-Pokhara, Nepal-
Out of India and into Nepal, I have now started the next phase of my journey. But a few things about Varanasi first. I had a very good time in Varanasi. When I first arrived, at 2:00am, I had no where to go. There are a lot of shady characters in Varanasi, so many guesthouses lock up at 10 or 11, making lodging difficult to come by late at night. Well I wandered Varanasi by foot and auto-rickshaw for two hours before finally coming to an affordable guesthouse. I ended up staying there for the entire time because of the good location off the busy street, the friendly service and food on their rooftop restaurant, and the great people staying there. I made friends with an American from L.A. (the first American I have met on my trip), an Irish guy, and an Israeli. Just like the other travelers I have met, I was very impressed with their personalities, travel stories, and intelligent world views. Hanging out with them helped pick me up after Agra.
Varanasi is a strange place, but I enjoyed it. It was not as busy as I expected, but that probably has much to do with the cooler weather and the permanent population is close to 1 million (relatively small). The ghats along the Ganga River (Ganges) are the main attraction, and is where I centered most of my time. Ghats are from what I read, just steps down to the river. All along one side of the river are series of ghats, with various owners and names. Two of the ghats are burning ghats, used for cremations, which I found to be the most interesting. One of them was much busier with lots of activity. Looking at this ghat you will see people performing the ceremonial functions of burning a body, priests performing their duties, people burning the bodies with specially selected wood, people chopping wood, tourist and Indian on-lookers, kids flying kites, and young men trying to sell hash, all the while smoke fills the air from the burning corpses and wood. There are no women to been seen though, unless they are tourists. I was told that women were not allowed. The rest of the ghats are used for bathing. Thinking about how dirty the water is though is makes the sight of bathers, well, disappointing. People bring all their clothes and laundry to the river to clean them...A brief description: Pollution of the Ganga. The atmosphere here is cool and laid back, which is probably why their are so many hippies in and around Varanasi. I really enjoyed my few days here and would/will visit again.
From Varanasi I took a late night train north, transferred to a bus and was soon in front of an archway that said "Welcome to Nepal." I was very fatigued, having not eaten or slept much for a day and a half, so I had only a momentary excitement once I stepped out of the cramped little immigration office with some fresh new stamps in my passport. I was also, unknowingly, about to be hit with my second case of Delhi Belly. I found a dumpy hotel, booked my onward ticket to Pokhara, and immediately flopped onto the bed. When I woke up a few hours later, I was very sick with a fever, wily bowels, and no appetite. I will spare you all the rest of the details; it was not pretty. But thanks to some foresight I had saved some medicine from the last incident which, once I could keep water down, helped get me to Pokhara the next day. The bus ride to Pokhara from the boarder was 8 hours, so I was quite worried at how it would go. But I had no problems, and it was much nicer that the Indian bus rides I took. I was met by one man at the bus station who took me to his guesthouse on the back of his motorcycle, which turned out to be quite nice. As soon as I new it I was settled down in Pokhara. I was in Nepal. I love Pokhara so far, but will write more about it and being in Nepal in a few days before my hike up into the Himalayas.
I am not done with India yet, as I will go back through to Darjeeling (I think) and on to Kolkata (Calcutta) where I will fly to Bangkok. Once I get to Kolkata and am completely done with India will I write an entry about my thoughts on being in India. This break will also give me time to reflect and digest India properly. Literally digest India? Maybe.