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Orna's Crazy Adventure

Train journey to Varanasi

INDIA | Wednesday, 9 November 2011 | Views [578]

As I write this entry I am sitting on the upper birth of an Indian train leaving Agra on an epic 17 hr journey to Varanasi. It is 5:25am and I am due to arrive in Varanasi at 10pm. In the upper birth there is no window to the outside so I can't even see the scenery as we travel across the country. I hope I survive this journey.

So, I haven't written about the last of my time in Pushkar which really was really nice - the beginning of the camel fair meant that many people came to Pushkar from Jaiselmer to I guess trade camels but also make money through music, dancing, getting their children to perform circus acts, making henna tatoos (mendi) and getting dressed up for photos and then asking for money in exchange. The people watching was absolutely exhilarating - similar to my time in the north of vietnam. The people from Jaiselmer are so different to those of other places of India - they almost seem a bit arabic and they wear very elaborate nose rings! I wish I could have gone around just taking pics of all the different nose rings! And the circus acts and dancing and music were amazing - though there was an undercurrent of something a little sinister as it wasn't the same as say Australia where children and women have the choice to run away with the circus because it is their dream - for these women and children it is one of their only options to make money as they don't get an education and they didn't seem to really actually enjoy performing and it seemed to be more about the money which was a little sad.

But I think I definately chose n interesting time of year to come to Pushkar as this is the time when all the Sadhus make a pilgramage to Pushkar so you see some very interesting scenes. One night I was sitting eating falafel by the road in the village and there was a Hari Krishna chant going over the loudspeaker and this sadhu who seemed a little off the planet just stood there facing the loudspeaker enchanted by the chant and making gestures. It was really funny how enchanted and off the planet he was! (I have some photos and a video of him).

Also one night I went with some women from my guest house to the ghats one night at sunset when they were putting candles all around and it was really beautiful. I also managed to get some unauthorised photos of the ghats before a policewoman stopped me (it is prohibited to take photos at the ghats).

Though I did have another not so good experience with the puja by the ghats - I went down to the ghat just to sit and was acosted by a young guy who had tried to get me to do puja with him the first night I arrived. He saw me as I went to just go sit by the ghat and he immediately put some flower petals in my hand which in hindsight I wish I had just dropped on the floor because as soon as I had them in my hand he was pushing me to make puja with him telling him I couldnt go to the ghat without making puja and then an old guy saw us and told me I had to do it too and I HAD to throw the petals in the ghat (which is the beginning of the puja) and I said that I had just done it yesterday and I show him my peice of holy string around my wrist and he looks at it and argues that it is old as if he doesn;t believe that I just did it yesterday!! So they made me do puja with the young guy while I just wanted to get away and then of course there was the push to pay lots of money for good karma and the whole thing was just really crap and I told him he was pushy and was not a good guy and he argued that he is not pushy and I argued back. After that I felt really crap about the whole thing and had a debrief with some other tourists.

Then crazily the next day at the guest house I see him walking in and out and I ask Rani if she knows him and she says he is her nephew!!! And I tell her I had a really bad experience with him doing puja with me and she said other people had said the same thing to her!! She said in his defense he has an extremely pushy mother who makes him go and work at the ghats to get money for her. Apparently he is very smart but is not going to school because of his mother making him work at the ghat. So, thats the story...very annoying but understandable if he has a mother like that...but still NOT ok!!! And again of course he says that I must give 30-40 dollars or euros - so this is the standard request for good karma!!! Otherwise the starting price if I wasn't going to give that was 1000 rupees (equivalent to $20) - of course I didn't give that...but crazy I tell you!!

Then on my last day I decided to get up and go to the camel fair at sunrise as I had been told that it is a must. So up I get at 5:15am to start walking through the village at 5:45am. I wasn't feeling so great cause I could still taste the falafel from the night before but on I trudged with another girl from the guest house. So here I am expecting a sunrise similar to the one I saw in the dessert in Jaiselmer but no, no amazing sunrise at all!! Bloody annoyed I was!!! Was definately not worth the early morning rise and sick feeling so I was sooooooooo happy to come back to bed for a few hours before needing to check out.

All in all, Pushkar was my saviour - I had been feeling really down and Pushkar really lifted me up (apart from the crap experiences). I guess the cicusy stuff was really my thing and the place was genrally much more relaxed than the other places I has been to.

Next stop was Agra to see the Taj Mahal via a 7 hr train journey. I arrived at my hotel at 10pm which I had booked online and which was confirmed. However, on arrival at the hotel the man tells me it is full. So I say, "Don't you reserve rooms for people who book with you?" and he responds that my name is not in their book. No apology - nothing!! Just keeps telling me it's full!! So he walks me over to another hostel where they find a room for me. The room was definately a little manky but at least I found somewhere to sleep at 10 at night in Agra (which was the reason I had originally booked accommodation so I wouldn't have to worry! Ha!). 

The next morning I get up early again for sunrise at the Taj Mahal and I was lucky to find it with the dodgy directions I was given at the hostel. The Taj was indeed incredible though I waited and waited for the incredible sunrise to shine on the Taj but it never happened because there was too much fog (and pollution?). I found out later that apparently it is not a good time of year to see sunrise at the Taj Mahal...at least there were less people at this time of day.

Then later on I went up to my hostel's rooftop restaurant which had a view of the Taj Mahal to see the sunset but again no amazing sunset and then surprisingly the Taj wasn't lit up at night! I expected that of all monuments in the world to be lit up at night that the Taj Mahal would be! Anyway, at least I saw it.

So now I have left Agra and hoping I will actually be able to get out at the right station at Varansi considering that there is no window and I cannot see out!! And of course there are no announcements...I was happy enough to find the right platform at the station because even that was very badly signed - talk about difficult!!!

I still have no plans after my 3 days in Varanasi. I spoke with a travel agent guy to help me sort out my plans but he was so incredibly slow and unhelpful that I decided that it would definately be easier to try to organise it myself rather than go through an agent!! He would say things like "it is very difficult what you are planning" and I would say, "so what do you suggest I do?" and he responds with exactly the same trip I said to him in the first place! Rrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!! And of course it would be good if my inernet connection that I paid for would work so I could plan some stuff on this 17 hr journey but of course it's not working. I mean, why would it work? It's India of course!!!



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