Tales and photo's below:
Wednesday, 25 April 2012
In order to get to Varanasi we took an overnight train from Agra (our first experience of India's infamous railway). The station resembled a large warehouse full to the brim of people (often entire families) sprawled out on blankets and tarpaulin bedded down for the night. The platform sounded more like an Avery so full was it of birds, and the accumulated smell of urine, birds, rats, and general dirt made it smell like some sort of horror house pet shop.
The train coughed into the station shortly before its departure time and we spent a rather stressful ten minutes running up and down the aisles trying to locate our seats. Once this was done, despite being in a compartment (seperated only by a thin curtain) of 4 beds, we were greeted by 2 men happily sitting on Abby's bunk, two more on the bunk opposite, one above and one empty top bunk. As the station guard didn't ask them to move or even mention their presence as he said this is yours and walked off, we wound up sitting together on the top bunk presuming something was going on and the men would move soon. They didn't, so Abby went to sleep on her bed and wound up with an old man merrily perched at the foot of it. I yelled at a further two men who had the audacity to ask if they could sit on it too, who settled for taking a defiant picture on their ancient nokias. In hindsight we should of kicked them all out, but it was a poor train, no guards, and as I said we were confused as to whether they had overbooked the seats or if the men and simply opted for their own upgrade so we put up with it (I now suspect the latter was definitely the case).
After a highly distrubed sleep we arrived in Varanasi, where the porter who showed us to our hotel room hugged me (?) and had a short rest before going to see about a million Buddha temples. In the evening we went to a shop where we met a guy called Sam who turned out to be Jay Seans cousin, drank some beer and then went for dinner in Brownies (yummy).
The next morning we were up at 5am for a sunrise boat ride down the Ganges. Unfortunately the overwhelming smell of dirty stale water, human and animal urine and feaces, years worth of rotting rubbish foaming along every bank almost steaming in stench in the hot sun made the sight of hundreds of people bathing in it and rubbing it into every oraphus in their faces more squeamish than spiritual. Even the ghats just seemed a bit odd, with no people there just some dwindling fires being gauped at by tourists. Later that day the people of Varanasi were staging a strike in protest that the government needs to clean the river. I very much hope their efforts come to fruition because it is a huge issue. I also hope people will stop peeing all over the stairs and dropping litter all over the floor whilst in the middle of said protests!
This all being said, the sunrise itself was beautiful: