Tuesday, November 3

60 curries, 42 cups of masala chai, 10 temples, three road accidents, two courses of delhi-belly antibiotics and zero tigers later....

And India is still as endearing as ever. Our two week tour of Northern India culminated in Varanasi, one of the most spiritually important towns in the country. Varanasi, located on the mighty Ganges river, is a place where you can see every aspect of life, all of which are played out on the ghats along the river. We took dusk and dawn boat rides along the ghats witnessing the pollution, ritual bathing, washing of clothes, pumping of water, arti ceremonies and cremation of the dead.

We found it difficult to comprehend how a river so religiously venerated by the locals has been allowed to become so dirty. If it is true that the water of Ganga will wash away your sins then there must be a lot of sinners bathing in the river. However we have been told that if you believe in its powers the water (despite its bacteria content being way over the acceptable limit) won't harm you and this must be true for the Hindu believers. It's just one of the many contradictions we've come across.

In Varanasi we also took pleasure in seeing the latest bollywood release - 'London Dreams'. Funnily enough it was about an Indian band trying to make it big in London, and it was set there. The drama, exaggeration and unrealistic storyline were amusing but the music and and acting were entertaining.

On Sunday we had our last dinner with Ruby before we hopped on an overnight A/C 3-berth sleeper train to Delhi. It would have been a pleasant experience were it not for what must have been the loudest snorer in India sharing our berth! Still we made it in good time to Delhi to fetch our bags from the hotel and head to the airport. After a three hour flight and 1 hour taxi ride we arrived at our accommodation in Forth Kochin. If the laid-back feel of this town and the yummy two-course silver service meal for the equivalent 10 pounds we had last night is anything to go by we will be having a good time in Southern India!

Today we are shopping around for a Kerala backwater boat cruise from Alleppey to Kumarakom. From there we are aiming for the hill town of Kumily from where we hope to see some of the wildlife at the Periyar National Park. Then it's on to Trivanjur, Pondicherry, Mamallapuram and finally Chennai.

We're both also getting really excited about being back in NZ soon and catching up with everyone!

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