A Travellerspoint blog

Cuddle a Cub at Paradise Springs

overcast 17 °C

After waiting for the relentless rains of yesterday to cease, I was quick to spring from my sleeping bag after glimpsing the blue sky through a crack in our campervan curtain. There was no need to prepare the makeshift table for breakfast this morning; the cupboards lacked anything remotely breakfasty. However, the bumping and banging about had attracted the attention of our neighbours, not the human kind, but the bird kind. Soon they were flocking around our door squawking loudly and tapping on the metal.

Pukekos

Pukekos


These are the native New Zealand Pukeko birds that ste made the fatal mistake of feeding on our first day at Cosy Cottage Camping. Now they have practically eaten us out of house and home. They have eaten our cornflakes and most of our bread! I’m not even sure if our tyres will be there in the morning if we don’t feed them! They seem to be scheming, as they stare at us through the van windows. They are attractive, but funny looking birds, with electric blue and black plumage, bright red bills and long gangly toes that they use like fingers to hold the chunks of bread you throw to them. They seemed to get the message when I started up the engine, and they promptly ran to another van that was stirring.

Pukekos

Pukekos

I didn’t mention where we were heading. We had received free tickets to Paradise Springs Wildlife Park, which is just a short distance from the centre of Rotorua. The leaflets had promised the chance to ‘Pat a lion cub today!,’ if a young enough one was available and so this was our main intention for visiting.I was actually really excited about the prospect of being able to come face to face with a lion cub. You would never get this chance back in England; safety first and all! I think Ste on the other hand, was a little apprehensive, but then again he is scared of chickens. After a quick stop along the way to grab some brekky we arrived!

PaknSave

PaknSave

Froot Loops - including blue ones!

Froot Loops - including blue ones!

The park was set in a beautiful location in the hills and they had done very well in keeping ti looking as natural as possible. In some ways it reminded me of the Southlakes Zoo in Cumbria. It was very well maintained.

Our first stop in the zoo was the adult lion enclosure, and we were shocked to find that the only thing separating us from the jaws of death, was one layer of chicken wire, the sort you would expect to see in a school playground, prized apart in places and curling in the corners. We would be at whiskers length from these mighty animals if we were to stand next to the fence, so close you could touch them, if you were slightly insane!

The Lions Den

The Lions Den


We felt a little on edge being the only two people in the presence of these colossal cats. Saftey in number comes to mind in this situation. Well we were outnumbered 2.5 to 1 and I couldn’t see anything at a reasonable distance to climb, should one decided to try and scale the not so high fence. After deliberately scaring ourselves with ‘what ifs,’ we decided to venture elsewhere in the park.

A visit to the lion cub was next. I had imagined it to be very controlled and restricted, when in fact a sign invited you to enter the specially designed enclose, where the cub could roam freely, play with its toys and not to mention pounce on young children! You were welcome to just stand at a distance, or sit down right beside him. This was our first metting with Chase the cub and he was adorable. The woman invited me to sit down next to him, where he was sprawled out, looking very lethargic, which is no surprise considering lions sleep on average 20 hours per day.

Me with Chase

Me with Chase

Ste and Chase

Ste and Chase


The cub’s fur was much coarser than I had expected, but then again I hadn’t really thought about what it would feel like beforehand. He was also much bigger than I had expected. He was four and a half months old and weighed 20kg. His paws were disproportionately large in comparison to his body; as big as his head! But he wasn’t in the least bit bothered by all the attention he was receiving, according to his keeper he “tolerates it” but I imagine he quite enjoys some of the affection as he has no siblings to play with and he was rejected by his mother at birth. The pride won’t accept him at this young age and he is too small to be put in with them. So the only contact he has is with humans. It was an amazing feeling to sit with a lion cub under such relaxed supervision. Chase was what everyone had journeyed to see and he was definitely worth the time. The keeper suggested that we come back a little later when he might of perked up a little bit, so we took the opportunity to see the rest of the park.

