After the fall
06.02.2013 - 08.02.2013 22 °C
Well first things first. We are continuing on our journey with a few modifications. We are currently in Varanasi and last night ventured through the wonderful astonishing assault on all senses that is this city of Hindu Gods, pilgrims, pyres of burning flesh made aromatic by scented woods, clarified butter, and herbs and spices.
We experienced sunset on the holy river Ganges and walked or limped up and down the steps of the Ghat and through the seething humanity, cacophany of sound, smells and colour along with holy men, beggars, open toilets and cows and dogs everywhere. We braved a lengthy cycle rickshaw ride which Celina found painful. What an experience.
To sit on a boat carrying 20 persons rowed by 2 skinny men and watch the holy fires consume flesh was not as we expected. We were close enough to see the dead being washes in the water of the Ganges and to see the bodies placed on the pyres and burned. You are not allowed photography at the burning Ghat and all is very reverential. Our group is very supportive and the local guide Yogesh almost carried Celina up and down the very steep stairs of the Ghat. Celina is battered and bruised but has indomitable courage. Our cycle rickshaw ride to and from the Ghats was something to be remembered - travelling by manpower was exciting and dodging in and out of the hordes, cows and myriad citizens of Varanasi an exciting and at times scary experience. Our ride back to our coach involved the rider of our vehicle weighing half of my weight and looking as old as us - at times pushing the rickshaw along by hand and at others working up a head of steam and pedalling like mad. All for the price of $4!
Tomorrow we go on to Khajaraho and its 900 year old temples and then we leave the group to fly back to Delhi and the Hotel Imperial for one night while the others continue on to Agra over hundreds of Kilometres of the worst roads of India. We will then be taken by car to Agra - a 5 hour road trip and will catch up with the group. Hopefully some of the bruising will settle.
After a long sleepin we got up and had a so so breakfast followed by lunch after we decided not to go on the dawn boat trip on the Ganges. We were sorry to miss out but the Ghat steps would have been too much. This afternoon we took the short trip over to the other side of the Ganges to Sarnath the site where the Buddha first preached over 2000 years ago. The great Stupa still stands among the ruins of the temples razed by the first Muslim invaders in 900AD. The Bodi tree where Buddha sat still exists and pilgrims arrive in their hundreds to seek enlightenment. As we left the Buddhist shrines an elderly beggar woman was set upon by a stall holder laying in wait at our bus position. Frustrated we could only watch in horror we had to withold our desires to intervene as this is not our culture - we are simply passing through.