Very Nasty Varanasi

Trip Start Apr 06, 2009
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Trip End Jul 12, 2009


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Flag of India  , Uttar Pradesh,
Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The next day wasn't much better. The motorway from Agra slowly disappeared, forcing us to take alternative roads the rest of the way. We forced our way through Allahabad and along the bump highways, eventually arriving in Varanasi (or 'Very Nasty' as we have now christened it) at 8pm. We are all getting frustrated with having to face hundreds of people as soon as we leave the truck and having them follow us while we attempt to find samosas and bottled water. We were directed by the police straight into a traffic jam of trucks that aren’t allowed to drive into the city until after 10pm. By the time we got to our hotel it was after 11pm, and the thought of putting up my tent and sleeping in the sweltering heat with my newly developed chest pains and cough had reduced me to tears. Even the fact that our hotel had a swimming pool was not enough to lift my spirits. Adam and his kind soul let me kip in his air conditioned room, which then turned into an all night sleep, so it was good old fashioned western hospitality that eventually left me feeling better.

The next morning we took a walk down the shopping center nearby, which we had been told had a Mac Donalds AND a Pizza Hut. We were delighted to find this was true, and we gorged ourselves on a Pizza Hut lunch and shopping before heading back to the hotel to freshen up and go for a swim. In the evening, a few of us decided to head down to the Ganges to check out what all the fuss was about. As I watched the young girls hand out lotus garlands and the many people pushing candles for loved ones out into the Ganges, I was overcome. I said a silent prayer and pushed a candle into the river in remembrance of Anita at the Dashashwamedh Ghat, and I was finally convinced of the beauty of India. Through all the bedlam and the mayhem, the stench and utter constant confusion of the locals, there is a peaceful and beautiful underside. I bought a flower garland and some bindis from a stall on the riverbank before heading back to the hotel for another nice sleep in an air conditioned room (Annette and Debby kindly let me share with them for the rest of our stay in Varanasi). The following morning we took a dawn boat ride onto the Ganges and again I was convinced of the peace underlying the hectic exterior of India. Watching all the Indians joyously bathe in the Mother Ganga early in the morning while the smoke from the cremation Ghats upstream drifted overhead was strange, but humbling. Mr. Tripati (or "Tree Party" as we renamed him) was our guide, and this was the only annoying part of the morning. He was loud and slightly obnoxious, and constantly went on about how he was from a Brahmin caste. "Om is three, and God is one, but God is three and Om is one, so both are three and one the same," he went on. And on. And on.

Once again, the rest of the day was spent snoozing and swimming and wandering down to the shopping center for more Pizza Hut and Mac Donalds and shopping. Ruth, Annette and I also went down to the Post Office so I could post a package home and I was fascinated and delighted to find that they hand bind the parcels, and seal them with wax before posting. I was extremely impressed with my parcel when it was sent off.

We had been told that the next day would see us enter into Nepal. Granted, my impression of India has been coloured by the fact that we visited at the hottest and most uncomfortable time of year, adding more discomfort to an uncomfortable country. Nevertheless, I was impressed by the buzz and activity we found even in the smallest towns. By this point, we all knew the deal with border crossings so we were fairly skeptical as to the truth in this statement, but we went to sleep satisfied that the bedlam of India would be left to lie, at least until next time...
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