Most of the park could be reached along beautiful boardwalks in the dappled shade.
Walkway

Walkway

Foliage

Foliage


Every step of the way there were crystal clear pools of trout which were all at different stages of their life cycles. They had displays of native birs, such as the cheeky Kea, which is a type of parrot. They also had live possum, which made a change to seeing roadkill Possum; although this is how the Kiwis prefer to see them, because there are over 70 million possum in NZ and they eat so much vegetation and also the eggs of native birds. Their presence in New Zealand has apparently had devastating effects on the birdlife. The park also had a brilliant man made wetland, with a huge array of ducks in a myriad of colours, shapes and sizes, all wanting to be fed and therefore tracking you throughout the entire area. The most bizarre ducks of all were the Paradise Ducks that tried to eat your shoes instead of the food you fed them, while making a noise like a rusty old bike horn and honking in unison. Apart from this noisy duo the park was extremely peaceful and not busy.
Black Swan

Black Swan

Paradise Sunken Signage

Paradise Sunken Signage

Scenic Views

Scenic Views

View of the Paradise Springs

View of the Paradise Springs

Time for another visit to see Chase and he had certainly perked up. When we entered the enclosure, he was dashing about and playing tug of war with his bed cushion. He then tried to chew a man’s legs! Luckily for him, Chase had his front canines filed down for safety. Good job too, as he was soon trying to pounce on a small child that immediately started crying. Everyone was grappling to take photos, but they soon cleared off until just a few of us were left. The keeper picked Chase up so we could have a look at him properly and I managed to give him a cuddle while he nuzzled my face, before trying to bite my neck! Playfully…I think! The keeper was giving him some rough and tumble and the cub loved it, pawing at him and tugging on his clothes. We stayed and watched in awe for almost and hour. I could have stayed there longer to be honest. Maybe I should be a zoo keeper! I was so nice to see a genuinely happy animal in captivity and it was obvious that Chases keeper really loved him.

Attack!

Attack!

Chase Closeup

Chase Closeup

Cuddles with Chase

Cuddles with Chase

Keeper Entertaining Chase the Lion cub

Keeper Entertaining Chase the Lion cub

Ste and Chase

Ste and Chase

Me and Chase

Me and Chase

Chase the Lion Cub Playing

Chase the Lion Cub Playing

2.30pm was lion feeding time and on return to the lion enclose, all the lions were up and pacing against the fence, waiting for their food. The same keeper, who had given us so much insight into the cub, was also caring for the adult lions. He proceeded to lob the meat over the fence, while calling out each lion’s name that the food was intended for. Each lion received around 2 kilos of meat – they obviously eat all parts of the meat. I was a little concerned when a couple of chunks of meat became hooked on the top of the fence and the male lion was staring up at them with a fixed gaze. I was thinking- please don’t say he can reach that! Luckily he was wise to the pain of the electric fence andjust waited patiently until the kepper prodded it down with a huge stick. I couldn’t believe how close we were to these animals; you could bend down and be just 2cm and at eye level with the feasting lions.
Well Fed Lion

Well Fed Lion

Lion Eyeing up His Lunch

Lion Eyeing up His Lunch

Adult Lions

Adult Lions

Just when we thought all the fun had come to an end for the day, the keeper invited us to come and view the Possum. We waited at the Kea cage where the Keas roaming freely around your feet. The next thing I knew there was a possum sitting on my shoulder “Can I touch him?” – “Yeah sure” He was silky soft; his coat would make a lovely rug I thought! Well, we have seen possum fur turned into practically everything in New Zealand; even willy warmers! I felt pity for this creature that everyone detested so much. He had silly saucer eyes, boney fingers and a bizarre prehensile tail…he looked very comical and also very nervous. The keeper soon had him back in his cage as he was being restless.

Possum! and me...

Possum! and me...

It was then like some moment from snow white, when the farm animals descended upon us to be fed. Everyone joined in the feeding until the food ran dry. It started to rain which was the cue to return to our vehicle

We were soon home and having our ears talked off by the campsite caretaker. I think he was under the impression that we wanted to move to New Zealand, even thought we hadn’t insinuated anything of the sort. So he was giving us instructions about how to emigrate, as he had done. Our plans to take a stroll to the lake didn’t materialise because the man didn’t stop talking until the sun went down; maybe tomorrow?!

Thermal Pools at our Campsite

Thermal Pools at our Campsite

Posted by CarlaTracy 09:51 Archived in New Zealand Tagged animals wildlife new zealand Comments (0)

Attacked by Monkeys at Amber Fort

Amber Fort Jaipur

sunny 40 °C

After two days of being complete slobs we decided it was time to brave the heat and head to Amber Fort. This honey coloured fairytale fort lies 11km North of Jaipur and so it was a debate whether to travel by rampaging rickshaw or like a sweltering sardine in a tin can local bus. The price was the decider; 300 rupees by rickshaw or 7 each by bus. Bus it was.

