Friday, March 3, 2017
I can’t get enough of India’s chaotic, off-the-wall traffic.
I decided this earlier today, as our mini-bus weaved in and out of the traffic from Farakka and approached the Farakka Barrage. We sped past trucks, weaved around motorcyclists, dodged carts pulled by oxen, narrowly missed livestock and dogs, and had close calls with pedestrians.
If the actual ride is something like a race course, the passing scenery is downright amazing. Every town and village you pass holds an indescribable array of characters, buildings, cars and scenes. I took photos as fast as I could out of the car window, and I couldn’t keep up. While some guests found the incessant noise and the honking of horns to be an irritant, I found it exhilarating. A simple drive from Point A to Point B is guaranteed to be absolutely insane, and I loved every minute of it.
Days on India’s Ganges River with G Adventures aboard the Varuna begin in a relaxed fashion. Tea, coffee and biscuits are served in the Saloon at 0630, followed by breakfast at 0730. Morning excursions typically begin at 0830, with some returning to the ship for lunch at 1300. Others, like our tour today, include lunch at a local restaurant.
Breakfast is fairly standard, with Western favorites like bacon and omelettes mixed in with a smattering of Indian delicacies. Fruit juice is offered along with tea and coffee and water, all of which is safe for Westerners to drink. The ship also makes some incredibly good toast, served warm in a basket and wrapped in a little blanket of sorts. It’s got the consistency of corn bread but tastes like white bread. Pair it with the sharp-tasting chutney on the table; the equivalent of an Indian marmalade.
Because we arrived late last night, I didn’t get a good look at our ship. It was only this morning that I realized our ship isn’t called Varuna at all. Instead, it is the MV Sukapha. Assam Bengal Navigation Company’s website shows no Varuna, and I can’t find much in the way of reference to her elsewhere. It could be that Varuna is easier for guests to pronounce than Sukapha. I don’t know. For sake of clarity, I’m going to continue to refer to her as the Varuna throughout these reports, as that’s what G Adventures calls her.
At 130 feet in length, she’s got a haphazard exterior profile that only a mother could love. On the inside, however, she’s immensely cozy and comfortable. Don’t let appearances scare you away. Built in 2006, she carries 24 guests in 12 cabins. She has three passenger decks (counting the sun deck), and all passenger accommodations are clustered on Deck 2.
At 0830 we set out on our day’s tour to the town of Guar, with its numerous stone and brick monuments that stand as a reminder of India’s rich, storied history. Guar is also sometimes known as Gour, Gauda, and Lakhnauti, which makes it constantly baffling as to where you are (and where to look in your guidebook).
But it is here, next to a small, dusty village, that the ancient city of…Guar…exists. Remains of the walled city are still visible, as are the city’s historic entrance gates, all of which are built with red bricks that have a decidedly Mars hue to them.
This region is over 300 kilometres north of Kolkata, and we had to drive for roughly 90 minutes from our ship, docked near the Farakka barrage, to reach the site. The journey, however, was well worth it, and G Adventures provided a comfort stop with refreshments at a local resort en-route, where we would later return to enjoy our local lunch.