This morning my lack of communication skills here in India caused me to somehow get three meals, I had already eaten breakfast and finished my coffee and the table had been cleared when another waiter put a meal down in front of me, I tried to tell him I had already eaten and it must be for someone else but he didn’t understand me, I said I had already had an aloo paratha and he must of thought I was saying that I had ordered a aloo paratha, the guy sitting behind tried to help but to no avail and 10 mins later there was a knock at my room door and in came the waiter with another breakfast, I still couldn’t make him understand that I had already eaten and he left the meal. I did drink the coffee though.
I went for a walk around Lucknow in the morning with a lot less traffic than the previous evening but did have to dodge a lot of poo in the streets, some cow, some dog, and some I’m pretty sure was human although I’m not an expert on the subject yet.
I found myself unable to get to some places because of flooded roads and I wasn’t going to walk though puddles. I eventually found myself at the railway station as I wanted to pick up some water and spent a little time there watching the goings on, eventually being joined by some monkeys and dogs. On the way out I noted that one guy was watching me and after I’d past him he got up and started following me, I stopped to let him pass and after a while he did the same, when I turned round he asked if I wanted a Tuk Tuk, I said I didn’t and I had noticed he was following me, he said sorry and no problem and I continued back to the hotel.
The streets of Lucknow are heavily littered, much more so than other Indian cities I’ve visited. I felt I needed to clean my trainers before packing them today. I’ve seen the streets being swept a couple of times today to collect the litter but they seem to be fighting a losing battle.
The next day as the railway station wasn’t far I walked over with my bag and arrived early to find my platform. The platform was crowded and as it was out of the way there were a lot of homeless sleeping on the platform, The train for Varanasi arrived late and as my ticket didn’t seem to have a seat number on it I was a bit confused as where to sit. Someone managed to check my ticket online and found the seat I was allocated but I then swapped with someone else so they could sit together.
The train journey to Varanasi was only a little behind schedule arriving after being 1 1/2 hours behind at one point but it’s when I got to Varanasi that it got interesting, On the way here there seemed to be a phone signal that worked ok then just before arriving I lost the signal completely. My only hope was that one of the Tuk Tuk drivers that surrounded me would actually know where he was going when I showed them the address for ” Somit paying guest house ” , of course someone said they did and he quoted a price that I agreed to. After a couple of minutes he said he could get me so close then I’d have to walk the rest ! . He gave me general directions and I started walking not really sure of where I was going when someone on a pedal trike pulled up and said he knew where it was so I agreed, this guy was older than me and struggling to pedal, I felt bad and thought it should be me pedalling him. At one point he was pushing the bike, myself and my bags !. Eventually even he stopped and said I needed to walk from here, I got into very narrow alleyways and started to see some signs for guest houses but not the one I wanted but people just said keep walking. A guy on a scooter appeared beside me and it was Somit the manager of the guest house that had come to look for me, so the last 100 yards were on the back of his scooter but it really is in a maze of ally’s so I’ll have to try not to get lost here.
On arrival Somit told me about the place and booked me in. The staff I’ve meet are very friendly and are working to help with the education of local children so they do tours on a donation basis.
In the evening one of the staff at the guest house took me down to the Ganges which isn’t far though the ally’s and he acted as a guide while another guy rowed us out into the Ganges and onto an island in the middle then down to where they have the funeral pyres ( apparently 2 to 3 hundred are cremated here each day ) there is a holy flame that has been burning apparently for thousands of years and that is the only method they are allowed to use to light the pyres. We then rowed further down the Ganges to where they do a religious ceremony that we watched from the river along with hundreds of other boats, the tourists were mostly Indian visiting their holiest Hindu site but also a fair few westerners as well. On the way back it was like rush hour on the Ganges and at one point we were rammed by a motorised boat and for a minute I thought we were going over and having a swim in the Ganges is not something I’ve planned to do while I’m here.