It was the perfect opportunity to take a stroll through the Pink city. Here between the crenellated walls of the old city it was still possible to enjoy a walk in relative comfort, as the miniature shops were shielded from the sun by a continuous concrete canopy.

Under the Canopys of the Pink City

Under the Canopys of the Pink City


Colorful street sellers spilled into the roads with their makeshift stalls on floors, selling mostly fresh produce and sacks of chilli. The odd camel and wagon laden with goods trundled past amongst the endless flow of vehicles inching their way along to a cacophony of horn blasts.

Colourful Vegetable Hawker

Colourful Vegetable Hawker

Camel Cart through the Pink City

Camel Cart through the Pink City

Blow Horn

Blow Horn

Under the canopy the wonderful warm fragrance of spices emanating from huge hessian sacks filled our noses. All along this street, the locals were purchasing the raw ingredients for their fiery cooking, including red chillis! These little devils that lay basking in the heat of the day, were felt long before they were seen and had us spluttering and covering our faces at intervals. Their sting must have been further intensified under direct sun, as some of the sacks outside the canopy were almost unbearable to walk past. I was mystified to how the shop keepers were plunging their arms into these sacks, like you would a bran-tub at a local fate and not shedding so much as a single tear!

The Spicy Pink City

The Spicy Pink City

Up to the Elbows in Red Hot Chillies in the Pink City

Up to the Elbows in Red Hot Chillies in the Pink City

img=http://photos.travellerspoint.com/361768/IMG_9018.jpg caption=Chillies, Too Much for Even the Locals to Bear!]

When we reached the end of the canopy we were immediately shepherded onto a miniature bus “Amber Fort?” the man enquired “Err Yes” we replied looking for the catch. But no, for once there was no catch, just a local bus for local people, where we sat and sweated for a good 10 minutes before leaving. It was torture every time the bus stopped even for a second and I could feel myself sticking to the seat. I peered about the bus, curious as to whether locals were also suffering, but as far as I could see Indian people don’t even sweat! I mean some of them were even wearing jeans!

We finally arrived and there stood Amber far above us (pronounced Amer) with its silky sides rising up from the rugged rock. There were other battlements scattered about the place and even a large fort wall that disappeared off over the hills in the distance. The walls and these craggy rocks had an uncanny likeness to the Great Wall of China of all places. But the rounded turrets and and grassy gardens gave the feel of a fairy story castle.

Ste with Amber Fort in the Background

Ste with Amber Fort in the Background

Impressive Fairytale Amber Fort

Impressive Fairytale Amber Fort

Pond at the Entrance of Amber Fort

Pond at the Entrance of Amber Fort


Now, Lonely Planet estimates the walk up to the Fort entrance at 10 mintues and so we purchased a 1 litre bottle of water for the journey. Well I’m guessing whoever offered this advice was not researching at the peak of the Indian summer. The walk is actually 1.5km up a steep slope and in forty degree heat we were barely able make to 20 steps before having to seek shade. We were only part way up, with a seriously depleted bottle of hot water and resting in the shade when we saw a woman who was with a tour group looking very worse for wear. She had run completely out of water and was looking on the brink of sunstroke. The group she was with seemed pretty unconcerned and only one person was at her aid. At this point I felt as though Lonely Planet should have made its readers more aware of the importance of carrying water during summer months. Of course carrying enough water is common sense and it does actually state (water is available at the top) but the hike in summer is far from a 10 minute stroll and more like a 45 minute test of endurance.

When at the top we were met by a friendly uniformed man, who without asking imposed himself upon us our guide. He was so cheerful and pleasant that it made it difficult to decline his help. Firstly he took us to get a drink and then to a puppet show which we refused to watch or pay for. By this time I was getting quietly irritated. I have just hiked up a what seemed like a mountain in forty degree heat and now I was being marched about the fort against my will. “I want to sit down” I demanded and so he found us some shade. Then came the attempts to shake him off but he was persistent..”Its okay we will look by ourselves” “We want to sit down for a good hour yet”..none of this worked. Finally we told him that we weren’t interested in having a tour guide as we had no money, but he did the usual “You pay what you want” which always makes you feel like a tight fisted arse.

