heaven on earth…

I arrive (late – it seems no flights leave on time here) and a driver is waiting for me. As it turns out, a driver and an assistant. The driver drives and the assistant talks and talks and talks, the entire drive to the guesthouse – which was about an hour’s drive… Now lots of what he was talking about I found extremely interesting, but he just kept going and going and going. I had spent the day flying and waiting and waiting and flying – all I wanted to do was to have a shower and go to bed!

We get to Old Town in Varanasi – you can’t drive through the streets there (galis – they call the undrivable streets), so out we get to walk to the guesthouse. It’s SO dark in the streets and for whatever the reason – the assistant has taken my carry-on suitcase and I have my big tank…..

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It’s about a fifteen minute walk, that felt like it was never going to end, pulling my 50 pound bag over the cobblestone streets with a sweaty hand struggling to keep hold. I’m getting honked at loads, as I’m taking up too much space with my suitcase! There are bikes, motorcycles, bike rickshaws, cows and pedestrians everywhere. It felt like I was walking the wrong way through the crowds leaving the fireworks in downtown Vancouver – with virtually no light.

We turn off the main (a thin road that cars can’t go on) into a skinny alley of darkness. At this point I’m wondering where the hell Lonely Planet has directed me…. but the assistant pulls out his cellphone to light the way and leads me through – making sure to point out the cow shit so I don’t step or roll through it!

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We FINALLY reach the guesthouse – where another person takes both my suitcases and carries them down the stairs for me – thank you god! The assistant wants my number so we can get together the next day… I give it to him – fully planning to not answer my phone.

I check-in, and am shown to my room. I have to go pee suuuuper bad. I drop my stuff and try to open the doors on one side of my room… won’t open – I run to the other ones – nope. What the heck?! How can I not figure a way into my bathroom. I struggle pulling at both sets of doors again… nothing. Really Katie? You managed to book yourself a room with no private bathroom – fail at life.

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I lock my room and run to the front desk to ask where the washroom is – though I’m still questioning myself as you’d think if I didn’t have a bathroom that the person who showed me to my room would also show me where the bathrooms are? Anyways, much to my relief I didn’t look stupid as I was directed to them quickly and managed to not pee my pants.

I skip the shower I had planned on, as I’m exhausted and can’t be bothered sorting myself out to go all the way to the communal washroom for a shower now. I change out of my sweat drenched clothes and lay down thinking I’ll put a dent in my book and hopefully cool off a bit under the fan. Five minutes in – power out. Fail. Sweatfest allllll night.

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Sidenote: Reason it was so dark in the streets – oh half of India had no power and my guesthouse’s generator cut out which is why I was in the dark. I didn’t find this out until a day later when I was talking to home and they asked about power outages and then I was talking to the manager of the guesthouse and he mentioned it. Yes, I looked like an idiot when I went ‘Oooooh, that’s why it was so dark walking here!’ He looked at me as though I was from another planet.

I’m up early, shower, go for breaky at the rooftop restaurant and watch all the excitement on the River Ganges! Ganpati Guesthouse is right on the river, so while enjoying breakfast I was watching people do their laundry in the river, bathe in the river, pray at the river, the gurus teaching, people walking, people socializing and those trying to get tourists in their boats for a ride.

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Varanasi is one of the seven the holiest cities for people of the Hindu faith. They believe Varanasi is heaven on earth. It is one of the world’s oldest continually inhabited cities. There are ghats all along the river for Hindus to come and wash away all their sins and cremate their loved ones. It’s quite a sight to see. It is by far the busiest place I’ve been in India.

I finish admiring the spiritual atmosphere I’m in the middle of and decide to ask about a city tour I saw advertised in my room and if someone can fix my computer…. fingers and toes crossed! The manager – who looks nothing like a manager is his loose jeans, bare feet and shoulder length hair – tells me he’ll call their computer guy and see if he can come look at it – and yes!

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The computer guy won’t get to the guesthouse for a few hours – so out I go to walk along the river! Shocking: a young Indian man walks up to me and wants to practice his English! Haven’t heard that before… Raj walks with me – tells me all about the ghats we pass as I wipe the sweat that is pouring off my face into a scarf. He fills me in on all the customs and rituals that take place and overall wasn’t too annoying to have around.

Then I tell him I’m going to turn back, as I have a computer guy I need to meet. He asks what time I’m meeting him – I mistakenly tell him…. ‘Oh great! You have enough time to come to my shop first!’ Fail Katie – fail!

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At his shop are pictures of him, his father and Goldie Hawn! Apparently she’s been to Varanasi seven times – the first time she was there, she met with a guru who predicted things about her life and he was right about them all – so she’s kept coming back! Long story short – I got sucked into buying some silk scarves and I’m pretty sure I was completely ripped off, but oh well!

I head back to my guesthouse and the computer miracle worker comes shortly thereafter. My processor is shot – he can’t fix it because there’s the Brother and Sister Festival the next day….. Wahhhhhhh. But he can take my hard drive out and put everything onto flash drives for me…. Yahoooooo! I didn’t lose all the emails I had written or my itunes.

Heavenly day I’d say.

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