Running late for the Hindu sunset ceremony we completely missed it, not realising that it only lasted for 10-15 minutes. Narji our guide however generously spent an hour talking about some of the 3000ish Hindu gods, helping us to try and understand what the colourful Hindu idols represented. All of the gods had dramatic stories associated with them and some life lessons. I really enjoy taking the time to gain a deeper understanding of why people hold certain beliefs and even on this very preliminary venture into Hinduism I see now how the stories (some perhaps 4000 years old) hold similar messages to those I have grown up with in the Bible.
Dinner was lots of fun with our fellow group members, revitalising the age old debate – ninjas versus pirates, and also a 50 rupee wager on whether the Hindu and Nazi swastika were the same or different. The final verdict was the the Hindu swastika can be either clockwise or anticlockwise, so it in fact can be the same or different. Many of us had been informed over the years that it was the opposite direction to that of the Nazi swatsticer, however apparently this is not the case, much to Andrew’s disappointment (it was his 50 rupee).
Yesterday we started the day with some “white” water rafting. There was some white water, however the rapids never were any more challenging than grade two, so this was more like a scenic cruise down the river. It allowed us to see the surrounding countryside, palaces and temples for a different perspective. We had a great time getting saturated and bouncing around in the boat. We reached an area where one of the kings had created a dam wall which made a nice swimming area, a couple of the guys took the opportunity to have a swim, we were pretty drenched already. Following chai and a snack we headed back to the hotel to dry off and for a long lunch (to celebrate our fellow group members birthday).
In the afternoon we headed off to a cooking class for India vegetarian cuisine, meeting up with another group going the opposite direction to us. The hostess was a lovely lady who made it all look so easy. I have my eyes open for an India spice box now. The onlookers were nervous watching little children dance around while their mother was cooking with hot oil. It makes you realise how safety/health messages have become so engrained in our culture.
Following the cooking class we took a late night auto rickshaw ride to the train station. It was freezing! We had some relief from the cold wind blowing through the rickshaw when we stopped at a level crossing for 15 minutes for a train that finally did pass us by.
The overnight sleeper train rocked me to sleep like a baby, though I had a far more spacious top bunk with only a single bed below, compared to the others like Andy three levels of bunks! It was probably the best night sleep I have had in a week, however it was rudely interrupted when we had to wake up at 6.30am to depart the train.
I now find myself on a bus driving to the launching point of our sailing trip along India’s most holy river the Ganges. We have made one crossing, up stream from where we will be setting off, here three tributaries enter the Ganges. From the bridge we looked down to thousands of colourful tents, where pilgrims had come to wash in their holy river.