Varanasi to Nepal (by Rachel)

After yesterday’s day of visiting the doctor and relaxing, today we ventured out to see the city of Varanasi. We got a tuk tuk to Goalia which was a short walk away from the Ganges. Our first view of the Ganges was seen from Marnikarnika Ghat (steps) and was very impressive. Beautiful buildings line the Ganges but on the opposite shore it is flat and uninhabited. Lots of people were bathing by the ghats and beyond them were lots of little boats for river trips. The river itself appeared so slow it was impossible to tell which way it was flowing. The pollution in the river was hard not to notice and made us wonder how people can possibly bathe in and drink the water.

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We wandered along the ghats and somehow ended up at the main burning ghat where the air was full of smoke and we could see 4 pyres burning by the water. A little boy came to talk to us and said 250 bodies were cremated their every day. He wanted to show us the buildings above the ghat which were full of people waiting to die so they could be cremated their but the smoke was making us feel queasy so we left. We wandered away from the water through tiny alleys and ended up at a lassi (yoghurt drink) shop where we stopped for a break. While we sat, 4 or 5 groups of outcasts came by each group holding a corpse on a stretcher and chanting. It was a surreal experience. 

In the afternoon we met a Muslim (Ravi) and his uncle (Salim) who took us to their home where their family produce silk saris on mechanised and hand looms. They were very impressed that the British had invented these machines.

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The racket coming from them was deafening however so it was nice to be taken to their rooftop for some good views, peace and quiet and a nice cup of chai. Meanwhile Ravi told us about his dreams of marrying an English girl due to their ‘blue eyes, white skin and silky hair’, and informed us that ‘all Indian boys want a white girl’ (a little disturbing).After the sunset, Olli was taken back to the clacking machines and i was taken up stairs to eat a nut and sugar mixture in a room of girls and the family goat. One of the girls (Salma) gave me an arm of henna.

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When Olli and I were reunited the family brought out a selection of their goods we could buy but didn’t seem too offended when were said no. After that they lead us to a nice restaurant for dinner where we had rice and dal (lentils) then we went back to the hotel.

The next day after the hotel phoned us about 10  times to remind us when checkout was, we checked out and had our luggage put in storage while we went out for the day. We headed to the ghats again and had a nice cool drink then read our books. As we left i was struck with nausea and had to lie down on the newly washed ghat benches which were being prepared for a holy ceremony. A second later lead to vomiting my breakfast which was embarrassing. A kind local lead us to a nearby doctor who had a degree from Harvard and spoke good English. Also no mice running around his office was a good sign (there were some lizards though). He asked me about my symptoms and took my temperature, confirming that I had a fever. In the end he gave me an injection to help my stomach and prescribed me lots more meds and said I should ignore the last ones I was given. We returned to the hotel after this and had some food while we set about waiting for the train.

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At 11pm we headed to the train station where our train to Gorakhpur was supposed to leave at 00.30 but was delayed until 2am. Tired we finally boarded but the train was freezing and we got very little sleep. It arrived at 8.30am and we groggily found the bus stand where we experienced the bumpiest 3h of our lives on the bus to Sunali, a small town on the Indian-Nepali border. After a short walk we saw the border and just before it were required to fill in Indian departure forms and have our passports stamped. On the other side of the border we got our Nepali visas then a Dutch man approached us asking if we were heading to Pokhara and wanted to share a taxi as there were no more buses that day. So for 1000 rupees each we were squashed into a tiny taxi (at least it had a roof rack for our bags) and driven over the most crazy and beautiful road to Pokhara. The road clung to the edge of the hills while vertical gorges fell away below us and the vegetation was thick and tropical. Unfortunately the 200km took over 6 hours and I was too painful to fall asleep but too tired to keep my eyes open.

When we arrived in Pokhara it was night and we headed straight to the hotel my aunt would be staying at, in the hopes that we could see her before she left for her trek in the morning. Luckily a minute after we arrived at the hotel Rachel and Sarah arrived and we had a very emotional reunion. As I was feeling so ill by this point we decided to stay at the hotel in one of the cheaper rooms on the lower level. When we woke up the view of the Annapurnas from our window was actually ridiculous. Neither of us have ever seen mountains so high and so beautiful (in my opinion).

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Over the next few days Olli did some exploring of the local area while I spent most of my time bed bound trying to recover. Near the end of the course of drugs I’d been given in Varanasi, I decided to visit a hospital in Pokhara to have some tests done. The hospital was a series of little huts under one corregated iron roof and smelt strongly of urine. After a lot of waiting and getting cold, the doctor gave me my test results which showed I had giardia (cysts in the intestine) and an unknown and unrelated blood infection. I was prescribed lots of drugs for both which have to be systematically taken at a number of times, the first at 6am and the last at 10pm. I imagine the drugs for the giardia will work but I don’t know about the blood infection drugs as the doctor didn’t even know what it was.

While I lay here like a weakling, Olli went off paragliding today, I am very jealous!

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