Thursday, December 31st, 2015
It’s New Year’s Eve and we’re headed to the holiest city in India, Varanasi. We drove through the fog past a nasty looking fender bender involving several large cargo trucks before stopping to eat from the food vendors in a tiny town. The first thing we ate were these crispy, funnel cake-like pastries called Jalebi, which were a little too sweet for my liking. Then we grabbed some piping hot Chai which also made me feel like I was developing diabetes with each sip, but was too addictive to resist. My tummy got its fill after we found a vendor carrying a tasty, spicy chickpea and potato dish.
Jules advised us to try eating with our right hand, since in this culture the left hand is reserved for butt-wiping, something I shamefully, and secretly had experienced the day prior. Trevor and I are of the left-handed variety and after a brief attempt at eating the messy dish with the given stick utensil in our right, we eventually threw in the towel and hoped the locals weren’t too grossed out. I think it would look more disgusting if we had the food flung all up in our hair, dripping down his beard, and spattered across our shirts. You gotta pick your battles, ya know?
We grabbed a samosa which was much easier to eat with the opposing hand, and then Trevor joined Graham for a round of badminton with the locals. Graham had some serious skills! I was beyond impressed!
There were a number of odd sights along the drive to Varanasi. Fields of goats wearing coats. Weird headless straw scarecrows (my best guess). Piles of dried dung patties towering the landscape. Cow poo is used for fuel around here, by the way. We shared a giggle when we overheard a truck horn which sounded exactly like the intro to ESPN’s “Sports Center.” We stopped in the next town to get thali, several small dishes of food served together for lunch time. We ate a grubbing brown paneer dish, rice, Naan, soup and root vegetables.
Once again, during the trip to the bathroom, we were bombarded with locals wanting to get their photo with us. It was like being attacked by the paparazzi!
We waved goodbye to “our fans” and got back on the truck. We observed the children flying kites on the rooftops as we approached Varanasi, also called the “City of Light.” When most people think of India, Varanasi usually sets the scene in our minds. Chaotic and colorful. Dirty and overpowering. Staggering, yet charming.
We ended up staying at a very nice hotel called “Hotel Surya.” After settling in our rooms, we walked around with Bennie, Verena and an American named Jim to search for an ATM while being hassled by a rickshaw driver. Everyone in India is trying to make a buck, but walking is free.
After some lounging, we met up with everyone for dinner at the hotel. We chatted with Jules and Nick after ordering a couple of Karlsbergs. They got a kick out of the American slang term, “double fisting” which is used when you’re handling two alcoholic beverages at a time; one in each hand. This is a very ordinary and accepted term amongst American drinkers, but I totally get how it can sound like vulgar sexual innuendo to unfamiliar ears!
The four of us, plus the Germans, Aussies, and a few others followed up dinner with a trip to the bar for some light holiday celebrating.
There were many people dancing, or at least trying to dance, which made for some great entertainment.
I suppose all the driving around had gotten the better of us and no one wanted to miss out on tomorrow morning’s plans. Therefore, nobody stayed up past 11 pm. It would be quite the relaxed New Year’s Eve celebration.
Jump Ahead to Part 9: The Ganges, Monkeys with Guns, Cobras & Silk
Start from the Beginning at Part 1: Don’t Forget to Pack Your Anxiety