Ste and Our Unwanted 'Guide'

Ste and Our Unwanted 'Guide'


As we just couldn’t get rid of him we just decided to go with it. This is the thing in India they are so bolshie in their approach to offering ‘help’ sometimes there is nothing to do other than to give up. Their technique seems to be to wear you down and it works! We followed him about the place and he gave us basic English explanations of the various areas, but any questions were met with a blank face.

In The Sun at Amber fort

In The Sun at Amber fort


Me and our 'Guide'

Me and our 'Guide'

Ste and I in the Lookout Tower

Ste and I in the Lookout Tower


The most beautiful area was the ladies garden, a lush green paradise in the centre of dust and stone. The lookout points protruding from the main fort walls above the garden provided excellent air conditioning with the wind whipping through the crenellated turret walls. I could have stayed there all day.

The Ladies Garden in Amber Fort

The Ladies Garden in Amber Fort


Views from Amber Fort

Views from Amber Fort

Spectacular Views From Amber Fort

Spectacular Views From Amber Fort


The Great Wall...No its Amber Fort?!

The Great Wall...No its Amber Fort?!

The various rooms were also very interesting, but I found the bats hanging at eye level in the small alcoves much more of an amusement. After racing about the place for 20 minutes our ‘guide’ bid us farewell, but not before asking for a tip. We went against the signs that are in place about the entire fort stating ‘No tips must be given’ and offered him 50 rupees. This obviously wasn’t good enough as he peered into Stes open wallet while asking “have you got a 100.” Cheeky little!@#$ I thought and Ste snapped his wallet shut, unfortunately not on his big nose! With a twitch of his moustache he was gone.

We were finally free to explore the ‘World’s largest Canon.’ A long the way we passed an entire army of Langur Monkeys that were taking refuge from the sun. If there hadn’t been a giant wrought iron gate between us and the army, then their presence would have been quite intimidating. I was fascinated snapping away; Ste was apprehensive and made sure he was sensible distance from the primates. We reached the end of the wall just in time as it seemed the troop had decided on a mass relocation and 200 odd monkeys came racing past us.

Resident Langur Monkey at Amber Fort

Resident Langur Monkey at Amber Fort


A Multitude of Monkeys!

A Multitude of Monkeys!

Irritated Langur Monkey

Irritated Langur Monkey


Finally at the canon, the guards on the gate started demanding we pay them 200 rupees for using our video camera to film the monekys. I insisted that we weren’t paying as they pointed to a shoddily hand painted sign with various crossings out. “You’ve just painted that price on” Ste laughed! “Well, we are not paying, we will delete the video instead” I argued “We have already paid for two cameras and we aren’t paying for anymore, it ridiculous!” Eventually they gave in, telling us not to use it again.

the Worlds Largest canon...Supposedly

the Worlds Largest canon...Supposedly


Just when we thought we had peace and quiet, another uniformed man decided we needed to know more about the canon. We desperately tried to ignore his every word but he was like a limpet. After talking at us, he asked for a tip, Ste refused to tip him saying “I’m not allowed to tip, the signs say so” and he just kept on repeating “No you don’t understand it is up to you” over and over.

Well we escaped paying and I felt and ice lolly was definitely in order. I hid it from the relocated troop as we headed off and whipped it out once the monkeys were out of sight. We had been walking a good 10 minutes when from nowhere appeared a HUGE Langur directly in my path; a langur with a taste for ice lollies! It started to back me towards the wall bearing its teeth and I hid the lolly behind my back. Ste was too much of a coward to come to my aid so I was faced with trying to fend it off with my bottle of water, swinging it towards its face.

I’m sure any right minded person would have surrendered the lolly by now, but I was determined to win. As I backed away swinging the bottle, it continued to pursue me. “Grab a stone!” I shouted to Ste, who was not exactly being the knight in shining armor “There are no stones!” was his useless reply “FIND ONE!” I shouted and the moment Ste made the gesture of bending down to pick up a stone, the monkey scarpered. “Winners!” I shouted and “You are useless!” were my next words. I’d had about enough of the Amber fort for one day and we headed back down.

Fort Walls in the Baking Sun

Fort Walls in the Baking Sun

One of the Many fortified Gates to Amber Fort

One of the Many fortified Gates to Amber Fort


The Base of Amber Fort

The Base of Amber Fort


Goat herders

Goat herders


Female Goat Herder

Female Goat Herder


It was easy to catch a bus back into Jaipur and we were soon back on the busy streets. By this time the sun was setting and we were just in time to catch the orange hue spreading across the pink walls of Hawa Mahal. Hawa Mahal built n 1799 is Jaipurs most distinctive landmark, primarily due to its honeycomb structure. It was built by Maharaja Sawaj Pratap singh, so that ladies of the royal household could basically people watch. Of course it was impressive but everything seems to pale in comparison to the mighty Taj.

