Agra – a shit city with an amazing monument. Packed full of tourists as I was expecting this city wasn’t high on my list. The Taj Mahal being the solo reason 15,000 tourists flock through the gates every day. The monument was fairly impressive; we headed there before sunrise in an effort to beat the stampede of camera donned folk fighting their way to get ‘the best picture’. In a way it does amuse me how people spend so much effort getting the perfect shot and miss out on the real atmosphere and beauty of such iconic landmarks. After a day and a half in the stale air of Agra I was pleased to board an overnight sleeper train to Varanasi.
There I was perched on the 3rd bunk for 12 hours in carriage B2, comfortable? Not at all. The poor suckers who end up on top and in the middle have enough space to shove a Valium down their throat and hopefully pass out for the rest of the ride. I was fortunate enough to also have a hectic snorer below me to soothe me into a deep sleep. Thanks mate!
The train took us into Varanasi at 9.30 the following morning, keen for some food I headed to a local shack selling Indian rolls, made from fried flatbread and stuffed full of veggies and paneer this cured my rough sleep. It didn’t take me long to notice the thick air and stench of Varanasi city, not a deterrent though, there are many amazing rituals and traditions performed here which are well worth experiencing.
Sat along the Ganges, Varanasi is a very holy place, which every Hindu aspires to visit at some point in their life. It is the most sacred place for one to be cremated; all along the riverbanks at the edges of the Ghats they burn the dead bodies before scattering the ashes into the water. It can be Confronting for a lot of people as you step aside to let a group of men march bodies past you while they chant loudly through the small alleys. There is one Ghat in the city where people can be cremated all day and night but generally they only perform the ritual in daylight hours. There is a massive ritual Ganga Aarti performed every evening to pay respect to the holy river Ganga and it is said that one who bathes in the Ganges is cured of their sins. Looking at the poor state of the water I opted to wait to bathe in the holy water at the source when I head to the Himalayas and Rishikesh, unlike the thousands of Hindu’s who gather every morning for a dip at the bottom of the stairs. I was unfortunate during my second day in Varanasi to cop a bout of gastro, which kept me out of action for 2 days.
A final overnight train from Varanasi to Delhi concluded my tour, this called for a final shebang, and everyone was pumped up to have one final night together. We headed for dinner followed by drinks on the hotel rooftop and then onto the club, Socials in Connaught place, Delhi. What a hectic place it was, we danced for hours and indulged on cocktails, delicious spirits and great company. I have had an amazing time with these beautiful people travelling through Rajasthan and having many laughs and high times. I will miss them but am eager for my future endeavours north! Cheers guys!