Friday, 12 April 2013


So. Our worst 36 hours ever...The other day when we were in the curs-ed town of Lumbini and I was half insane from lack of sleep I had written a very whingey and ranty post about how horrible it was; luckily it didn't save because the internet cut out.

Just in a nutshell though: we spent all day on a slow, bumpy bus to Kathmandu then spent all night on slow, very bumpy bus to Lumbini (this was our worst bus trip in Nepal), the town where Buddha was born, in which I thought we could have a peaceful few days before entering the fray of India. We arrived, exhausted, found a guest house and settled in to sleep. Then after several hours we began to hear songs and prayers being blasted from a loudspeaker that was basically just outside our window. This didn't really stop the entire time we were there. We had to yell to each other to make ourselves heard. So, not peaceful. I'm really not sure what Buddha would have made of it all.

But we have moved on. Both emotionally and physically. Now we are in Varanasi, the no-holds-barred city on the banks of the holy Ganges River. The "old town", where we are staying, is an insane tangle of tiny alleys and streets crowded with cows, humans and lots of poo. It's smelly, noisy, dusty and full-on. It all opens out onto lots of different stairways leading down to the river bank: the ghats. This is where it all happens. Early morning sees boat-men ferrying people to and fro, women washing, children with empty bottles tied to their backs having swimming lessons, people bathing, people praying, people begging...people everywhere. And dogs and goats and cows. It is hot here now, edging 45 degrees everyday, so in the middle of the day it is all but deserted. For India anway. The (slightly) cooler evening is the time for riverside cricket and the nightly prayer ceremony (I think in honour of the river...not sure though). And for selling...postcards, religious items, boat rides, flutes, hash, anything.

A constant is fire. Everyday, all day, there are fires burning. Just in two of the ghats, the burning ghats. This is where people come to cremate the deceased, on little bonfires on the river bank, after they have bathed them in the river. It is all very public and people are welcome to watch. We did the other day. It sounds a lot more confronting than it is when you are here I think. It is something we have never seen before and I know it will stay in my mind a long time but here, among all the humanity and normalcy of people swimming, fishing and doing their washing, it seems to fit right in. And that is this place I think. Anything that would seem outlandish (naked holy men covering themselves in white powder and sitting under shade cloths all day), illegal or unacceptable in any other city is just what happens here.

It is quite a captivating and intriguing place, despite the chaos. We are here at the wrong time though: it is far, far too hot. The filthy Ganges is starting to look very inviting so we need to leave this place before we jump in and fall victim to whatever diseases lay hidden in her murky depths.  

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