Our last stop in India was the Holy city of Varanasi. Another heavily populated city but the area we planned to stay and spend most of our time, was made up of a labyrinth of alleys adjacent to the river Ganges. The alleys are thin, windy and full of people and shop fronts. They are regularly occupied by huge cows who have the run of the town and also mopeds on occasions! As expected we got lost basically every time we left the guest house and didn't even really master the area during the three days we were there!
The city is one of the holiest for Hindu people throughout india, both for festivals and after death. Varanasi is famous for open air cremations on special spots next to the Ganges. The cremations run 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. They vary slightly depending on the 'cast' of the person and the wealth of the family paying for the service. It was a very strange sight but another experience in India we won't see anywhere else.
What is also slightly strange is that people bathe in the river as its seen as so holy, yet this is sometimes even done within a few feet of the sections of river where the ashes are thrown into the water! Locals don't seem to mind at all!
We were also in town during one of the big Hindu festivals which led to a mass migration of people from the south of India to Varanasi. People bathed in the 'holy river' during the day, joined in with a mass celebration on the banks at night and many even slept next to the river. As with most of India it was chaos, but another interesting experience to see!
England continued through the Euros during our stay but unlike the tv and live match I had the luxury of in Agra, I wasn't so lucky in Varanasi! I loaded up the radio commentary... All set for the game... Only for it to be cut off as the whistle blew due to international listening rights!! Arghhhh!
Final few nights and it would be rude not to have a curry! Found a nice little place the first few nights and the final one we had a proper home cooked meal in the guest house, cooked by the family. Great food; curries are definitely one of my favourite but eating one nearly every day for a month was enough!
Surrounding Varanasi was one of the birthplaces of Buddhism, a small town called Sarnath with some Buddhist temples and ruins. Taking a rickshaw out of town and away from the chaos, it was a nice few hours! Although the journey was just as chaotic as ever, horns, weaving in and out of traffic and non- stop traffic jams!
So... Our Indian leg of the journey was over! Very mixed thoughts on this country, as it was one that was much anticipated. It was definitely very interesting, the food (although we were ready for a change by the end) was good, especially as curries are one of my favourite types of food and the people were by enlarge really friendly everywhere we went. However it was definitely the most manic and chaotic countries I've ever visited, even on this travelling trip. Whether in towns or cities the noise, chaos and sheer number of people and traffic was crazy. There also seemed to be no regard for litter. As with some other counties also in South America (but to a much higher extent in India), the floor was basically the bin, which sadly meant that both urban and natural areas were full of rubbish and its hard to see how it will ever recover. This however is also a sad side of over population and education. Litter also came in the form of cow dung on all roads and pavements, due to them having the complete run of the country!
However with such a vast place and with so much to see we will be back! Possibly to the far south during 'high season' when it's cooler or the far northern mountainous region. Until next time.....!