Respect to Ali and Maisie, after battling trough a very crowded New Delhi train station at dusk with rucksacks that almost weigh the same as we do, I am relieved to get on the Shiv Ganga express train to Varanasi.
We are sat next to a nice couple who explain to us that we will be able to buy whatever snacks we want and that blankets and pillows will appear later. Sure enough within 2 minutes of us sitting down a man appears asking if we want Chai and there is chocolate and crisps to keep us going for a bit.
Maisie and I go and find the toilet, she makes me laugh when she uses the squat toilets like a pro local and announces to the carriage that “these squat toilets are ok aren�t they mom” (what planet is she on, I would barely describe them as ok and that is at the start of our journey but still they do the trick and when in Rome etc) I just thank god I packed wet wipes, alcohol gel for their hands and they had virtually all vaccinations known to man!
After a game of scrabble and a meal of cold curry, we were served last as in third class sleeper, we settle down for the night. I am only slightly disturbed when I see a mouse run over the end of my bunk, I must be toughening up a bit and after the rats in Delhi these mice seem quite cute.
I awake at 6.30 Maisie is leaning over the bunk whispering that she needs the loo, the poor thing has woken up with a streaming cold and a good going dose of the shits.
Still it makes her laugh when she realises that her squat toilet empties straight onto the track and I am relieved that she can find humour in anything as she does kook a bit pale.
Varanasi is one of the holiest cities in India, I have read that it is the spiritual centre of the Hindu’s universe and Hindu’s come to wash away their sins in the Great Mother (Ganges River), Varanasi is also a city of the dead, to die here and be cremated on the banks of the Ganges on one of the burning ghats is very good and releases Hindu’s from the cycle of rebirth.
Several hours later and we have arrived at the Scindhia Guest House, we have some banana porridge and chocolate pancakes for breakfast. After a bit of excitement when Maisie got locked in the loo for 15 minutes we go for a walk on the famous ghats.
It is absolutely boiling here, much hotter than Delhi and I think we will need a few days to get used to the heat so we make our way back.
Alister has been trying to teach me to play the guitar on and off for the last year and although I’m no good and haven’t really got the patience to practice enough, I am hoping to learn simple stuff whilst we are away (Just enough to get me by when I have had a few beers) and we spend a few hours sat in a tiny room with the fan whirring away listening to Ali playing.
At 5.30 we go on a boat trip up the Ganges, there is a festival on one of the ghats and we are going to watch. Firstly though we stop at Manikarnika ghat this is the most auspicious ghat to be cremated on and we count 15 fires, the logs are piled all around and there are 3 bodies on the steps waiting.
Tiny candles on little baskets of reeds and flowers are being floated up the river and it looks beautiful, I’m not sure what the significance of these are but as I float mine I make a wish anyway and cross my fingers just in case.
We didn’t take any photographs out of respect but watching the funeral pyres in the dark from a small rowing boat on the river was really indescribable and something I will never forget.