Friday, January 16, 2009
It took 5 working days to process the Indian visa in Kathmandu. After a 22 hour journey from The Du I am in a rather swanky hotel in Varanasi, one of the major spiritual Hindu centres in India.
Bordering the sacred River Ganges, Hindu pilgrims descend from all over India to bathe or be cremated. People fully submerge or even drink this septic water-source – literally, there is no dissolved oxygen. Samples taken from the river show that it has 1.5 million faecal coliform per 100ml of water for there are thirty sewage pipes flow directly from the city. In water safe for bathing this figure should be less than 500! There are about 400 million people live along it´s basin and water-borne diseases run rampant where villagers use water from the river.
Fortunately the Indian government have finally started to take note of “The Great Mother”. Large new treatment areas right by the riverbank are being constructed; huge pink cylindrical towers decorated with Shiva and Parvati painted on! International agencies have been asked to further develop the clean-up programme.
My first visit to Varanasi was almost 20 years ago! On that trip at the start of the monsoon, babies were floating down the river and I was even unlucky enough to see a starving dog gnawing at a dead baby next to a rubbish tip. Outrageous!
Despite entering with a visa, I fear I am an illegal immigrant as my passport remains unstamped by Indian immigration; Sunauli (the main Nepal/India land border crossing) was really disorientating and I was unable to locate it! I see troublesome bureaucracy ahead.
Tomorrow morning I head to some Buddhist teaching on death and i finally get to ketchup with K. after six long weeks.
Some pictures of Varanasi can be found at http://picasaweb.google.com/aubreygroves67/Varanasi