This morning was little disconcerting. I wondered, as we waited for our free hotel pick-up to arrive, whether we had taken a step to far to the wild side. Varanasi (or Vara-nasty as it is refered to in some quarters) is awash with touts of the worst kind trying to take you dodgy hovels and collect their commission. We were prepared for this, but still white faces generate a real feeding frenzy, and it can be a little uncomfortable when you are aware that there is a criminal element in this area that looking to not just fleece you, but rob you.
Immediately it is clear that Varanasi is much dirtier than Delhi, which is saying something. Eventually the friendly face of our pick up arrives, carrying a little scrap of paper with “Mr Bowman” written on it. He walks us over to 2 auto rickshaws, Charlotte and Maisie in one and Ali and I in the other. I am slightly worried when the young boy sat in the front of ours turns out to be the driver and not just waiting for dad to get in. As soon as we go to leave the station car park he loses the other rickshaw in the melee. We then proceed to experience what can only be described as extreme rickshaw driving. He drives through the traffic like Ali playing on a Playstation racing game!
Still, we do actually arrive in one piece. How? I may never quite work that out! Arrive meant arrive at the point where the rickshaws could go no further. We then had to walk the rest of the way to the hotel, 2 minutes we are told. Every turn down the dark and dirty alleyways seems to take us further into some scary maze. I am really beginning to wonder if this is too ‘real’ for us, let alone the kids. Just as I am about to lose hope of getting to the hotel, and feeling in my shoulders, we turn a corner to look out over the Ganges glistening in the morning sunlight. From that moment it all seems worth it, the river banks are alive with the day to day comings and goings of Varanasi. “What was I worrying about?”