Tuesday, April 5, 2011


I'm in Delhi at the Metropolis Tourist Home (and pleasantly surprised that I really like Delhi!)

I didn't do to much in Varanasi except walk and sit on the ghats (still avoiding the shopping) and only went on the main street to eat breakfast.  The rickshaw driver from the train station drove so far and then said he would walk me to my hotel - through a maze of alleys, I thought he must be taking me in the back way but when I asked, he said no, this is the only way. That hotel was full so he said he would help me (I knew he would get a commission but quite frankly, I was completely lost in these alleyways and didn't really care) after two more that I declined (too dark, too many flies for the price they were asking) and two that also had no available rooms, we found the Elvis Guest House, nicer room and cheaper price.

I call Varanasi the city of flies - so many that i was afraid to open my mouth, afraid they would fly in.  Directions from the hotel guy included "turn left at garbage corner" - found it without problem and for a time, one of my landmarks to get to my hotel was 'turn right at the dead rat' - I figured by the time it was gone I would know my way.  The ghats were beautiful and quite empty; we only see them with millions of people coming for a religious occasion.  I was staying at the south end, well away from the action.

The kids here seemed to be running all the businesses- not sure if they went to school or not, so that was the only really bothersome thing.  The young boy at the internet cafe was about 12, said he had no father so didn't go to school.  When I tipped him on my last day he ran after me to tell me I'd given him too much money; another young boy outside a shop, 12 going on 40 "come right in, I have some lovely punjabi suits, just for you" and then there were the girls selling puja candles/flowers to float on the water.

While walking along one day, one of the flower girls asked me if I had any foreign money, she said she collected it.  She offered to take me to her house so i could see her collection.  I said sorry, no foreign money and she went on her way.  The next day, another girl came up to me and asked if I would by a two dollar American bill from her, I gave her Rs. 100 which is all I had.  Back at the hotel, I put the American money in my suitcase thinking I wouldn't need it here.  Next day, the first girl comes back to me and asks me again if I have any foreign money I can give her.  I say no, she said 'are you sure?" "Yup" .  Yes, I'm a bit slow sometimes, it wasn't until I saw the two of them playing together later that day that I realized their little game.  They ran by smiling and waving at me, I couldn't be mad, they were just kids.
Evening boat ride down to the puja ceremony

5:30 am Having the girl in the pic was not planned, I was just aiming and she rose up the stairs,  seemingly out of know where just as I was clicking.  Of course, she was coming to sell me flowers. 'Good morning Miss Canada" she said.

7:30 am The is the view from the balcony where I ate breakfast each day.  Restaurants like this had great and cheap food.

I walked along the ghats, stopping to have chai every once in awhile and going for breakfast. By 11 am, they were almost deserted, sun was very strong but it went behind the buildings by 3 pm, so I cam back then.

10:00 am

3:30 pm
I took an overnight train from Varanasi to the closest station and took a shared jeep up the mountain. On the train, in 3rd class sleeper, I found myself among a bunch of men, only one that spoke English.  He very nicely  told me there was no room for my suitcase under the bottom bunks and I would have to take it up to the top bunk with me.  I sat down and kindly said that that was just not possible, there would be no room for me to sleep if I did that.  He tried again, and  I said no. He smiled and said OK and they rearranged stuff to make room for my suitcase, no hard feelings.  They asked about my husband, I told them he had been working in Delhi but would be meeting me in Darjeeling.

The men spread out a sheet between them and played cards; I went to sleep. Then next morning, the one guy that spoke English told me the train was three hours late and said good bye, he was getting off at the next stop.  I thought, but wait, who's going to tell me when my stop comes up???  I've been totally dependent on the kindness of strangers to kick me off at my station. Another English speaking man came up and started chatting with me, he seemed to know about my 'husband' and the conversation from the day before but he didn't look familiar.  Before i could mention where I wanted to get off he said, gather your things, this is your stop coming up.  The kindness of strangers. Or perhaps i should say, their kindness to strangers.

The jeep share up the mountain was another adventure, our jeep broke down three quarters up the mountain.  They tried to fix it to no avail, we had to wait about an hour for another jeep to come get us. No harm done. Had to try a few hotels before I found one, it was at the very top of the hill with a beautiful although pretty cloudy view.

Darjeeling was a breath of fresh air in many ways - it was cool - socks, shoes, pashmina and soup weather but there were many cafe type places (with glass windows!) to sit and have tea. Most of the people here appeared to be Tibetan or Nepalese and shop/stall keepers would sit in their stalls and not say a word.  Unfortunately, it was cloudy all the time so I didn't see the beautiful mountain views but that's ok (I had checked the weather forecast and knew that was most likely going to happen.

I went to the Tibetan Refugee Centre and the walk back - an hour uphill of zigzagging paths - became brutal  but I think it had something to do with my luck running out in terms of avoiding Delhi Belly (or I"m in incredibly bad shape).  After a day and a half of  feeling crappy, afraid to stray to far from the bathroom, I started my antibiotic pills I had with me (not sure I really needed it but thought it couldn't hurt) and the next day I was back to normal.  However, it did leave me a little tired and I found the streets, which were kinda steep, a bit hard to climb, so I didn't explore the way I usually do.  I did run into a guy I met at the train station (my age!) and we went for tea and then had breakfast the next day.  I paid for my own breakfast but I'm still counting this as a date (my goal every year is to have 2 dates so I'm half-way there!)
These kids helped me find the Tibetan Refugee Centre - they lived there.

View down the mountain.  Unfortunately, they are dumping their garbage down the mountain so some spots have alot of accummulation.

Tilt left - not all the streets were quite this steep - but a bonus as they were too steep for cars and rickshaws.

 A second before I snapped the visibility was much better.
 I will do one last update on Delhi when I am back home - only 2 days left! 


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