Varanasi

The full set of photos is in the usual place.

Delhi: Tuesday 17/4 – Wednesday 18/4

My time in Delhi was just a brief stop-over between when my flight from Leh arrived to when my train to Varanasi left the next morning. My main aim was to post a parcel back home to regain some luggage space – no point carrying around the massive Ladakhi wool coat I bought when I wasn’t expecting any more sub-zero temperatures, nor books that I’d already finished. After that, I spent time eating and catching up on the Internet.

Wednesday morning I went to New Delhi train station, boarded my train, and discovered that nothing had been stolen from me. This made me happy. My ticket to Varanasi was in first-class AC, and I passed the time in a relatively civilised manner with Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, watching the Indian countryside roll by as I read about Mexicans and Native Americans being scalped.

Varanasi: Thursday 19/4 – Monday 23/4

The train arrived in Varanasi at the ungodly hour of 6am – which was, to be fair, a slight improvement on the originally scheduled 4:45am. After getting a rickshaw to my guesthouse – and convincing the driver that yes, I really did want to go to the place I asked for and another completely different place that was offering him commission – I had breakfast at the rooftop restaurant and then collapsed for a while in bed.

It was stiflingly hot in Varanasi and almost nowhere was air conditioned, so I took things fairly slowly over the 5 days I spent here. No attempt to see everything or do everything, just soak up what was going on around me. Wandering along the ghats by the river Ganges; watching people doing everything from swimming to playing cricket to offering prayers to trying to convince me to give them money in uncountable ways; watching cremations at the burning ghats; a boat tour along the river; exploring the narrow, colourful, claustrophobic and smelly alleyways of the Old City where I was staying. But also eating food and drinking lassis and reading books and plenty of time for introspection.

By complete chance I had dinner with a lovely English couple one night who’d just flown here from Goa where they’d been doing a two-week ashtanga course at … yep, Purple Valley, exactly where I’d been just over a month ago.

On Tuesday afternoon I shall say farewell to Varanasi. I have tickets for another overnight train, the first leg of my journey to Darjeeling. If all goes according to plan I’ll be pulling into Darjeeling by steam train on Wednesday evening.

I’ve been starting to feel like the end of this journey is in sight, even though it’ll be another two months before I get to Melbourne. But the plan is for two more weeks in India at the most, with Darjeeling being the last place I want to visit before moving on to Nepal, so in some ways I am near an ending, if not the ending. I’ve also been feeling occasionally homesick over the last couple of weeks, sometimes for Australia, sometimes for England. On my first day in Varanasi I found myself reading Banjo Patterson poems and listening to Midnight Oil songs, and realising that it wasn’t really that kind of idealised notion of Australia that I was missing, but all of the people I’ve left behind as I keep moving from place to place.

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