Leaving Nepal to Varannasi, Uttar Pradesh, India Week 138 November 22nd - 24th 2013
Bridge over the Khali Gandakhi.

The major river that has flowed from Tibet between Dhaulaghiri and Annapurna.

A quick look back.
The road sticks high on the side of valleys and across plateaux.
And then the border.

The formalities were simple, but time consuming.

On the Nepal side we could park and let traffic past.

No chance of that on the Indian side.

We blocked the road while waiting for immigration to stamp our passports.

The line of trucks meant traffic coming the other way overtook and couldn't get back in.

The guy in the green tee-shirt in the foreground helped us through for a small fee.

In contrast to Pokhara a combine harvester for the rice.
And much more crop variety.

We are on the northern plains.

Flat forever.

And of course Indian Railways.

Concrete sleepers and very heavy rail.

We weren't too sure how we'd feel about our mode of travel in India.

People we'd talked to at Pokhara had stories of 12 hour days on rough roads to cover less than 300 km.

Apart from the border town we are finding progress slow on very variable roads. But importantly there is relatively little traffic, and its all moving at 30 - 50 km/hr.

Having rapidly cast aside our aversion to blasting our horn at every imaginable living thing, regardless of whether its moving or not, we joined in.

Its expected. Not to be taken as offensive. Its the only way people know there's something coming.

As we've met previously, flashing headlights means "coming through regardless of the consequences".

All in slow motion, a sort of relaxed concentration, but mentally very tiring.

Our first night's camp. About 30 km north of Ghorakpur.

In the forest.

The passing locals seemed happy for us to be there.

Unfortunately the UP (Uttar Pradesh) Police had different thoughts.

We moved a couple of hundred meters along the road to an hotel.

"This is not right. It is forest area. There are lots of thieves.".

The hotel owner wanted us to pay for a room and eat in the restaurant.

He couldn't guarantee our safety in his outside car park (and the one at the back was a bit full when I looked).

He didn't answer when asked if he "minded if we parked outside". So we did.

Ghorakpur is quite a large city to cross.

Our first sight of an Indian Railways train.

The overpass looked inviting. But how to get onto it?

Our gps roughly knew the way through but not quite accurate enough.

We asked.

A few times.

Out of Ghorakpur the roadsides are continuous habitation.

Animal droppings and a bit of straw drying for fuel.

Every so often we met cobbles.
Plenty of vegetables for sale.
Another night by the side of the road.

This time an Indian Oil petrol station.

School assembly?

To the sound of passing traffic - with lots of horn blowing.

There are trucks, buses, jeeps, private cars, tuk-tuks, motor-bikes, bicycles, and ox carts.

Mostly over loaded.

This is the first road building equipment we've seen.

Not sure what a lone road roller is doing miles from any other equipment.

We are about 50m above sea level and probably a thousand miles from the coast.

Indian rivers are wide. Slowly meandering through the sand.

About 20km short of Varannasi we were stopped by this gentleman.

Police or army.

He'd just conferred with his accomplice.

The general message was that we were a little large and while Varannasi was a big city its streets were small.

Confused between "road tax" and "wait until 10 pm" I chose confusion.

Eventually we were let to proceed. 

We arrived in Varannasi on little roads from the north.

The big roads are east-west.

Our first choice was the Hotel Paris.

Unfortunately its "wedding season" and they had no car park space for us.

We ended up outside the less selubrious and more expensive River Palace.

But down to the river, a few km from cantonment to ghats.

Staples to hold the stones of the steps together. Just like the Romans.

Seems its something we have to do while in Varannasi.

It was 1978 when I was here last.

Ali's first time.

We watched and listened to the ceremony from the comfort of our boat.
Five "priests" with mantras accompanied by music.
Different mantras, different props.

We haven't discovered the significance.

The floodlights offer some general illumination.
Not really appropriate to photograph the burning ghat from closer.

We had a closer look then the long row upstream against the current.

The tuk tuk went through the narrow streets of the old town behind the ghats.

The clutch was about kaput on this one which made for some interesting driving technique.

When we stopped to camp at the fuel station the radiator reservoir overflowed.

The Turkish radiator cap had sprung a leak.

A new Indian one was available off the shelf.

I later realised that driving at less than 50km/hr in 5th gear may not be enough revs to provide sufficient cooling. Using a higher gear and new cap the problem hasn't re-occurred.

We broke a wing mirror on a passing vehicle that got a bit close. Unfortunately the "looking-glass wallah" was closed on Sunday.

So the ghats by daylight.

The burning ghat.

Wrapped bodies are carried through the streets on a stretcher. We followed one to find our way.

Government controlled, a funeral costs about NRP5,000 (around A$100). Wood is weighed. Sandalwood costs more. A few ashes are scattered by the relatives. The remaining ashes are for the untouchables to recover the gold.

Generally no women on the ghat. Some widows.

Somewhere in there is a hand propelled lift.
And more of those staples for inspection in daylight.
The Ganges is sacred.

Its also used for everything.

This is an Indian Laundry.

We walked along the ghats.
A bit of tlc for the water buffalo.
The cows and buffalo roam free.
Back at our River Palace campsite we were passed by a wedding procession.

Couldn't decide if the groom on the horse was happy or not.

Chitrakoot, Uttar Pradesh, India Week 139 November 25th - 28th 2013

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