Our last few days at the beach were marred for Gerard by the appearance of not one, but a total of six snakes near the edge of the water, either dead or just hanging on to life. To top it all, a particularly large black one, managed to slither back into the water very much alive. Despite his horror of snakes, Gerard was big enough to still come swimming with me but he wasn’t too relaxed about it. I knew he would have preferred to back in our room writing.
Our friends from Prague almost didn’t come because Kryztina has an even bigger fear of snakes than Gerard. She’d seen the picture of a snake lying on the sand in our last blog entry and said, “That’s it! We’ll see them in Varanasi.”
But Karel managed to persuade her and they made the four-hour journey from Agonda to visit us for a day and a half. Karel loved Shiroda but for Kryztina it was a little too quiet and primitive. She still enjoys the social activity of Agonda.
On Sunday, we had our last swim. An unusually large crowd of young men were clowning in the water, played cricket on the sand. A group insisted on taking pictures with us and for a laugh persuaded Gerard to put on a pair of outsize blue sunglasses. Not Gerard’s style! In a society where men and woman grow up largely apart, even after marriage, they appear to prefer their own sex for company. Of course, this is a huge generalization.
Early on Monday morning, our three weeks were up and it was time to make the long trek to the airport with car and driver to fly to Varanasi. While we were eating breakfast on the porch, Martin’s wife and daughter, Pearl, arrived from Mumbai. They’d come on the overnight bus for the weekend and seemed amazingly fresh. After hearing Martin talk about his family, it was good to put a face to their names. It was hard parting from Martin. Sad to be leaving, and already missing his fine cooking, I mentioned that we needed him to come with us and continue making our meals.. Martin laughed and said his wife had already made the same comment!
After a long day of dealing with airports (we flew to Delhi, then connected a couple of hours later for a second flight), we arrived in Varanasi. It was like flying into Delhi on our first visit to India 40 years ago. Arriving after dark we disembarked on the tarmac and walked several hundred yards to the terminal. The smell of India hit us…smoky, earthy, tinged with incense. Uniquely India. With some hassle, we found a taxi and bargained the driver down to a reasonable price but not fully confident that he knew where he was going. Then driving deeper into the heart of Varanasi, we hit the traffic – a huge crush of large cars, rickshaws, motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians, not to mention the odd cow. At times, hemmed in by vehicles we were unable to move at all. As we got nearer the Ghats, the main road was completely shut off for vehicles and we had to weave through narrow back streets, the driver continually stopping and ask directions. Finally, almost two hours later, we reached our destination, walking through the door to see our friendly guesthouse manager, Sanjeev, and his perpetual smile. Gerard said, “We are never coming in from the airport again.”