I was awake early but stayed in bed till around 8, it was nice to be in a bed where the bedding didn’t feel damp like it did in Lucknow. I ventured out into the ally’s to try and find my way down to the Ganges on my own this time and managed to remember my way from last night. It’s pretty busy with tourists and also people trying to make a living, one guy grabbed my hand and started massaging and cracking my fingers, I tried to get away a couple of times but he hung on but when he started working up my arm I managed to pull away. ( memo to self don’t fall for their hand shake ploy. )
I stopped to look up some where to have breakfast on trip advisor and I older guy that had just spoken to earlier approached and asked what I was looking for, he said he knew a good place for breakfast and I went with it, he showed me to Mona Lisa cafe which had quite a few westerners there and the food and coffee was very good, I thought there’d be a catch and he stayed with me and wanted to show me his business of silk weaving, he showed me his looms and people weaving, then his shop which had beautiful silk bedspreads and scarfs and pashminas and cheaper than I’d payed for them in Kerala, but I resisted although if I was returning sooner would of bought more pashminas. He said he supplied to ” Liberty ” in the UK and they did look like that sort of quality. He then led me down to the smaller burning ghat near the Ganges and we said good bye, on the way back I paid a snake charmer to take a few pictures.
I Continued to explore along the Ganges and the Ghats in the afternoon, it was warmer and sunnier than it has been in a few days and apart from one area you are pretty much left to soak in life along the Ganges without to much hassle. Once I’d been past a couple of burning bodies though it was enough to satisfy any morbid curiosity and I found a way to go up and around the burning Ghats instead of though them.
It can be quite nice sitting in the sun on one of the quieter Ghats and the Ganges actually looks cleaner than I expected it too ( I’ve seen worse ) but I wouldn’t risk going in. The guide last night told me about the 5 types of bodies that cannot be burnt there ( children under 2, pregnant women, cobra victims, people with leprosy and holy men ) but they are weighted and put into the middle off the Ganges. This send off frees them from the cycle of rebirth. He said that 20 years ago there were dolphins in the Ganges that he remembered seeing them as a child but they have long since disappeared. I think there may be some fish in there but I wouldn’t want to eat them.
It’s nice not to feel like the only western tourist around and there’s a good few Americans and Europeans walking along the Ghats, in the Cafes and taking boat rides, I went into a German style bakery on the way back for a coffee and a brownie. Varanasi caters well for western tourists with a good standard and choice of food. By far the largest number of tourists here are the Chinese though.
I went for a walk along the Ganges this morning to get breakfast, it was particularly difficult to find anywhere that you could get 5 minutes of peace just to take it in without someone wanting to sell you something or give you a massage or shave.
One of the staff from the guest house gave me a tour of the quieter Hindu temples which took around 3 hours, it went though the ally ways of Varanasi which are vast and complicated so was very interesting.
I was told a lot about the Hindu religion and their Gods, some knowledge I will retain but some I’ll sure I will forget, we also visited an Ayurvedic centre that sold oils for health purposes but as I’m still carrying some that I bought in Kerala I didn’t want to add to my collection.
On the way though the ally’s of Varanasi, Amit also showed me how the caste system still exists in India, there is a section of town where only ” untouchables ” live and they are considered impure as the work in the burning Ghats.
On the way back I was also able to book my train ticket to Delhi on the overnight for the 23td and an extra nights hotel in Delhi when we got back to the guest house.
I was up early this morning as I wanted to catch the sunrise over the Ganges but the fog / smog was so bad there wasn’t even a glimpse of sun as it got light, you could see the Ganges when I got down there but instead of clearing it got worse until by 7 you couldn’t even see the river but I still enjoyed the walk and an early breakfast in Varanasi.