Pink City Autorickshaws

Pink City Autorickshaws


We had in mind finding a local restaurant to eat that night , but ended up getting lost down god knows where. The traffic through the narrow streets was insane and at one point even pedestrians were blocked from making any progress due to huge congestion at a junction. We had ventured off the typical tourist streets and there was a man who offered me a drink while pointing to a huge cow with voluptuous udders tethered to a wall! I politely declined before whipping out the Lonely Planet. People started to gather, including a young lad who insisted he was “So excited, you are the first English people I have met” He then started scrolling through his phone showing us the numbers of various acquaintances he had from different countries, before insisting he was going to the same place as us and must go and visit his father in his silver shop! We would have declined but he had already flagged down a tuk tuk.

The next thing we knew we were sitting in a silver shop being talked at, but it didn’t last long as we had reached our limit for the day. We managed to make a sharp exit and wandered aimlessly before catching an auto rickshaw back to the safety of the hotel. WHAT A DAY! GET ME AN ALOO GOBI!

Posted by CarlaTracy 14:31 Archived in India Tagged monkeys architecture india bus jaipur amberfort Comments (0)

Turbulent Transportation

Travelling from Jaipur to Pushkar

sunny 37 °C

Bags packed and ready to go, we had our last breakfast of boiled eggs on toast in our garden of Eden before heading off to Pushkar. Why boiled eggs on toast? Well that is because eggs are not allowed, along with meat, alcohol and kissing in this Hindu pilgrimage town set around a sacred lake.

Intricate Handpainted Details in Peacock Canopy

Intricate Handpainted Details in Peacock Canopy

Pacock Canopy

Pacock Canopy

Breakfast in the Garden of Eden

Breakfast in the Garden of Eden

Ste Under the Peacock Canopy at Breakfast

Ste Under the Peacock Canopy at Breakfast

Beautiful Hand Painted Peacock

Beautiful Hand Painted Peacock


The auto rickshaw was ready and waiting and we had the usual fiasco of cramming our bags into the limited seating space. The journey was less than 5 mintues, so when the driver started insisting on 50 rupees Ste quickly put him in his place and thrust 30 into his hand. All I can say was he wasn’t a happy bunny, but we just ignored his grumbles and headed into the station and he tanked off in his rickshaw. I nearly forgot to mention there was an open manhole in the road on the way to the station; it is not even worth imagining what would happen if the wheel of a 3 wheeler rickshaw went down that!

It was a while before we found ourselves on the bus headed for Ajmer due to some confusion about whether it would be okay to get an indirect bus. With our bags blocking the aisle space, the bus hurtled off and for the first hour people found us very interesting to stare at. Their faces were fixated as though they were watching television! All was fine on this 2 and a half hour journey (apart from the moronic, death wish style driving) until a BANG! THUMP THUMP THUMP! A blowout! I immediately thought and everyone started shouting down to the driver and panicking. I could hear the noise was directly under my feet and knew it was the wheel. “Thank god there are two tyres on the back” gasped Ste, as we pulled up at the side of the motorway, which has no hard shoulder.

All the men began to disembark the bus and look at the wheel in question. They then began to hit various things and discuss various things, then they boarded the bus once again in high spirits. “Can we assume it’s not a blowout?” I questioned to Ste “They wouldn’t be that stupid to drive with a burst tyre” he assured me “Ste, we are in India!” The journey continued along with the noise and we eventually made it Ajmer in one piece.

As always, one foot off the bus and we were be accosted by a large man insistent on taking us to our bus and that the price was 50 rupees. Ste got out the bible, “It says 10 here!” the man soon vanished when he realised we weren’t playing his game. “Where is someone who speaks sense around here?!” I shouted and so we decided to buy a drink in the hope of getting the correct information from the shopkeeper after purchasing a few of his goods. This technique worked and we were on the bus in no time for 10 rupees.

Sweating with our bags between our legs, the man opposite sparked up a conversation with the usual “Which country?” It is always great fun trying to guess what these over friendly people want from you, 99% of the time there is an ulterior motive to their friendliness. And yes, there it was, five minutes into the journey, a business card in our hands. Hmmm we thought, nice business card, sparkly gold, the hotel must be okay at least and it says here swimming pool!! We were sold.

