Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Day 42 – Varanassi

Saturday 27th October 2007

An early start had us heading out of the room and straight for the bus under cover of darkness as we head towards the river Ganges for a dawn cruise. Our guide seems agitated with our bus drivers and at one point threatens not to take us but whatever the issue is it is quickly resolved and we are on our way to this mystical river. It is said that to bathe in the Ganges is to wash away all your sins and if you drink the river water on your deathbed you are guaranteed entry to Hindu heaven.

The cruise turns out to be very good; the sunrise is pretty, if a little smoggy, we see funeral fires burning on the banks and hear of how children, monks and those bitten by cobras are not burnt but merely sunk into the river, people at the other end of the boat to me even see a set of feet sinking below the surface. As with many places the mystical is mixed with the commercial and many boats selling everything from relics to DVD’s (one even has a working telly on board) approach us as we cruise. We light prayer candles and float them down the river and marvel at monkeys climbing round the cityscape as we float by. The river tour finishes and we return to the hotel via a Hindu temple where we ring a bell to let the gods know we are coming and learn more about the significance of the cobra.

After a quick nap to recover from the early morning we headed to the hotel pool and enjoyed a few beers, some sun and a bombing contest. After our swim it was time for a quick change then we joined up with a few others and our tour leader and head into the city to see what the evening has to offer and we are not disappointed. There is a fiery display on at the waterfront, small kids tug at our heartstrings and wallets trying to sell us things we have no need or desire for. Older men try to get us to pay them money so they will show us where the best views of burning bodies can be found and taxi drivers try to charge us over the odds for the return home but it was a good evening, we had dinner back at the hotel and then hit the hay for the lat time in India, tomorrow Nepal beckons.

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