We arrived around 11 am in Varanasi and got tuk-tuks to hotel Haifa, close to the Ganges river. We ate lunch at the hotel and for the first time in four days I was actually starting to feel much better. It was around 45 degrees in the shade so we didn't go out on our orientation walk until late afternoon. Harsh took us down by the Ganges river to the close by Ghat (platform with stairs down to the river).
From here we took a boat ride on the Ganges, watching the sun go down and after sundown doing a beautiful prayer ceremony in the boat - don't worry everything we sent out on the river is biodegradable! - so I have once again ensured success and happiness for friends and family.
Above: the stark contrast between the two sides of the Ganges river
Jokes aside the ceremony really was breathtaking and afterward we sailed to the oldest and most important Ghat where hundreds of people in boats and on land had gathered to watch the priest perform the evening prayer ceremonies.
The atmosphere was electrifying and we stayed for a while before sailing back, once again passing by the burning Ghats.
Harsh took us to dinner at a nearby cosy pizzaria before going back to the hotel.
The next morning those of us who had opted out of morning yoga by the river (which was everyone except for two) didn't have to meet up until 8 am, where Harsh took us to a lovely ethical corporation and cafe for breakfast. And around noon we ventured out into the scorching heat walking in the beaming sun by the river for a good while - I was ready to hop into the river with all the local boys to be honest.
Finally we turned away from the river and into the narrow streets of the old city bustling with life.
Shortly after we reached the ethical silk shop that was our goal, where the sweet owner greated us in a lovely cool room. I honestly don't think I've ever sweated as much as I did on that walk. He proceeded to teach us about silk (since Varanasi is famous for its silk) and other fabrics and made us test real and fake fabrics by burning them.
Most of us ended up buying half a meter of cotton, following Richard’s example and wetting them and wrapping them around our necks to keep cool.
Out in the heat again we walked through the streets until reaching the famous Blue Lassi shop where we stopped for lassis before heading to lunch at a nice restaurant.
We took tuk this back to the hotel, where we relaxed until dinner. We ate a nice dinner by the Ganges (where they served Tuborg beer suspiciously under the name of ’G.T. water’, seeing as alcohol is actually not allowed close to the river).
Richard and I weren't quite ready to go home yet though and so took an evening stroll along the river. On our way back we ended up chatting to a really genuine and kind local guy for about half an hour. And before reaching the hotel, we had to stop by an ice cream stall to get soda ice creams that were so good that we got another one straight after finishing the first. And while standing on the street corner eating our ice creams we chatted with two other nice local guys that had a hostel nearby. It's incredible how open the locals become when you aren't in a big group anymore and we ended up seeing a completely different side of Varanasi from the walk.
Our last morning in Varanasi we met up in the lobby at 5 am and went to the Gabges river. We watched the morning prayers for a while before once again hoping on a boat, this for a sunrise boat ride.
It was a beautiful morning and the river seemed to always change, completely different in the light of morning compared to the dark.
Back at shore we walked to Terracotta Café owned by an Australian, where we got delicious and fresh breakfast.
Back at the hotel John, Jenna, Analyn, Richard and I took tuk-tuks to the place where Buddha held his first speech for five disciples. We saw the beautiful temples just by the spot before walking to a serene garden wherein a standing Buddha statue made out the centerpiece.
We took tuk-tuks back to the hotel and relaxed before going back to the Terracotta Café for a late lunch. After lunch we stayed in the hotel until 5.30 pm, where we took tuk-tuks to the new train station, although one short, as Mich had stayed in Varanasi to take a flight.
The train arrived on time and at 7.40 pm we were moving again, sitting in a really nice and new carriage on our way to New Delhi.
We shared snacks before making our beds and crawling in - I unfortunately hadn't gotten the top bunk this time, but the middle turned out to be almost as good. A funny salesman did however get me (as well as Harsh and Adri) to buy chowmein before going to bed, so I crawled back down to eat, but it still didn't take me long to fall asleep.
In New Delhi we checked in at Hotel Perfect once again before John, Adri, Nina, Jenna and I decided to go on an Urban Adventure trip. First we stopped at the president's house,
before going to the Gandhi museum, where he had been shot, learning about his life and the history of India.
We drove past India Gate on our way to a beautiful stepwell,
before driving to the northern part of Delhi in the university area. Here the real fun began as our guide took us on a street food tour, where we ended up tasting around 12 different streetfoods - I could basically eat everything, as well, the guide making sure that mine was a vegan version if it wasn't already naturally. We got shawarmas,
momos (Tibetan dumplings),
Bhel Puri (puffed rice),
Paani Puri (chickpea ball with filling),
Pav Bhaji (couldn't have that), tikki (potato patty), paneer tikka (couldnt have that), masala potato,
chai masala and six different desserts of which I could have three.
We were about to explode when we were done, but the food was absolutely amazing. We got beautiful heenas as well, and just seeing the different area was really nice.
Living in Old Delhi and having only walked around Old Delhi the last time we were here, you quickly forget that it isn't representative for the rest of Delhi. The University area was super modern and hip a lot of the shops and cafes looking like something that could've just as well been in a western country. We were back just around 6.30 pm and met up in Nina’s room at 7, to write a card to Harsh before dinner.
We went to Kitchen with a Cause for dinner, which was an amazing place, and the FIRST place I actually saw women serving! We had a lovely time, talking for hours and taking turns sharing our favorite moments of the trip. Back at the hotel I said my goodbyes to Adri, Nina, Jenna and Harsh, who sadly wouldn't continue to the south. It is hard to say goodbye after having gotten to know such lovely people, but I guess the goodbyes are just as much a part of traveling as the hellos are, and I will have to get used to them. And I know now that I have friends to visit if I ever decide to come to Australia, South Africa or Switzerland.
I packed my bags before taking a quick nap in my room. At 1 pm a taxi picked up John, Richard, Theresa and I for the airport, our flight to Trivandrum leaving at 5.20 am (Analyn had booked a later flight). It was hard getting out of bed after only about an hour of sleep, but we had a nice time in the airport (I found a vegan coffee ice blend with dairy free whipped cream that was delicious!).
I am so excited for South India and all the new things we will discover - I just hope the leader is at least half as good as Harsh has been.