Another exploration of the Ganges and Ghats after a brief rest at the guest house this time walking further along towards a road bridge over the Ganges in the distance, as you get further away from the main 2 Ghats in the centre of Varanasi the more peaceful and serene the Ganges feels as unfortunately in the centre it becomes too much about money and people wanting to sell you services ( boat rides, massages, hair cuts, tours etc. ) a met a guy that called himself a spiritualist on my walk and stopped to talk to him and another woman that was speaking to him, he seemed genuine and wasn’t trying to sell anything, on the way back the woman was just leaving and he asked me to sit, he asked me my age and I told him then asked me how old I thought he was, I said 70s and he said 64 ( he did look 70s ) we spoke about our lives a little and knowledge that comes with age. He told me he was also a spiritual healer and spoke about the youth and their questions to him and said if I could think of any questions for him I could ask him but I didn’t feel I had anything that I needed answering as I feel I’m in a good place, it was nice to speak to him though.
Another evening of watching the Hindu ceremony down by the Ganges managing to get a better seat each time, you need to get there at least an hour before the start to get a comfortable seat, it’s worth seeing though.
Final day here in Varanasi, I was out by 8 to get breakfast at the brown bread bakery which has become my go to place in Varanasi for most of my meals here, then back to to Somit guest house to pack and check out, although I’ve got to whole day here because my train to Delhi isn’t till 22.30 this evening but I’ll probably spend most of it at the train station.
I went for a last walk along the Ganges as far down as the road bridge and sat on the steps just watching the comings and goings of people and enjoying the sun, the bridge is where the paved walk along the Ganges ends.
Arriving back at the guest house there was a mad influx of about 15 tourists turned up for lunch and once the rush was over Somit gave me a lift on his scooter to the road to get a Tuk Tuk to the train station. I’m not the best pillion passenger and having a heavy pack on my back didn’t help, I was also worried about smashing my knees up in the narrow ally’s but we made it to the road and I had my first ride in an electric Tuk Tuk to Manduadih train station, apparently there are 5 train stations so after checking I was at the right one made my way to the platform.
The train to New Delhi pulled in early as this was it’s starting point and we were able to board and get settled, I was unable to book 1 first class this time as I think I left it too late so had a second class sleeper booked, I found my carriage and berth ok and had an upper berth above another older gentleman, after about 15 minutes a family of 4 turned up to take the two berths opposite us, I think the two little girls were twins of about 3 and I thought we might be in for a noisy night but after a lot of initial excitement they settled quickly, they got off the train around 4 in the morning at Kanpur.
Enjoyed watching the Indian country side go by this morning from the train which is why I wanted to keep flying to a minimum here on my travels of India, lots of farm land and crops being grown on my way into New Delhi this morning although the crops are still to small to recognise from the train but lots of people out working the fields.
Arrived to a sunny New Delhi pretty much on schedule at lunchtime and was pleased to see that I had an internet connection on my phone and the Uber app was working, I found the Uber waiting near the Metro exit across from the train station and it was about 10 miles to the guest house, I arrived to find Surrinder waiting and got checked in, I unpacked what i needed to and set out to find some food as I hadn’t taken anything onto the train for breakfast.
After initially heading the wrong way I found a nice cafe close by and had a decent meal so have decided to return this evening.
After lunch I decided to explore the local area a little and headed to Sanjay Van which is a very large wooded park nearby, I entered though gate 1 and managed to find the way to gate 5 which left me about 2 miles back to the guest house which ended up taking me though a large market in back ally’s but eventually onto the road that I recognized and back to the guest house.
I’m impressed with New Delhi so far, it’s cleaner than most Indian cities I’ve been in and less traffic, it’s the first time I’ve seen 3 lanes in a city here. So after all the scare stories I’d heard about New Delhi before I got here I’ve yet to encounter any problems, even the Tuk Tuk and Taxi drivers have been less aggressive than other places.
Planning on being here in Delhi for six nights in total, meeting a friend from the UK here on Monday then going to tour round the golden triangle route of Delhi, Jaipur and Agra together.
I got out for a run this morning to and around a large park nearby, it was a little bit chilly but not to bad and the sun was out, so far I haven’t seen the famous Delhi smog.
I’m planning on doing a couple of tourist things today and checking on the route for the India republic day parade that is on tomorrow.
So I will leave it here and get this posted online.
Take care everyone and have a good week.