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Friday, February 27, 2009

Varanasi

Again, we went on sleeper class which is like a jungle, where people just enter hoping that they get a seat without a ticket. A creepy old man with a filthy blanket and a filthy look and another guy were comfortably installed in our seats. As soon as the train left, we run them out of there so we finally could get our places. Next to us, 6 beds where 11 people tried to manage as they could...at 9h30, time supposed to arrive to Varanasi, we woke up to the sound of these annoying tea salesmen that get inside the train with their parrot voices waking up everyone screaming "CHAI, CHAI"... Anyway, we looked outside and we didn´t see anything that resembled a city... to our surprise, we stopped in a place that was still...5 hours away from Varanasi!!!...once again, the efficiency of the Indian train system...We arrived in Varanasi 6h late and we went to the customer office asking if there was any kind of compensation..."no, we don´t have that system here"...great!Varanasi is a sacred city for Hindus, bathed by the Ganges river and known for its ghats, basically staircases that go down to the river where people "wash" away their sins, and believe that filthy water is holy... There is a part of the city where no rickshaws or cars can go since the streets are really really narrow... our hotel was quite close to the river, and we took 10 minutes to reach it walking through these streets where we often found cows, goats, and of course, cow and goat shit...sometimes, human as well... we were quite concerned about leaving the hotel at night since there was no lights in those streets...We left the luggage in our hotel, Ganpati Guest House, went to the roof-top restaurant with a magnificent view over the Ganges to have lunch, and decided to take a walk while we still had natural light. One step out of the hotel and immediately a kid "offered" his services as a guide.. we decided to take it as the city seemed a bit confusing with all the confusing labyrintic streets.. he took us to a Kamasutra temple (Nepal Hindu temple), and then to a ghat where people are taken to be cremated and their ashes thrown to the "holy" river. There were a lot of people, cows, fires, an unpleaseant smell in the hair... we were approached by a man that immediately started explaining the procedure, and bla bla bla since we both disconnected due to his lousy english and his pushy approach... it is forbidden to take pictures in that site due to the respect for the dead...however, it captured our attention a white guy standing quite close to the fires with a huge camera without anyone telling him anything... apparently, that respect has a price in the form of a "donation"... so much for their credibility... we decided to leave and as we did it, the old guy started asking for a contribution for the old and poor people that cannot afford the wood where they will be burnt (yes, for each person 250Kg of wood is necessary for the cremation, where 1 Kg is worth 100 rupees). we said that if we would give anything we would decide and not him as he was asking a minimum of 750 rupees... we said no and we started walking away, while he began to insult us saying we were selfish and made him waste his time, and bla bla bla... when he saw we wouldn´t be back, he "threw" this"pearl" " If you come back, i will throw you to the fire"...Next day, 9th February, we started the day with a breakfast to the rays of light on the rooftop of our hotel. During that time, a girl who was seated next to us started talking to us about Nepal, as she was going there...since we were leaving the next day, and she planned to do the same, we proposed to go together. Her name was Kara, canadian 23years old, white skin painted with frackels, blonde-orange hair and blue eyes. We talked a bit and we decided to meet later on so we could go...We took a boat that would take us around the Ganges for one hour and see the several ghats. our boatsman was a little kid, a skinny 14 years old boy named Raol. He was very nice, we get along quite nicely with him, talking about his life, football, his friends, as he was also explaining several things we were seeing as we were asking him. at a certain point, we spotted Kara in one of the margins and we stopped a bit to chat, as she showed us a big hole filled of mud where 3 persons were collecting mud as if they were searching for something... apparently, there is a legend that says that a God let some golden amulet fall in there,and therefore the ritual...we left Raol with the promise of sending him a football ball, and we went to take care of other things, as ricardo wanted to send some package home...it was desperation in the post office, as we waited and waited, filled a form, then waited waited, weighed the packaged, waited waited for the guy to finish his lunch, weighed again the packaged, waited and waited... 2h and 30 minutes in total! we had 3 hours to visit Varanasi but the confusion that is that city didn´t really makes enthusiastic in doing so... we jumped on a rickshaw and went to take pictures of some temples that were not that impressive.

At 3h45 am we were up to meet Kara and go and take the bus that would drop us at the border with Nepal, a city called Sunauli. Again, the guide information was wrong and there were no buses before 7h30... we had heard about a train going to a city called Gorakphur, and that from there we could take a bus... that information was true and we jumped on the train... the trip was going to take 6 hours and it was one of these trains where... anyone could go (2nd class)... it was a struggle to get in and everyone wants to get a seat...we didnt take one! still, after 2h, we managed to be the 3 comfortably seated... during that trip, an indian guy starts talking to me, asking normal questions, nationality, where we were going bla bla bla...time passed as again he approched mer and asked to read my hand...HE claimed to have a PhD in Ancient civilizations, that palm reading was his hobby so he was not going to charge for the reading :P he started talking about the lines and mounts and then started reading it: that I had an artist hand, a very good hand, confident, logical intelligence, would have a wife and a lover, 2 kids, boys, and a lot of success after 30, was going to be a government official, live until 85, and that attracted women... of course we almost bursted into tears. To Kara, the reading was: she was a very emotional person, was going to be successful after 27, 4 kids, she was a person with high education, that she had 2 brothers (true) and was going to live until 90. Ricardo, emotional person, confident, with a lot of women, success in the business field, live until 80, artist hand, good hand..uhm... i wonder if all the hands tell the same thing...
We finally reached Gorakphur, had lunch and got into the bus to Sunauli... Nepal was getting closer!

Written by Tiago

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