Wednesday, August 19, 2009

India - January 3, 2009 - Part One

Cold, cold, cold!

We were out on the Ganga by 7am, but although daylight came there was no glimpse of the sun. It was foggy and damp and just plain cold. The weather has turned nasty, foggy, all over northern India. Planes are being canceled and trains are late, as ours was yesterday.

I have another complaint to add to the list for GAP tours: having us tromp all over the landscape without breakfast or even tea or coffee is unpleasant on the nicest day. When the day is cold, it is just plain cruel. No, there was no place to buy a hot drink in our hurried trip to the river, and then we were in the boats.

There were interesting things to see this morning--people bathing despite the cold weather, people doing laundry.

Our boat was surrounded by other boats selling souvenirs and trinkets, and we had fun teasing back and forth between the proprietors. I just wish some entrepreneur had thought to get some thermoses and sell chai!

The religious ceremony from last night continued on a smaller scale in daylight, and we saw one of the crematoriums in operation, with people bringing bodies draped in rich fabrics and garlanded with flowers.

We learned about the ghats, long steep flights of steps leading from temples, palaces, and guest houses down to the river. During monsoon season the water comes up to the buildings, but at this time of year fifty or sixty steps are revealed.

When we stopped for breakfast we first had to climb the ghat steps, and then enter a five-story hotel with the restaurant on the top floor. Both Lois and I, stiff and cold from the foggy, freezing boat ride, found it extremely hard to climb all those stairs--and then back down again.

After the boat took us back to where we had boarded, Bupendra did his quick-march thing again, through narrow lanes lined with shops offering fascinating merchandise we were not allowed to stop and look at. We had no map of the maze of lanes, and we had long since learned that it's nearly impossible to find anyone who speaks English, so deliberately staying behind was not an option.

Another note for GAP: tourists don't want to be dragged away from shopping areas, transported to a hotel ten kilometers from the action, and then told they can go back at their own expense and without a guide, but only if they want to miss the afternoon activity. What would be so terrible about allowing us half an hour in the market that is part of what we came to see? Why do we have to be force-marched through it? I, for one, have a ridiculous number of unspent rupees, and no neat trinkets to take home.

Watch for Part Two of January 3, coming soon.

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