It was a quick 25 minute journey over Snake Mountain and down into Pushkar and the hotel was only a minute walk away. It looked okay from the outside but the aircon room was dingy as anything and for 500 rupees it was a complete ripoff. We asked to see the swimming pool and were greeted with a surprise! There, sunning themselves by the pool were the lovely German couple, Stefan and Isabelle that we met in Brown Bread Bakery in Varanassi. We took the non aircon room next to theirs for 300 rupees, which was considerably larger and more pleasant than the previous room.

Examining The Hole in Our Window

Examining The Hole in Our Window

Mosquito Ridden, Grubby Shower Room

Mosquito Ridden, Grubby Shower Room

Getting the Mosquito Net Up and Running

Getting the Mosquito Net Up and Running


We managed to catch a few glimpses of the royal wedding on the fuzzy Tv and set up our mosquito net, as they were swarming in the bathroom! We also managed to patch up a huge hole in our window where there was the casing for an aircon with the motor removed providing a perfect entrance for a thief! It only took the high tensile wire mesh for our backpacks and a few padlocks, et voila! After testing it by trying to fit our heads through the gaps we joined Isabelle and Stephan for dinner.

20 seconds walk from Hill View Hotel there is an incredible garden restaurant, where we ordered and incredible Punjab Thali Meal. The Thali is served on a silver tray with various compartments, one for popadums, naans and salad (consisting of onions, cucumbers and tomatoes,) one for a special rice and then three small ones containing, raita (flavoured curd,) paneer curry (pieces of cheese instead of meat,) and then a dal (thinner curried lentil sauce.) One of these Thalis is plenty big enough for two and is absolutely divine! I finished off with my favourite Masala tea before hitting the hay.

Tasty Thali

Tasty Thali

Posted by CarlaTracy 14:14 Archived in India Tagged travel india monkey bus transport jaipur pushkar rickshaw Comments (0)

Ganga Supermarket

sunny 40 °C

We were up, out and enjoying the substantially cooler streets at 5.30am this morning as directed by our boatman who was waiting a few yards down from our hostel. He claimed he had been waiting for us since 5am and joked about how we must have “slept in.” I gave Ste a suspicious sideways glance, there was no way this early riser was using that as an excuse to squeeze a few extra rupees out of us! The boatman, or should I say Boat boy, led the way to the River while filling us in on the details of his daily routine, which started with a 4am dip in the Ganges. He had the right idea though, beat the heat! There was also that wonderful feeling of early morning tranquility which I didn’t think would have been possible to find in such a frenzied place as Varanasi.

IMG_5957.jpgBoats Moored on the Ganges

Boats Moored on the Ganges

The sun was just rising as we reached the riverbank and the cremation ceremonies were already underway. The Boat boy un-tethered a much larger boat than yesterday and we hopped on board. When I remarked about the beauty of the early morning he replied “You must come when the sun is not up yet to see real beauty of the Ganges” …hmmm… it seemed like a proposition for yet another boat ride, if two wasn’t already enough.

Heading Out Into the Water

Heading Out Into the Water

Firstly he took us to the opposite side of the bank where people were arriving in their masses for an early morning bathing session. There were rudimentary fences for safety perhaps, to avoid being washed away with the currents, but people were blithely splashing around outside the suggested parameters. It was an ‘anything goes’ approach and people were performing all their early morning bathing rituals in public, which in included anything from washing hair to brushing teeth…and yes, using the water from the Ganges. There were even hordes of children who put on a performance of doing starfish jumps off the moored boats, as we glided past.

Bathing Rituals at Sunrise

Bathing Rituals at Sunrise

We arrived to shore and I was surprised at the white desert sands that greeted us. I stood, feeling a little out of place to watch the spectacle, and what a spectacle it was! It was a beautiful sight watching a particular girl cupping the water and sprinkling it over her face and then her friends, the both of them smiling innately.

Dressing After a Dip

Dressing After a Dip

Colourful Crowds

Colourful Crowds


But I couldn’t steer my mind from the subject of hygenie! Doesn’t this make these people sick?! There are 12 points in Varanasi where the raw sewage flows freely into the river. Surely this sort of pollution is devastating people’s health?! But asking such questions to the locals is only met with dismissal. It is so utterly sacred and everything to the people, that they seem to be in denial. There is a project currently underway to clean up the Ganges by 2013, but I still saw pipes with sewage gushing out directly where men, women and even children were brushing their teeth!

