INDIA 7

The next morning we set off thinking it would be a fairly easy day, oh how wrong you can be !, The first 110 kms went better than expected, this was the white roads on the map, most of it was tarmac and in pretty good condition too, but a lot of was only wide enough for one vehicle, with Indian driving this means whoever is smaller gets out of the way, as we are on motorbikes that usually means us, This is just one of the reasons why getting anywhere in India takes so long. Combine this with several stretches of road where the surface is so bad that you dare not ride above about 20-25 kph, despite all this the first section of our day was quite easy. Then just before we got to Rewa we joined the National Highway No 7, a nice big red road according to the map. Unfortunately from here the road got much worse, This is one of Indias main trunk roads and the condition of the road is hard to describe, Suffice to say it would be easier to ride a unicycle across a ploughed field than to ride the bikes on this bloody road.

A teastop on the way to Rewa, note the smooth tarmac at this point !!!
Having made our way though Rewa, which is a typical Indian town, i.e. total chaos with potholes everywhere, we started to look for the Maharaja Hotel, on a road like this it is difficult enough just trying to ride the bike, add to that looking for a hotel and life gets a bit uncomfortable, as you are looking for the hotel you disappear into a vast pothole, That heavier than air sensation you get when you start to fall unexpectedly, this is followed by the sudden impact of hitting the bottom of the hole, under these circumstances one might be expected to swear a bit, however this is not possible as all the wind in your body is exhaled and you feel your ribs tickle your hip bones as for a moment or two as you are turned inside out, Just as you start to recover your composure the bike crests the top of the hole and now you have got to cope with the wheelie, you are now praying that you don't land on the edge of another hole cause god knows what direction you will be going in after that. After several hours of riding on terrible roads we were getting tired, It was about 5 pm when we decided to ask as we rode out of a town called hanumana if there was a hotel in the town, we were told that there was not a Hotel but there was a Forestry Rest house, so we made our way there. Once we were through the gate we quickly found out that almost no one spoke any English, but after a quick chat with a fella who turned up shortly after we rode in through the gate to the rest house we found out that we could have room 2, but we had to wait for the forest officers to arrive, (Half of the population of the town was at the gates to the Forest rest house within a couple of minutes of our arrival). While we waited for the forest officers to arrive we were entertained by two local guys who spoke no English, one of them started to give the other a leg massage, once he had done that he decided that it must be Cliff's turn !!!. It only took a few minutes for ol two teeth to get to the bone cracking bit, after about twenty minutes of this Cliff finally got him to stop, It probably did him some good after the days riding but it did not feel like it at the time. God were we glad to see the Forest officers when they finally arrived.
Our hosts, the guy next to Cliff and the guy in the denim can speak English, the others are just observing us.
When the two Forest officers had arrived it quickly became obvious that we were not going to get much time for a wash and brush up, we were there guests and they were going to entertain us, this involves the consumption of too much alcohol and the eventual supply of hot boney chicken curry, (actually quite a result as most of the locals cannot afford to eat meat). As the evening progressed and the alcohol levels rose we discussed more and more important subjects, Iran, India, Britain, the Raj and of course War, this eventually lead us onto the subject of Pakistan, whilst we were in Pakistan we never found anybody who was openly hostile towards India, In fact most wanted the war and hostilities between the two countries to end, In India the opposite proved to be true, we found that most people were openly hostile towards Pakistan, there is no possibility of a reasoned debate on the subject of Pakistan with most Indians, Hinduism encourages people to be happy and helpful, and generally I would describe most Indians as very friendly people, but as on this night, it becomes extremely frustrating and bloody annoying to listen to some of the bullshit that these people belive, I can only assume that most Indians are like mushrooms, Fed bullshit. Anyway apart from the bullshit about Pakistan, we had a very good night here. The next morning the Forest Officers fail to show, (the result of too much Rum and Whisky I think !!), so we set of towards Varanasi, and in just a couple of kilometres the road started to improve, after about 10 kms we were on good smooth tarmac, unfortunately we still had to ride relatively slowly as there were still potholes the size of a moon crater lurking in the shadows of the trees just waiting to catch you unawares. Three hours later we are riding into Varanasi, we were totally lost in no time at all, Varanasi is a big city and it lacks anything of any importance that can be used as a reference point until you get close to the river and the area where the body burning Ghats are located, as a result it took two very frustrating hours to find the hotel.
The main Burning Ghat, three hours of fire and then you get swept into the river.
Varanasi was probably the dirtiest city that we visited on India, the ghat along the river are the main attraction for tourists, but for Hindu's it is the place to die, If you die here and you are burnt and swept into the river Ganges then you go to heaven, which means you don't have to have another go at living in India. I would like to say something nice about Varanasi but as I type this the only plus that I can think of was meeting Adrian and Sean again for a beer and a chat about old times, (It seems like ages ago that we last met them but it was only six weeks !!! ).
The muck on the steps is the ash and remains which were washed down after the burning of a body, below the steps is the river !!!, it looks like tarmac in the photo but it is the dirtiest river that I have ever seen
We got up at five o clock in the morning to do the river cruise at dawn and a tour of the best sites that Varanasi has to offer, according to the world health organization the river Ganges has 250,000 times the safe level of shit in the river, but people not only come here to bath and pray in the mornings, they also clean their teeth using the river water, We would not dip a toe into this water. Afterwards we visited the Monkey Temple an a couple of other places before returning to the hotel, after three days here it was time to head for the Indian border and Nepal.
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