Sunday, 26 February 2017

Last few days in India

Another early alarm call, but this time it's not for a train, it's to watch the sun rise over the Ganges. It's a short walk down the steep steps, and even at 6am there are already plenty of people around, and almost as soon as we step outside we are offered a boat to watch the sunrise from. We decline repeatedly despite the hard sell. Instead we find a spot and set up the iPhone on the mini tripod. There is plenty of entertainment from the family of 5 puppies and their mum who is still sleepy. Michael is in puppy heaven and comes home covered in dusty paw prints. There are groups of women bathing in the Ganges. Bathing fully clothed and then spending some time changing into a dry set of clothes.

After our street food breakfast it is back down to the ghats for a long slow walk to the old town. The sun is already burning although it's still low in the sky, and there are sheets and blankets and clothes laid out on the steps to dry after their scrubbing in the holy water of the Ganges. What with the polluted water and the dusty steps on the ghats it is questionable as to how clean the laundry actually gets. We walk the three kilometres to the Manakarnika ghat which is where the bodies burn on huge pyres. There is wood stacked everywhere, we are approached and warned not to take any photos on this ghat and then offered a tour. While it is a good thing to understand the traditions and what is happening here, it is a very strange thought that someone is making a living showing tourists around cremations. We decline and climb the steps back into the narrow streets of the market.

Once again we are squashed and pushes and jostled in the too narrow, too crowded lanes as we seek out our destination. Michael has purchased a sachet of milk and is keen to locate the tiny two week old puppies we discovered yesterday. We find two huddled in a very narrow alley, barely two feet wide, just as a scooter inches past them. Michael picks them up and moves them to an area where there is a bit more space, and pours the milk into a little clay pot we have found. After a little encouragement they begin lapping at the bowl. Soon mum turns up and we feed her most of the milk, as she will produce more milk for the puppies this way too. A little worried for the third puppy as there is no sign of him today. Hopefully he is still sleeping somewhere. Mission accomplished, we head back to the ghats, but not before getting throughly squashed, jostled and pushed in the crowd again. When we stop to let some people go the other way we are told, 'don't stop, just keep moving' it seems that is what you have to do, even if there is no space to move to.

It's a slow walk back to the hotel in the midday sun. Michael has another big packet of biscuits and is busy feeding anyone who is hungry. Be it man, woman, child, dog, goat, cow, buffalo. Between all the feeding the animals get scratches and affection too.

Too hot and tired, Michael cools down under a cold shower and I sit in the roof of the hotel where I find some elusive wifi. Later we head out in search of food and some medicine for Michael's back. As we leave the hotel and round the corner we come across a group of children who have strung some vine across the path and are demanding 20 rupees for anyone who want to pass. They are noisy and excited and between them they block our way. Michael tries to lift the vine for us to duck under but they hold it down, so I take the opportunity to climb over, cheering as I get to the other side despite their cheeky protests. Michael ducks under and we are free and on our way laughing at the cheek of them as we go. Medicine purchased we spot the aloo chat man from last night, his cart is in a different place and he hasn't set up all the food, but we can't resist a bowl of the spicy potato. He must have added more chilli today as our mouths are burning, but it is just as good.

Michael gets another pack of biscuits, so we walk along the ghats once more taking many breaks to sit on the steps and watch the world. Another pup fed, and then one that seems to want the affection much more than the biscuits, so we stay for half an hour or so as the pup enjoys the love it gets and we enjoy the look of pure bliss on its face.

We come across a huge black and white bull scratching its head on a bench. Michael takes his cue and takes over from the bench as the scratching post. This causes the cow to chase Michael for more scratches every time he tries to walk away.

Eventually we run out of food, the best part of the afternoon spent walking the steps along the Ganges. A fresh lemon soda at the hotel and then it's off out to track down the Aloo Chaat man again. What must he think of us, coming back for lunch and dinner and no doubt we will be back again for more tomorrow? A chat with some Swiss tourists who also try his food, then it's back to try and clean off the day's dust and set the alarm for sunrise tomorrow.