In our last few days we have been really pushing ourselves, with little and very early mornings, so I (Toby) am in a slightly zombified state whilst writing this.
Following our 5am start for the Taj, we spent that night in the delightful sleeper class onboard a train to Varanasi. With Indians noisily embarking and disembarking throughout the night (involving turning and then leaving all the lights on and shouting to each other down the carriage) we arrived in Varanasi not completely refreshed. Despite this we put in a full days sightseeing of the town, taking in the various Ghats along the now mammoth river Ganges.
This included going to visit the burning Ghat where 24 hours a day the dead are first dipped into the Ganges before cremated on open funeral pyres then their remains deposited into the Ganges. We followed a procession down and watched the journey of one person onto the next life. The process wasn’t as harrowing as I had expected, with the ceremony mellowing the experience. The heat from the pyres was intense around the Ghat and the smoke affected your eyes, so after witnessing the process we made our way back into the town.
Safe to say we have not been for a repeat dip in Mother Ganga here, (unlike a fellow traveler we met in a great Lassi shop, who told us of his great morning dunk), but this morning we were up again at 5am spend the morning on the Ganges. After some very hard bartering, we got on a rowing boat with 3 French travelers and were rowed up the Ganges as the sun rose then slowly drifted back down on the current. The trip way to see the Ghats in full swing with bathing, washing, praying and meditating all happening.
Tonight we are heading straight off to Nepal! A lovely local bus awaits us at 6pm for the 10 hour journey to the border, then once we’ve negotiated that, the small matter of another 12 hour local bus to take us to Pokhara which we hope will: firstly provide us with a comfy bed to catch up on the 20 odd hours of sleep we’ve missed and secondly be our base to head out for round two of Himalayan trekking!