“You go for bathing now” our boat man suggested, which put us in an awkward situation of politely refusing. We agreed to Chai Tea instead. The tea came served in an espresso sized glass and smelled great! It wasn’t until I took the first sip that a sudden thought occurred while gazing out at the Ganges. Where did they get this water from? “Is this water from the river” I joked to our boat boy. I wasn’t met with quite the response I had hoped for, he just laughed “Ganges supermarket!” and carried on supping his Chai. By reflex the tea nearly ended up on the floor, but not wanting to seem ungrateful I passed it to Ste who had already downed his and thought a little more wasn’t going make much difference now. We wandered away from the shore into the sands where a young guy offered us a ‘pony ride,’ but not the British seaside sort, this was a huge, frisky looking stallion he was offering us! I egged Ste on, but he wasn’t tempted and so we made our way back down to the boat.

A Golden Temple Sand Castle

A Golden Temple Sand Castle

Varanasi Views from the Sand Dunes

Varanasi Views from the Sand Dunes

Ste and Boat Boy

Ste and Boat Boy

Back on the boat, we headed down to view the Manikarnika cremation Ghat (the most auspicious place to be cremated in Varanasi) but we didn’t venture close out of respect.
Gathering on the Ganges

Gathering on the Ganges

Solitary Bather

Solitary Bather

Cremation Fires at Manikarnika Ghat From a Distance

Cremation Fires at Manikarnika Ghat From a Distance

View Towards Manikarnika Ghat

View Towards Manikarnika Ghat


At this point he spun the boat back around and headed back, this time hugging the main shoreline where all the action was going on. There were incredible amounts of people gathering by this time, all performing their daily rituals. The entire scene was blindingly colourful.

Glittering Orange Outfit

Glittering Orange Outfit

Varanasi

Varanasi

Boats Lining the Ganges

Boats Lining the Ganges

Colourful Bathers

Colourful Bathers

Colossal Fabric Strip Crossing the Ganges

Colossal Fabric Strip Crossing the Ganges

Boats and Bathers

Boats and Bathers

Bathing Gear

Bathing Gear

Washing Clothing in the Ganges

Washing Clothing in the Ganges

Ganges Wash

Ganges Wash

Hanging Out the Whites

Hanging Out the Whites

Ganges Laundry Service

Ganges Laundry Service

Laundry Service

Laundry Service

Vibrant Woman by the Ganges

Vibrant Woman by the Ganges

Doing the Laundry (by the cremation Ghats)

Doing the Laundry (by the cremation Ghats)

Morning Bathing

Morning Bathing

Morning Bathing

Morning Bathing

Boat Wallahs

Boat Wallahs

Local Laundrette

Local Laundrette

Brush Your Teeth Twice a Day!

Brush Your Teeth Twice a Day!

Family Bathing

Family Bathing

Old Men Bathers

Old Men Bathers



There was even a string of boats, each carrying one section of a colossal strip of fabric from one side of the Ganges to the other as some sort of ceremony. I watched in awe. It was so early and yet the whole of Varanasi seemed to be down by the river.
Fabric Strip on Its Way to the Other Side

Fabric Strip on Its Way to the Other Side

Sumptuous Saris

Sumptuous Saris


The sun was already beginning to sizzle when we stepped foot back onto dry land. Our next quest was to find an ATM, which proved rather difficult, but we got there in the end…4 cash machines later! I was glad to return to the hostel, as I wasn’t feeling on top form from the Indian cuisine! I had already accepted that I was going to be ill before I even got to India and so I just spent the rest of the day sleeping and trying to convalesce with some antibiotics.

Posted by CarlaTracy 04:59 Archived in India Tagged people food india colour river ganges varanasi ceremony cremation heat rituals Comments (0)

Varanasi - Boating on the Ganges by Night

sunny 40 °C

First Class Cabin on Passenger Train

First Class Cabin on Passenger Train

Prison Windows on the Train

Prison Windows on the Train


We arrived into Varanasi at 8am, dusty and disheveled. I had one foot on the platform and already a man was urging us to follow him. He promised us a free Auto rickshaw ride (the equivalent of the Thai tuk tuk) to take us to his commission paying hostel of choice. Our new Israeli friend Schmool (spelling?) was suspicious and had every right to be considering he had only been travelling 3 weeks. We agreed to follow, but insisted that if the hostel was not clean, then we would leave without paying. We waited a while for Schmool to stash his large backpack in the train station luggage storage and then made our way to our ‘taxi.’

