently in relatively high spirits mainly because I am on the train leaving Agra, and probably 'cos I've only been on it half an hour! I might have different thought about it tomorrow!

19th Feb:
The train trip from Agra to Varanasi was quite enjoyable! I say enjoyable, I mean tolerable! I say tolerable, I mean I would rather stick rusty pins in my eyes and dance on red hot coals than go through it again! Though this was only the 11 journey, not the 15 hr journey I expected. Though we still managed to take 16 hours to get there!
After getting on the train I was quite impressed. I wasn't expecting a lot as this was both the longest and (virtually) cheapest journey I have ever undertaken in any kind of transport! The beds were longer than we both expected and more spacious. Though after about half an hour everyone decided to go to bed apart from myself and this Indian fellow opposite me! Every time I paid the slightest glance in his direction he was staring at me with big golf ball eyes! I led on my back, paranoiia already set in, and decided the best thing to do was to try to sleep! Though I wasn't prepared for the fact that when you try to sleep on a train in India, you have to try and tolerate the incessant snoring which at first sounds like someone has left a tractor running! As soon as someone stops snoring, someone else starts, so there is a continuous drone, which is worse than Whitey at his Ibiza best! There is also a constant smell which is a combination of piss, shit, farts, bad breath, bad feet, and stale tobacco, and this was just Nick!!!!! In spite of this I somehow still managed to get about 7 hrs sleep which although uncomfortable with every available limb grabbing on to anything of value, it was well needed and deserved!
Around 8am, I went down to the bottom level, and it wasn't long before an Indian or 2 started talking and asked the habitual obligatory questions of 'What is your good name', 'Where are you from?', 'What is your occupation?', and 'How do you like India?'. After answering these questions monosyllabically, I somehow qualified as their new friend and they bought me chay, salad, samosas, and shared cigarettes. I obviously didn't tell them what I really thought of India! After arriving at the station, we got in a dodgy auto who led us on a wild goose chase, and without finding the hotel we were hoping for settled for Mishra Guest House, overlooking one of the Ghats. This was our cheapest stay yet at 150 Rupees a night and included a balcony, a broken toilet, dog shit????, and a dead bat!!!
The ghats are quite awe inspiring places though you don't really get a chance to take them in because every 5 seconds, you get hassled by someone offering best boat, best hotel, best shave, best massage, best palm reading etc. Think I saw a corpse floating in the river but can't be sure! Drunk 2 bottles of beer to help me sleep!

20th Feb:
I overslept this morning & woke at 10. After a cold breakfast of scrambled egg on toast, we checked out and looked for somewhere else. We looked at Alka hotel on Meer Ghat, recommended in the L.P. bud thought it too expensive, and eventually settled with Puja guest house where our Korean 'friends' from Udaipur are staying. This is a nice room, better location, and same price! Only problem is it smells of bonfires in the room, which you can't help thinking is down to the burning corpses! We went for a stroll up the market off the main ghat, and found a really nice and cheap restaurant, Mongas! It is an underground place, which does very nice egg fried rice, and everything else you can think of!
Didn't do much else the rest of the day.other than phone Stevo (Ragz) to confirm his flight times. We watched Australia beat Holland at cricket. I phoned Whitey who tells me he's won a trip to New York, though I don't know how? More information please!

21st Feb:
This morning we got up at half 6, but missed the sun-rise. Still we decided to take the morning boat anyway. This was definitely worth doing! For only 30 Rupees each (40p) we went up and down the Ganges for an hour, whilst our guide and rower, Poppy (I decided against telling him I had a dog of the same name!) gave us various information, and facts regarding the temples, ghats, and anything else he thought we might give a shit about! The boat was not the worlds finest, and was probably older than the 3 of us put together, and I was quite surprised we didn't capsize, forcing me to take a quick dip with Varanasi's latest obituary column! Let me explain! Varanasi is apparently a real holy place where people come to die, as it is supposed to be a good place to die, and you'll be reincarnated into a higher society! That is why there are so many old people lurking about, sort of like Bournemouth used to be!
Any way a lot of people come to Varanasi to bathe in the Ganges, as it purifies the mind body and soul! Bullshit, Holcombe quarry is a lot cleaner than this place! Its sort of like the people of Weston Super Mare believing the sea water had some mystical power and so everybody would take an early dip in it instead of a bath at home. It is proven that this water is not safe for bathing, though as they say 'Religion is stronger than Science' so let them be I suppose, though you won't catch me so much as dipping my finger in the filth! The other thing is that people are cremated here. Their bodies are covered in timber and paper and petrol (probably?)! They are then lit and set in the Ganges river. This is why there are so many corpses floating in the water.
That said, it was a good boat trip, so much so that we think we're going to have another go at it this evening. In all honesty I was a bit dissappointed I didn't get to see a corpse floating, so I'm hoping maybe tonight?! Fingers crossed!
This is a lot lot better than Agra, and I'm glad we came here! Off to meet Nick now back at Mongas restaurant! Tomorrow we're off to Kolkata!
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