After an overnight stop in Jaipur (the picture of the pink building is the Wind Palace there) and we headed on to Varanasi by train. What can I say about Varanasi...guidebooks and fellow travellers warned that it'll be intense and that's exactly what it was!
We took an overnight train from Jaipur that was supposed to take around 16 hours, you add a little bit of Indian magic and it turns into 21 hours. We got out of the train and right away you could feel that we were no longer in the cool and dry desert climate, Varanasi was hot and humid. India has a lot of odors (good and bad) and when the weather is like it was it multiplies the effect.
We opted to not take the prepaid tuk tuk inside the train station parking lot and decided to go outside the gate and find a good deal, we ended up finding a great deal of assholes who were fighting to get our dollars. The situation got pretty intense when they started pulling me with force to get into their tuk tuks, I finally had to make them respect my authority by flexing my muscles like a peacock. It worked out but I did get insulted in Hindi,but I did insult them and their mothers in Finnish to settle the score. Like Ron Burgundy once said " Wow that escalated quickly!" After we all calmed down K.G and I decided on a tuk tuk and started our journey to our guest house, I made a call to the owner of our lodging with our Indian cellphone that we got for $15 and he told us where to meet him. After 45 minutes and 4 phone calls to our guest house owner Rahul our driver was able to find his way, Rahul then escorted us to the guest house and gave us few tips how to survive Varanasi. Our room was nice, bathroom was communal and did not have warm water but the weather was hot enough to not miss it.
We spent our days ( 3 ) in Varanasi walking along the shores of the holy river Ganges people watching and doing yoga on our guest house roof top. In the guest house we had 2 German/Canadian girls who had just graduated as yoga instructors and gave free sessions every morning at 8 am, I'm as flexible as an iron bar so they had to correct my posture often. The yoga was a great way to start the day relaxed before heading out to the streets of Varanasi.
Some of you might already know that Varanasi is one of the holiest sites for Hindus, they believe that if you die there and your body is cremated the right way will end the cycle of rebirth. There are two ghats ( spots on the river banks ) where the cremation happens out in the open. One of them has always a cremation going on 24/7, when the previous burning is about to end they'll light up the next one. We didn't feel disgusted or shocked to see this but it wasn't exactly something to eat your lunch next to it either. In one of the pictures we posted on the slideshow you can see the amount of fire wood they have next to the burning ghat. The amount of wood needed to do a complete burn is calculated very precisely by experienced "undertakers". The life around these burning ghats goes on normally, men play poker and kids kick the ball right next to the fires. Walking along the ghats we were constantly stopped by very entrepreneurial Indian men trying to shake our hands and then grip your hand with 2 hands and start massaging your arm while telling you how tired you looked and what the price would be. If it wasn't one of these guys then it would be a person selling you a boat ride, drugs, chai or all of them.
Varanasi is now officially checked off the list and we did not find it holy for us, many westerners do though. We weren't big fans of the place, but it is definitely something to see and experience, it's up to you how many days you want to spend there. We met quite a few people who stayed at our guesthouse who were staying for extended time in Varanasi, either to study local music, yoga, meditation, or religious practice. Although the place is very spiritual for some, K. G. and I had a very hard time looking past the burial ground of a river with deceased things floating by as the Hindu pilgrims bathed in it. An Irish nurse who worked in Kolkata for 10 years told us about these westerners who came to the hospital with multiple diseases, bacteria and viruses who had washed away their sins in the holy river. Needless to say, we kept our distance from the water and my pink Speedo stayed in the backpack...for now.
From Varanasi we took the overnight train to Darjeeling and that was an adventure. More on that in the next post...
K.G. & Ville
On a cruise ship, heading north up the west coast to Los Angeles.
“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming "Wow! What a Ride!” - Hunter S. Thompson
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