Out of lots of memorable experiences in India, this place provided another set. Where to start?
Our arrival at the delicious Ganges View hotel was not as we had expected……….the usual welcome drink and scented towel……. we past a variety of street stalls and grazing cattle, through a maze of alleyways to what was the back entrance to the hotel. The reason soon became apparent as we looked down the stairwell of the hotel to the ground floor’s indoor pool courtesy of the overflowing Ganges River. Looking out from the beautiful hotel with its numerous terraces, gardens and art works, we could see the extent to which the river had flooded. What would normally have been the street from which to enter, was under at least a metre of swollen river, water buffalo were tethered in the water further up the street.
We were due to go on a boat trip to view the aarti (nightly ceremony on the steps leading down to the river), however the government had banned this practice due to the height of the river, although there were several illegals operating over the course of the day…….no water police here. Instead wemwentnon two walking tours of the old city along the ghats. Led by Mayenk, a young, local film maker, we explored frequent, busy, noisy, wonderful, alley ways, tasting the chai and local sweets. His tour interwove the histories, personalities and stories of the region. Two highlights of the day were the visit to the congested flower market and the evening aarti on the Assi ghat adjacent to the hotel. The ceremony consisted of ringing bells, clanging cymbals, the blowing of a conch shell and the swinging fire pot in all directions, chanting, offerings of flower petals, before the worshippers descended to the steps to bless themselves at the holy Ganges and float lighted offerings on the river.
You can get a sense of the road mayhem from the you tube link below, HOWEVER the tuk tuk ride back to the hotel in the evening was a cross between a roller coaster and ghost train ride at a theme park!!!!! UNBELIEVABLE……..vehicles, pedestrians, animals moving in all directions, filling spaces that don’t exist, at the last moment stopping and weaving to avoid a collision.