I'm on my 5th day here already!! In Benares and I'm having a blast. After having the initial blast of chaos for the first 2 days, we have settled into a fairly mellow routine of drink cup after cup of sweet chai (my dentist will be a millionaire when I get home sadly methinks...), sitting in Martin's friend Prem's amazing shop and having men pile scarf after silk sari after salwez kamis on me, and then having a delicious leisure snack somewhere then meandering down the Ghats to take in the action. Then having it all begin a few hours later. Jordi and his mother Gilly left on the 3rd, so it has been Martin, Penelope, and myself. Penelope has been feeling unwell so we've been taking it easy which has also been good for me. Her and I have done some serious damage though at Prem's shop, so I'm gonna have to ship it all home before I leave Varanasi. The whole gang spent the day at Sarnath on Monday which was the first place Buddha gave his sermon. Needless to say it was a very spiritual and holy place. We first visited an archeological museum and then hit the ruins. We also walked around the massive stupa (which used to house a bone of Buddha) 5X with a few Tibetan pilgrims....they walked around it 108 times and they were no spring chickens! That evening at the Mahikarnika Ghat we all sat with a sadhu at the adjoining temple who is on a starvation fast of going on 204 days now as a protest to clean up the Ganges. He is a very peaceful man with a wise face and gentle spirit, I hope that his wish is fulfilled in this lifetime.
Yesterday Martin and I walked for over 6 hours on a circular tour of Varanasi...we walked to the end of the city through villages over a wobbly bridge to the fort, then walked back along the silty shores of the Ganges to the other bridge across town. It was a really cool walk, I got a really good glimpse of the life here in Varanasi...including a disclaimer from Martin warning me that the last time he walked the silty shores he saw dogs ripping apart a body ....so prepare myself. We didn't see anything too horrible aside from a cow skeleton in the water, and even found a little clay Ganesh sculpture.
Martin is taking excellent care of me and Penny so I feel really blessed. This is a full on city, and I wouldfeel really lost without him. We have eaten like royalty, and met really interesting people. We visited the Hanuman temple on Monday which was a realy treat. Penelope and I took a cycle rickshaw to the temple where we were helped by the ever-learned Martin on the procedure to how to worship at the temple. It was a very powerful experience, and we all felt quite calm afterwards.
I think we are going to hear some live Indian music tonight...Penny and I are itching to hear some music. We've been playing Arabic music non-stop in our room and it's time for us to get out and have a proper listen.