India with Judson 2017 travel blog

The Ghats looking north


We are sitting on the roof of our hotel, the Sita Guest House, in Varanasi, overlooking the Ganges, which has been turned into a rooftop restaurant. We've just attempted to catch an hour or so of sleep, which eluded me, after our overnight flight from Goa.

I had booked us for a mid day flight, but the airline discontinued that one, and put us on one that left at midnight from Goa to Delhi, for 3 1/2 hours, with a 5 1/2 hour layover until 8 am this morning, then another 1 1/2 hours to Varanasi. Thank goodness I had arranged for a car to pick us up, as we had an hour and a quarter to drive from the airport to the closest lane to our hotel -- then met by two hotel staff to help with some of the luggage as we had to run after them, for more than a kilometre along windy, snakey, lanes about the width of an arm span while dodging bulls, thousands of Muslim men going to some 'special' event, and aggressive motorbikes (and lots of dung!).

Brian and Jud had never seen anything like these "streets", asking 'why am I here?' Jud hiked along with the lead porter, while Brian and I struggled to keep up. As you know, Brian is geographically challenged and figures he's trapped here forever without someone to guide him out. (We have planned a walking tour tomorrow morning with a man from the hotel, Rocky, to see some of the temples, as it will be Sunday, with some places apparently closed.)

We eventually arrived at the hotel right on the very edge of the Ganges. Superb location! Good price at a 3 1/2 star establishment. The staff are fantastic.

The sun is an orange ball as it sinks toward the west behind the city. Dozens of small kites fly over head, row boats and motor ply the river with tourists from all over the country and the world. Two monkeys run around the neighbouring roof tops playing in the clean sheets someone has set out to dry.

Tonight, from 5:30 to 7:30 we hired a row boat with rower/owner, Sonu, to tour along the Ganges. His father and grandfather had done this work before him. He spoke good English and pointed out: the various Ghats or 'areas of steps down to the water' for us; the palaces (the Maha Raja of Bihar, the Maha Raja of the South, the Maha Raja of the Untouchables); the temples. He took us to the smaller cremation ghat, to the Arti, or spiritual ritual, at the historic site, then the one beside it that was larger for the tourists, then the large cremation Ghat.

After two hours our bums were numb and Jud was itching and scratching from mosquito bites, and it was time to eat dinner. So our boatman took us to a'safe', reasonably priced vegetarian restaurant where we bumped into some people we had sat beside in the Delhi airport on our layover this morning.

We also were seated with an English woman, Nadine, who was very chatty and interesting and reminded us a bit of Carole, in that she had hiked in Ladakh three times, did Vapasana Bhuddist yoga, had just finished a 10 day silent retreat, travelled a lot, and had just hiked in Sikkim. She had to get home to London for her grandchildren for Christmas, but was off to Sri Lanka in January.

As you know, the Wastenage boys are foodies, and having been spoiled by Sheeja in Kerala, are finding northern Indian food to be rather bland and not as interesting.

We wandered the streets above the Dashashbinadath Ghat for a half hour before heading back to our hotel, where lo and behold, we discovered the night manager, Rocky, is a devotee of Lahiri Mahasaya, our Param, Param Guru. He loved the fact that Yogananda is our Guru, and immediately pulled us out of the lobby, up 12 steps, into some sleeping guy's 2 rooms, and showed us a huge Shiva Lingham in the place where he said Lahiri had meditated and gone into samadhi, on the banks of the Ganges. Then he led us along the narrow lane way about 100 meters to Lahiri's place where he had held classes. It has his name above the door and beyond the gate, but looks nothing like the dusty courtyard I had visited 40 years ago in 1977 with some of the Vancouver devotees. (He was born immediately behind Anandamoyama's ashram.)

Apparently there is one other gate to the house where Lahiri was born, on the 'main' lane, but that is only opened one day per year in July, on a special Guru day. Maybe that is where we Vancouverites were led 40 years back? Anyway, we can meditate at the place with his name above the door tomorrow during certain hours, so hopefully we can try and do that.

Seems like I was being guided when picking this hotel from the Internet! So with about 2 1/2 hours sleep, since yesterday morning, it seems like the end of a very full and rich day(s).

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