Sunday 26th February
A travelling day today and therefore not much to report. We left Jaipur pat 7.00 a.m. Armed with a packed breakfast each. The coach got into the main road to Delhi and we ate our breakfasts. We soon left the hills of Rajasthan and entered once again the lowlands of Uttar Pradesh. We slept…well most of us did. We stopped after a couple of hours for a ‘rest’ which is why they are called restrooms, I suppose, although a pee or something more major is never, I find, a restful experience. A relief certainly, but a rest? I trust I have a few more years to go before either happens in my sleep!
It was also a retail opportunity and Christine, was at last able to exercise her purchasing muscles. Much of what we have seen has been tourist tat, but this looked reasonably high quality and at a good price.
At Delhi airport there was some confusion as one rather assertive counter clerk decided she was going to check in the whole group, while her colleagues seemed to disagree. However it went fairly smoothly, as did the security check and we were released into the departure hall relatively unscathed. A range of eating opportunities then presented themselves- KFC, McDonalds, Pizza Hut etc. , which was somewhat depressing. However I have to admit that a cup of Costa Coffee was very welcome as was their spices vegetarian roll.
We boarded the flight to Varanassi early and then sat on the tarmac for about 45 minutes – nothing new there then. Finally we took off, were served with a hot snack and landed in the space of 1hour and a few minutes.
At Varanassi there appeared to be no coach awaiting us, but eventually one arrived. This took us into the centre of the city, along a road which was unbelievably bad. Thus is Mr Modi’s constituency and he has promised a new raid by this time next year. Indeed it is being built right now, which is part of the reason why the current riad is so bad. However the new road is likely to be finished on time – why? – because the elections will be held this time next year and Mr Modi’s wants to be re-elected!
In Varanassi itself we transferred to 3 min-buses as the coach is too big for the old town centre. Thus transfer involved a great deal of shouting and shrugging of shoulders by various Indian men, particularly when they realised we wouldn’t all fit onto 2 buses. We drove out in convoy and after a hair-raising ride from light into dark, including crossing the mighty Ganges we arrived at our hotel. It is vast, only completed 6 months ago and clearly requires some snagging problems to be sorted out. I pressed the toilet flush in our room and it fell to the floor. The hotel us also largely unoccupied, so we are being made very welcome. The staff clearly need some practice. The two glasses of wine we ordered at the start of the meal arrived after we had finished all 3 courses. However they are trying to be very helpful, but it is clearly all rather new to them.
Up at 5.00 a.m. tomorrow morning fir a boat trip to watch the sun come up on the Ganges! A short communion tonight, which I think we all need.