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29may07

Hi, Well after a 31 hour jeep, train and the most hair-raising auto rickshaw journey we finally got into Varanasi.

We left Darjeeling at 12 midday and got to the train station at 3.30pm nice and early for our train which was leaving at 5.30pm..... or so we thought!!!! In actual fact after many delay updates it left at 9.30pm, so already it was 4 hours late. We fought through the THRONGS of people, found our carriage, and boarded our train and found our beds for the night.

In 2 tier AC class there are little curtained off compartments of groups of 6 berths, stacked one on top of the other - we were sleeping in 2 of these. Well, if you could call it sleeping!!!! One man snored SO loudly I could have sworn there was a PIG on board!!!! Well I was woken at 4am by his animal like noises - i was SO ANGRY. I lay there trying to block out the horrific snorts by putting my hands over my ears, a pillow over my head, but nothing worked.

In the end I got up out of my bed, put on my shoes and went in search of the guilty assailant. When I found him I pulled back his curtain and knocked firmly on his head to awaken him!!! He looked up very dazed and confused. I asked him kindly but firmly to please be quiet. When he looked at me confused I realised he couldn’t understand me, so a firm SSHHHH did the trick. Funny enough, I didn't hear from him for the rest of the night, although during the next day when he was safe in the company of his awaken family he did grab half an hour or so's snorting!!

WE were meant to be off the train 15 hours after we boarded, 8am . Instead we were on there till 6pm the following night - 25 hours after!!!! The day passed slowly as simon and i hid in our little curtained off 2 berth just staring at the sights out of the window. Honestly, sights they were. The locals just wee directly onto the track from the platform. So we sat at each station trying to not look at them weeing onto the tracks!! There was an infestation of cockroaches on the train as well. They were crawling all around us!!! Up the walls, around our heads, over our beds - It all sounds really quite horrific, but I must admit we both really took it in our stride.

There was a big argument and shouting match (we've seen a few of these revolving around trains and train stations) further down our carriage. Turns out that one local guy was so horrified with the state of the carriage (apparently it's not usually quite as bad as this - so we had a BAD train for Indian standards) that he complained. He wrote a letter of complaint and got all the passengers to sign it.

So we rolled in to the train station just outside of Varanasi at 6pm and then had to travel 15kms. We got in an auto rickshaw (tuk-tuk) for this. WELL, Simon and I had our eyes closed for most of this journey!!! You know the latest James Bond movie has a rickshaw chase through the streets of Bangkok ?? Well our driver was the driver from this movie _ i'm SURE of it!!! We swerved in and out of the throngs of traffic, nearly kneecapped several cyclists and narrowly dodged several lorries and cars!! It was one scary ride.

We got to our hotel at 7pm, 31 hours after leaving darjeeling - Great Fun !!!!!! Varanasi is on the banks of the Ganges river and is said to be the most holy place in India. Thousands of Indians come daily to bathe in the holy waters of the river Ganges. too bad that there are over thirty sewage inlets into the river as well. there are over 1.5 million faecal bacteria found in one 100ml sample of water - to be safe for swimming there should be less than 500. it's very interesting though - seeing the people pray at the side of the water and bathe etc etc. We've only properly seen it this morning and that was a brief walk as it is over 40 degrees here !!!!

Our hotel room overlooks the river so if the weather proves too fierce then we can always watch all the goings on from our nice air conditioned room!! Well, we shall go out and brave the heat now, more to follow soon.

Lots of love wendy