Varanasi. The holy city on the river of death.
It’s almost kind of fitting that this city of a million ends signals the end of our trip.. Almost kind of fitting.. Maybe..
Our road to Varanasi was paved with temples, trains and the Taj but it was the place we were looking forward to the most.
At first, it’s another insane Indian city.
Rickshaws driving on top of each other, cows pondering the chaos, vendors yelling and the constant, ear-splitting sound of a million horns.
Finding the real Varanasi saw us ejected from our rickshaw with our bags and making our way into the labyrinth of tiny streets.
Navigating the narrow, excrement-splattered ally ways, ignoring the calls of ‘Where you from?’ and ‘Namaste!’ until we eventually stumbled out onto the ghats overlooking the river Ganges.
It’s a place where life and death coexist in a colourful mess of noise, mess, religion, touts, boats, goats, bathing, swimming, burning and the omnipresent cows.
So we played tourist.
Up at 5 for a dawn boat ride down the Ganges.
Along with a thousand other camera-wielding tourists, we piled into a boat and got rowed down the river.
The sunrise was absolutely spectacular but the ghats stole the show easily.
Even at that ungodly hour, they were alive and bustling with morning prayers and mourning prayers, bathers, washers, swimmers and absolutely everyone.
Then we were taken up to the burning ghat.
As we pulled in a fire was taking its last breaths, surrounded by priests and mourners all dressed in white.
A teenager with a shaved head stepped towards the ashes, picked up a charred piece and flung it towards us, into the river.
Turns out it was his father’s collarbone.
This truly is the most amazing place.