“WELCOME TO INDIA! Driving is like computer game….NO RULES!!” were the last words I heard before we went careering out of the car park with a double dose of whiplash. Thank god our back packs obstructed the view slightly because he wasn’t kidding! I felt like we were criminals on the run, like real life Grand Theft Auto. “Don’t Worry Mam, I Do this 25 Years!” he assured me as he headed into the path of an oncoming bus. “How many accidents?” enquired Schmool “Just one” He replied. Well it was certainly blowing off the cobwebs, and there was no doubt it was making me ‘feel alive’ and also glad to be alive when we arrived at the hostel. No wonder Varanasi is famous for its cremations down by the Ganges!

My instant reaction…well, one shouldn’t judge the book by its cover now should they? I looked back to see tuned up noses from the guys. Schmool didn’t even venture inside. “It’s worth a look, we can always leave” I assured Ste. We made the climb to the reception on the roof terrace and were greeted with a cup of Chai tea. The room was certainly no palace and I was a little concerned about not having air conditioning in the heat, but It had a balcony and was fairly airy for its matchbox size and so we took it for 300 rupees (4.50 pounds.) After a breakfast of banana and curds, we moved in and took a nap for most of the afternoon. Schmool even ended up taking a room too.
We woke early evening and headed to the roof terrace in time to witness a spectacular sunset over Varanasi. The sky glowed a wonderful dusky purple and orange hue which gradually faded into night.

Sunset Over Varanasi

Sunset Over Varanasi

Rooftop View

Rooftop View

View of Varanasi From the Rooftop Terrace

View of Varanasi From the Rooftop Terrace

Stephen at Sunset..How Radiant

Stephen at Sunset..How Radiant

Varanasi at Sunset

Varanasi at Sunset


We grabbed dinner and thought that was it for the night, until the manager recommended an evening boat ride on the Ganges to see a fire ceremony. We knew we could get it cheaper dealing directly with the boatman, but our hotel would send a guide with us to show us the way down the dark alleys at night.

The streets were barely wider than arms length and obstructed by numerous lethargic bovines. We emerged though a narrow passage onto the riverfront, where a boatman was already waiting. It was dark but men were still gathering in their masses to bathe at the water’s edge. The smokey smell of the burning wood of cremation pyres filled the air and caused a lingering haze across the water. I placed one foot extremely carefully in front of the other while boarding our rickety little boat; I didn’t fancy going for a dip in water that contains over 1.5 million faecal bacteria per litre!! (500 is the safe bathing limit.) The water didn’t have any sort of smell as I had expected, but maybe the smoke was just masking it.

Aboard our tiny vessel we were afforded great views back to the shore; especially of Assi Ghat where they were performing the cremations. We slowly bobbed our way along, passing clusters of floating candles on the way. It was all very atmospheric and a beautiful experience. We stopped alongside a mass of other boats to watch the ceremony which involved a great deal of fire and a great deal of chanting. Small girls hopped aboard our boat trying to overcharge us for floating candles “They are not for my Family but for all of yours, to keep them safe.” They were very astute business women… for a couple of 6 year olds and we were soon placing our 50 rupee candles down into the dark water. My rule of not putting a single toe into the Ganges didn’t last long, as I misjudged the distance and plunged my entire hand into the water. A nice dose of Typhoid for me!

Ceremony by the Ganges

Ceremony by the Ganges

Gathering Down by Ganges

Gathering Down by Ganges

Incense

Incense

More Fire at the Fire Ceremony

More Fire at the Fire Ceremony

The ceremony ended and the boats dispersed back to the shore. We made arrangements to do a sunrise boat trip the following morning, providing we could find an ATM. Our boatman took us to a cash point but it was all out. He didn’t seem the slightest bit bothered and trusted us to pay up in the morning, but he did want us to meet him away from the hostel so they didn’t take a commission….clever clever. Back at the hostel we joined Schmool on the roof terrace to tuck into the beauty photographed below

Hello to the Queen - Devilish Indian Desert

Hello to the Queen - Devilish Indian Desert

Posted by CarlaTracy 05:20 Archived in India Tagged people food boat india river ganges varanasi ceremony cows heat Comments (0)

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