Highlights from a Vagabond’s Motorcycle Wanders of India

It goes without saying that India is a massive country. In 3 months, I got to explore only one strip of it, traveling West to East, sticking largely to the North. I hope to return some day and travel the country more extensively but, for now, here are the highlights from the areas I was fortunate enough to have visited.

In the hills around Uttarkashi. Photo by Peter Philips

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Wandering the Ghats of Varanasi III (of III)

Backdated from March 29 – April 03

Lassis are an Indian staple. They’re a drink made by blending yogurt with water, and can be served sweet or savory, mixed with sugar, spices or fruit. The best ones will be mixed with a bit of milk, and topped with a thin layer of clotted cream. And the best I’ve had in all of India are to be found in Varanasi, at the Blue Lassi in Kachauri Gali.

The Blue Lassi – best in all of India

One of the Blue Lassi’s few workers setting up for the day. As the shop is a 3rd generation family business, you’re likely to see the same faces milling around each day you drop by.

Here the drinks are piled high with fresh fruits, shaved coconut, coffee or cocoa powder, or combinations of all the above (Because we are living IN THE FUTURE, you can even pop over to youtube to watch a lassi being made here). A personal favorite of mine was the chocolate banana. For the adventurous, ‘special’ (wink wink) lassis are also available. Perhaps don’t ask for them too loudly, though.

This particular evening I went with a chocolate blackberry (which turned out to actually be dark grapes), while Pete chose chocolate banana coconut. Our bellies filled with yogurty goodness, we made our way down to the river to hire a boat. On the night’s agenda was to watch the Ganga Aarti ceremony at Dasaswamedh Ghat. Continue reading

Wandering the Ghats of Varanasi II (of III)

Backdated from March 29 – April 03

One day isn’t nearly enough to take in all of the myriad sights and sounds of Varanasi’s ghats. So I decide to take another.

When I reach the pyres of Manikarnika this time I instead bank left. My Lonely Planet map tells me there isn’t much to see North of the main burning ghat but I decide to test the truth of that claim for myself.

It’s certainly less bustling up this end, and I don’t run into any other tourists walking along the stairs. But there’s still a pretty rich collection of sights along the upper ghats and the walk towards the Northern bridge is far from dull.

Well, that’s just poor planning.

I walk past a man helping his friend to fold freshly laundered bedsheets, a pair of blue undies wrapped around his head like some bizarre, miniature turban. Laundry in the Ganges has been a constant source of wonder to me since arriving in Varanasi; I fail to understand how you can, in a river teeming with trash, waste and ash, somehow manage to get your clothes to become cleaner. And yet, from North to South, the area lining the Ganges is filled with sheets and saris drying on the ghat steps, or hanging to blow in the wind, their vibrant colors somehow magically unspoiled by the surrounding dust, dirt and floating river debris. Continue reading

Wandering the Ghats of Varanasi

Backdated from March 29 – April 03

Varanasi’s a great city to get lost in. Which is a good thing since, given the twisting labyrinth of narrow lane-ways that pass for streets in the blocks leading down to the Ganges, you’re bound to spend a lot of your time doing just that. Whether intentionally or no.

Inside the narrow, twisting alleys of Varanasi.

Actually, getting lost in the lane-ways was the very first thing we did upon arrival in this ancient city. After getting one of the bikes unstuck after a failed attempt at a U-turn (not recommended) we pulled them to the side of the ‘road’ as much as was possible so Pete could head off with a helpful local to locate our hostel. In the meantime, I attracted the usual number of odd looks being a woman riding an Enfield typically yields. Children find me fascinating. Women find me hilarious.

Much later, as I spotted Pete walking back up the dusty alley towards me, I had a moment. For a short instant I felt oddly displaced; the diverse bustle of people still exotic to me, the unfamiliar scents of unknown spices and something about the way the rare sunbeam filtered down to illuminate the scene brought to mind a scene out of a film shot in some far-off location. I began thinking about what I’d learned of Buddhism, particularly about objects not actually being anything static, but becoming whatever impressions we attach to them. In that moment, that scene had the flavor of travel and adventure as we view it in movies – something we walk through as opposed to become a part of. Continue reading