Beginning from where we left off in Khajuraho. We had a nice dinner with Anna and Simon in an Italian resturant (I know its cheating but there is only so much Indian food you can take without a break). We decided to sit outside on the roof- which was nice but there were millions of bugs EVERYWHERE! Afterwards we took a bicycle rickshaw the 5km back to out hotel, giving the driver a good workout.
The next day was spent travelling, we got another exciting local bus in the morning taking 5-6 hours along very bumpy roads with 4,000,000 passengers. Arriving a bit battered but ok in the rather horrible town of Jhansi, we got an auto rickshaw accross from the bus station to the train station, with about 3 hours to wait for out train. There was no where to get food at the station (or so we thought) and no resturants in sight so desterate for food we bought some strange looking traditional meal from a stand out in the street with a glass of chai (very milky very sweet tea). Finished that (no dioreaha so far) and headed back into the train station and waited uptil the 21.25 overnight express to varanasi arrived, at 22.35!
The train was confortable enough and despite other passengers constantly talking and moving around, i did manage about 4 hours sleep, the 'express' train rolled into varanasi at midday (2 hours late) and very tired we preyed that the driver promised to us would actually show up - he did.
The supposedly 3* hotel we were booked into was horrible, dirty and without a shower so we insisted we changed rooms into one better, this one at least had a (cold) shower. That evening we took a drive to an area of varanasi dominated by buddhists and wandered round the place where the budda gave his first sermon and saw a couple of monestrys accompanied by a crazy Nepali buddist guide. It was made all the more interesting by the fact we were in the middle of a big hindu festival called Durga, with lots of music, dancing, colorful god statues etc...
The next day we got up at 4.30am (ouch!) ready to leave at 5.30 for a sunrise boat trip on the Ganges. While the sun rise is spectacular and the early morning view of the city from the water stunning, it is somewhat spoiled by the huge amount of rubbish (ranging from plastic bottles to rotting corpses of dogs, monkeys, cows, people etc...). It is also the river that thousands of people bathe in every day, supposedly to cleanse the body of deseases (i read that the river has 3000 times the safe level of feces and various nasty bacteria) so i am sceptical of its healing properties - surfice to say i did not bathe within it!
Following that we sleeply drove round to another temple or two (by this point each temple was looking decidely similar to the last and before 8am they were not very interesting).
We had some breakfast and after that agreed to meet up with Anna and Simon again for another boat trip. This time the sun made the water look almost inviting (35 degrees by this point). We spent some time on the river watching the burning ghats, areas down by the river where they burn bodies and send them into the water.
We then went up to a rooftop resturant for a bite of lunch and a drink in much need air conditioning. We spent the afternoon wandering around the small streets of the old city poking round bazaars and market shops, we had dinner early in a place with live music (one guy playing the bongos) where the chef came down and explained everything about his food.
We took a very bumpy auto-rickshaw back to the hotel where the driver twice had to stop for directions, once for petrol and several times when his rickshaw broke down! Exciting to say the least.
This morning we are just killing time before heading out to the station for the long journey up to darjeeling. Time for lunch now so i will say goodbye.
Goodbye for now