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Sunday, October 05, 2008

First experiences of India!

**Sorry but no photos again, dial-up speeds here most of the time!

Pokhara, Nepal - I've now visited Delhi, Varanasai and am now in Nepal. Only two weeks in and I'm feeling that life's stresses are slowly being stripped away from me again. But first, back to the locations. Delhi was much more chilled out than I expected, but possibly due to the bombings here a few weeks ago meaning that the city centre was very quiet.
Varanasai is the primary point on the Ganges river, home to the ceremonial burning of bodies. This city is a mad house, 2.5 million people squashed into a location the size of Galway - absolutely insane! Still though, there is a huge novelty to dodging cattle (cows are holy so they're not killed), snakes (seen my first snake charmer!), tons (TONS) of people and rubbish as you wander the streets. It's a truly surreal experience sitting in on a funeral burning - of which there are about 60 per day. The fascinating part involves the fact that they're religion agnostic here which is very refreshing, as the local funeral director described it: "we're all flesh and blood". If only everyone in the world was like that we'd have no wars!
The only bad part is the sheer mobs of people and the dirt - this place is seriously grimy, largely due to the numbers of people. It's definitely the dirtiest place I've every traveled and a long way ahead of China, etc. I presume it's down the population (1 billion people living in a location that's only a third of the size of China).....
On a side note, yes the remains from the burnings get dropped into the river, and yes the whole population washes themselves in same river. According to the latest stats, the Ganges is completely septic. Yummy.
For anyone interested in a good story on the Ganges, check out the book about the climbers who helped the CIA put a nuclear-powered listening device on a mountain at the foot of the Ganges river and then were promptly told by CIA to leave it behind. Of course, it got swallowed by the glaciers and mysteriously the whole river now has a high nuclear content.... Can't remember the book name but I'm sure if you hit Google....