On the River Ganga
I’m safely nestled away in my room at Hotel Alka in Varanasi, complete with a personal balcony overlooking the mighty Ganges river, a body of water that from what I’ve seen of it so far rivals quite easily its river counterparts in other parts of the world.
Getting here was an adventure to say the least – but we’ll get to that.
The drive from Agra to Delhi was about as different from the one that got us to Agra as it could be. Longer by a few hours, the whole route was more urbanized than I’d expected, meaning more traffic, more construction (to be fair, they were building bridges at every small town so the toll road doesn’t bisect villages with its speeding traffic) and far fewer pop-up cricket matches to glimpse.
We approached the city via Gurgaon, a tech-heavy suburb littered with office buildings likely housing any number of call centers (I half expected to see a particular Indy-based company sign on the side of a building). It was actually pretty cool to see the industry and its impact – jobs, housing, schools, services all springing up to serve the new community.
Past the airport, we drove towards our hotel via the tree-lined plush Delhi streets I’d read about but never discovered my first time through. I even glimpsed the Gandhi Salt March memorial statue, a towering series of figures being led by the holy man. It was particularly cool to see as I’m working my way through Indian Summer, recounting India’s transition to independence. Seeing these sights and places of history (and actually recognizing them!) adds a great dimension to this whole experience.
With the day taken up by travel, we did nothing much else besides check into our hotel and head down to dinner in the evening. Over a couple of Kingfishers we relaxed and wound down from a fast few days of sightseeing.
This morning I begrudgingly said my goodbyes to friends and jumped in a cab to the airport in time for my flight to Varanasi, which was a quick hour in the air. Upon arrival, I was relieved to see the driver the hotel had told me they’d send, and after throwing my bags into what can best be described as a mini VW van, we were off.
The Varanasi airport is not close to the main part of town, but I never expected the drive to take over an hour and end with me and a five-foot-four-inch porter with my bright blue bag perched on his head walking thru a labyrinth of alleys and market stalls to a hotel without any vehicle access. As we approached town, the streets just got so congested – pedestrians, cyclists, motor bikes, cycle- and auto-rickshaws, and cars all sharing a two lane road packed with shop and services – it was easier to grab my bags and hoof it. Thank goodness for packing light!
We did reach the hotel, and even as I doubted that my small friend knew where he was taking us, as he seemed to circle back on himself through the twists and turns of the alleys and walkways, I was never nervous, never worried that I wasn’t going to get where I was supposed to be. We passed street food next to wandering cows next to temples next to jewelry shops with women in saris packed into the small storefronts, and sure enough, we came out of the maze at the door to the hotel and a reception desk expecting me.
I’m here for two full days before heading to my next port of call. I plan on starting with some walking about tomorrow, just seeing what I can see. The ghats lining the banks of the Ganges each serve their own purpose, so I’d like to wander and see the differences if I can. I’d love to take a boat ride on the river, but I’ll have to find a boatman who’ll take a reasonable price, something that from every indication doesn’t sound too possible, given my obvious status as a foreign tourist.
And I’d like to go back to the stalls and shops we passed trekking to the hotel – I’m sure there are local wares just waiting to find a spot in my suitcase. The scarves and tunics and the painting and jewelry I’ve already bought clearly isn’t quite enough yet!
Good night and sweet dreams from me, Varansi and the mighty Ganga.
Sounds like a great trip!
Happy your flight went smoothly. You can never buy too many accessories 🙂