The Ganges, Allahbad Station and no Tiger Safari
After the wonderful and mesmerising journey down the The Ganges in Varanasi we were bundled into 2 cars and driven off for our next adventure: another boat ride down The Ganges and camping on the banks a lot further out of Varanasi. After driving for about 2 hours, bumping off road down tracks to tiny villages that had water pumps rather than running water in their houses, we saw the river and the boats. They were 4 row boats covered with pillows, mattresses blankets and sun shades, they did look lovely. Much to my surprise we rowed up the river and anchored ourselves and lunch was served, curry passed between the four boats, masala chai tea served piping hot all created on the kitchen boat – magic!
At our lunch spot we noticed something leaping out of the water, but always too quick to see exactly what it was… we carried on watching hoping for a glimpse it looked like a small dolphin, there can’t be dolphins in The Ganges I thought, it’s a river and surely it isn’t deep enough, but they were dolphins! Not the same as the ones I saw in New Zealand or the kind I saw swimming in the Tay but dolphins all the same. My camera had almost run out of battery at this point so I didn’t even attempt to take photos, knowing how hard they are to actually capture on camera. http://worldwildlife.org/species/ganges-river-dolphin
On the boat there wasn’t much to look at on either of the banks, the water was very calm and we just gently rocked for hours, dozing in the sun. After about 6 hours, it started to get dark and the people rowing looked a bit anxious about where our destination was. Over the course of the day our group separated and we could hardly see another boat along the stretch of the river. It was a really hot day and I just felt uncomfortable lounging around on this boat while the rowers were working so hard. It just felt like, us white people flaunting our money and these poor Indian ‘boys’ rowing and rowing and have to it all again the next day as it was their living. As we eventually arrived at the camp site/ sand bank, the rowers then pitched our tents, not wanting us to help and erected a large tent where we could all sit. Dinner was served and it was delicious- lovely vegetable soup and curry, but with pasta and chips. I cheered at the chips. They were excellent, cut from potatoes and cooked fresh on the boat, yum! After our dinner we lay out under the stars and I saw my first shooting star!! It was a great night, laughing and getting to know each other a lot better.
Before my camera died I did manage to take this picture of the sunset.
The next day waking up early to row further along the river to be met by a private bus to take us to Allahbad train station. Again driving through tiny remote villages, with no running water, old fashioned machines and equipment that reminded me of my granny’s shop, that she used in WW11. I began to cry, I felt so ashamed, so helpless and so sad for these poor people. Not wanting to cause to much attention, sunglasses covering my wet eyes, I carried on looking out the window, feeling horrible. I spoke to one of my new friends, needing frivolous conversation, because my tears weren’t going to change the situation. ‘What did you want to be when you grew up?’ ‘If you were a superhero what would your superpower be?’ after a few of these questions, I was asked if I was ok, I explained and he said, but look at how happy these people are, and he was right, smiling, talking and not looking stressed or worried like I ‘thought’ they should. It doesn’t change the situation, but it does make it easier to cope, to look at their faces and see their smiles.
Arriving into Allahbad, it was heaving. Kumbh Mela had just finished and the people were dispersing many by train, like us. We had to walk for about 1km in crowds mainly in single file along the road side to reach the station. At the entrance I spotted a man, all dressed in orange lying stiff with his eyes open, not blinking. I was shocked,Ithought he was dead. I saw the security guards, poke him with their batons and he didn’t move… he is dead. I began to cry, I couldn’t hold it back. This man looked homeless, who else would cry for him, would anyone actually notice. I just felt that everything was so unfair. I couldn’t get the man’s face out of my head, I just kept seeing his wide open eyes.
I wasn’t at my finest, having cried twice in one day, we boarded the train. Sitting in our compartment was me and the other young girls from our group all having a good chat. Getting up to go to the toilet I had to push past 5 young men who stood outside our compartment in the aisle just staring. Coming back they were still there, they stayed staring so long, we closed the curtains, this didn’t deter them, they’d walk past catching the curtain and swinging it out so they could look some more. We started to feel uncomfortable and our tour guide stepped in, speaking to the men and a small fight broke out in the vestibule. Eventually the men were ejected off the train but our guide had hit his knee on one of the metal poles during the kerfuffle, it was very swollen and sore. I am very grateful to our guide who protected us as he was worried that the men were looking to steal our bags as they didn’t have tickets and seats so they could jump off the train at any stop.
After all the travel we spent the night near Bandhavgarh Tiger Park where we were due to go on a safari in the morning and the following morning. It was during the afternoon of the first day at the Tiger Park that I heard that the dead man wasn’t actually dead!! One of the group members, a police constable said that she watched him, thinking he was dead and he had moved once the guards had left him… he was pretending, THANK GOODNESS for that!! I was so relieved, the previous night I’d closed my eyes to sleep and all I saw was his face. Phew so glad he was actually alive.
Getting up very early we were out by sunrise, best time to spot tigers apparently. However we didn’t see any and none again the following day, we could hear a roar but no tigers appeared. However I did see loads of lovely Grey Langur monkeys.
And a stork
Loads of spotted deer and a few Samba deer
plus wild bore and a Jackal that I couldn’t get a picture of.
We were lucky enough to see a rare Sloth bear, but not lucky enough to see tigers only their foot prints, someone suggested that maybe the park staff went out with a stamp to mark tiger foot prints!
Also the red faced Rhesus Monkeys
I did stumble across a few other monkeys
With all the free time the group bonded really well round the pool back at our hotel.