After two super noisy nights I am so very tired with dark circles under my eyes. Yet I’m still happy and enjoying life. As I left the hotel one of the kids gifted me with a bracelet. Breakfast was hard to find until I decided to head to the local train station where a few food carts were open. I picked one and proceeded to eat my fill. Once I was done, I handed over 100r (AU$1.95), not confident I’d get much back. To my surprise I was handed back a 50r note and coins.

The ride was not too interesting. I stopped three times for food and again I was shown the courtesy of being charged local prices for everything. I became so used to battling for a normal price in Kolkata that I now expect to be ripped off everywhere I go. I am glad to say that I am now being forced to change my mind and accept that not all Indians are money-grabbing opportunists. I was even invited for tea and sweets by a shop owner with whom I struggled through some basic conversation.

Around 4pm I hit the mighty Ganges at Raj Ghat. My ride into Varanasi had been easy and the Ghat was a peaceful area. I had envisioned colour, chaos and filth, but Raj Ghat was calm, uncrowded and pleasant. Families were enjoying a nice Sunday afternoon. Kids were flying kites. A small crowd gathered around me but I wasn’t hounded at all. I descended a few stairs and rode along the promenade with the hope I could ride all the way along the Ganges, but more stairs forced me to turn around and abandon this plan. I entered the busy traffic and headed south in search of the guesthouse I’d been recommended by three Brazilians in Lumbini. As I rode through the city I couldn’t help feeling that Varanasi was not living up to its reputation. Based on what I’d been told about the place, I expected my senses and sensibilities to be abused, and I expected to be attacked by people wanting to part me with my money. All I saw was pleasant city life with absolutely everyone going about their usual business without a care in the world about a guy on a bicycle. I grew wary when I was approached twice by locals but each time they simply asked if I needed help with directions. I therefore easily found the guesthouse where I was given a room with a giant bed and attached bathroom (with good WIFI) and a really nice rooftop area with views of the Ganges, for 300r (AU$5.90). I checked in, had a wash and then caught up with internet-based demands (having not had any access since Lumbini).

Soon I was hungry enough to abandon my phone and head into the night for food. I walked for a while until I was attracted by an unsigned hole-in-the-wall place where I got a big meal for 40r (AU$0.80). Bargain! I continued walking and stopped at a roadside stall for another meal. It seems that Varanasi is going to remain as cheap as the small non-touristy towns I have been passing through. I’m very curious about what the city is like around the famous ghats because so far I’ve just experienced a nice, not-too-busy, totally un-confronting place.

Leaving my hotel to start the day

Accommodation $ Guesthouse
Distance ridden today 104.75km
Average cycling speed 17kph
Total distance ridden 16,951km