After spending a day on the banks of the River Ganges, I had at this point – absolutely no intention of getting in this cesspit of a river although admittedly i liked the idea of doing it. With that in mind, two idiotic companions ( Simon and Joe) and far too much illegal alcohol a story is born…
I can’t remember what day it was, for as far as any traveller is concerned every day is Saturday. We were sitting up on the rooftop of our hostel trying to relax. You see the streets of Varanasi are intimidating, chaotic, filthy and full of people you want to avoid. So after an afternoon of startling exploring we were pretty worn out mentally. If you was going to relax anywhere, the rooftop was the best bet – drowning out the noise and smells of the streets below.
Me Simon and Joe sat up here in our fort, laughing at what we had got ourselves into. Trying to make sense of what was going on, how we would ever try and explain this madness to anyone, and who’s idea was it to come here anyway!? Its one of those moments where you are dizzy with laughter and slightly unhinged, undoubtedly time for a beer. However, being in a third world country, even more so the ‘spiritual capital’ its not as though we could just pop down to the off license for a 6 pack, it was actually deemed illegal to drink alcohol at all.
That aside, anything goes in India for a price. We strike up a ‘deal’ and 20 minutes later our guy arrives with the goods. 6 cans of warm extra strength larger. Of course this only added to our amusement and we sent our guy back for more.
I’m not sure how many trips our guy did, or how many cans of warm larger were consumed but i remember we were all pretty tanked. Our conversation didn’t deviate far from the Ganges, and of course it wasn’t long before it was a brilliant idea. A must do in fact. Who comes to Varanasi and doesn’t dunk themselves in the holy river? We should all get in the river and become reborn again with Hindu names! We can become Bantu, Rikesh and Pooja.
Our enthusiasm was sky high, but at this point we were safe – because at this point it was still only an idea. Our guy returned with our next batch of warm beer and we began slurrily asking him questions about the Ganges river. He spoke of the magical and spiritual presence and insisted taking us out in his boat at sunrise.
We were beside ourselves, this is great – exactly what we wanted to do. Our guy would take us to the other side of the river, that way we wouldn’t be disrespecting anyone. If we wanted to, we could then dunk ourselves in the river – but we must experience it. He was to pick us up from the hostel the next morning at 6am.
The last thing i remember from that night was singing and dancing up on the rooftop to Toploader, Dancing in the Moonlight. I was actually dancing in the moonlight and was really enjoying the irony of it all.
Waking up in the early hours of the morning with a hangover is always a struggle. But when the reason is because a random Indian man is coming to pick you up and take you out on his boat it’s a little bit worse. On a boat to one of the worlds dirtiest rivers so that you can willingly get in and dunk your head under to become reborn as ‘Pooja’. So what did i do to make it worse? I googled.
So now i’m literally freaking out, I’m even considering backing out, but our guy is waiting and we are walking down to the banks to his boat. Joe and Simon are still enthused and i realize that it’s not in my nature to be the only one who didn’t do it.
And that’s how i ended up in the River Ganges.
To be continued…