Floating On the Ganges

Varanasi Travel Blog

 › entry 9 of 15 › view all entries
Kinda crappy hotel (Hotel Heifa), but great location by the ghats, and really nice breakfast in the hotel...in addition to English, Continental and Indian (chowpatty and yogurt) breakfast, they have a Middle Eastern breakfast with lebanah or hummus. The waiter was super creepy - he seemed to be trying to flirt with Eva and Kris - he’d rub his arm on them as he walked by, and say weird things like “how are you” several times after we answered.

We took a van for a few hours up river and the 8 of us got into 2 small, covered boats, plus there was a 3rd “kitchen” boat. The canopies were constructed with rebar, bamboo, and plastic sheeting. Two guys rowed/punted/sailed us back down river for several hours. At one point, we pulled the 3 boats together and a delicious lunch was served - rice, several vegetarian dishes, cucumber/carrot/beet salad, chowpatty and spicy chutney, plus a delicious fried dessert ball of something sweet and gooey.

Away from the city, it’s mostly sandy shores, few people, and is surprisingly serene—most of us fell asleep. The freaky thing is watching all the stuff the locals do in the river. And we haven’t even gotten to the funereal area. Washing their clothes, themselves, brushing their teeth and even drinking it. I saw one of the kitchen boat guys washing the dishes in the Ganges water and I kept wondering if they were doing that before they gave them to us to use. They did have a huge container of bottled water, but...it freaked me out a bit! Obviously their systems are used to whatever contaminants are in the river, but man...we saw dead dogs and we know there are dead bodies and all kinds of stuff in there. We were told there is raw sewage being pumped into there at certain places. We also noticed that the water level is really low - you could see on the banks how high the river was. We thought maybe it was seasonal but Vijay said no, it’s climate change.

The boatsmen pulled ashore on a beach which was deserted except for a rustic structure that I believe Vijay said is ceremonial or religious. They put together the bathroom tent (which you could stand in), and all our 2-person sleep tents, which they fitted with mats, pillows, and 3 blankets each (this is what we were laying on on the boat). Then they built a campfire out of cow dung patties and some wood, brought out the best chai tea we’ve had so far and started working on dinner.

I was the first to make use of the bathroom tent, and I used my headlamp so I could see what I was doing, and I guess it had the unfortunate effect of making my ablutions into a shadow play for everyone else. I’m clearly the entertainment in the group!

The boatmen made us another delicious meal, which they served on a large blanket that we all sat around, we had some more chai, and we were ready for bed.
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photo by: rotorhead85