Date: 8 May
Location: a sand island, the Ganges, Uttar Pradesh
Notable sightings: dolphins in the Ganges!
Showers enjoyed in the last few days: nil.
Right before sundown our three little boats emptied out onto a long sandbar-like island in the middle of the Ganges. We were shipwrecked.
The wiry Indian men who had spent the day rowing us (and our hefty luggage) down the river in the white hot sunshine, handing us cans of coke on demand, piled out right behind us and set up a ground sheet and covered it with rugs and pillows and bamboo fans. We added an iPod and Bluetooth speaker. We were shipwrecked maharanis. Listening to Jimmy Buffet's The Piña Colada Song.
(Snarky interlude: After setting up our tiny “two man” tents”, the crew and the boys played beach cricket. The Terrific Texan went down sliding for a catch, squealing in pain. I may have rolled by eyes but, if so, no one saw so it doesn't count. He insisted upon being carried by the crew to our girl castle/the central groundsheet and deposited in our midst (breaking our hair braiding circle), then upon the tour leader inspecting his groin (awkward for everyone). Whilst Texas was claiming that he had tunnel vision, moaning and rolling — despite instructions to keep still — and generally being dramatic, our tour leader made it clear that he had to decide whether he needed to go to hospital ASAP as the sun was dropping and we were just off centre in the middle of nowhere. The histrionics continued. Cutting a long, loud story short, a boat came for him and he was taken away for the three hour drive to Varanasi in pitch black. Spoiler alert: he'd sprained a muscle and was dehydrated again. Honestly.)
Meanwhile Roommate and I, egged on by the others and the crew, decided to take a holy dunk in the River Ganges. Hindus believe that its waters have the ability to cleanse your sins. So we took a long dip, head under and everything. The consensus is that if we're going get a hideous waterborne disease we'll know within the following 12 hours. The experience was given a certain je ne sais quoi by the young crew watching us from the sand, speaking loudly and quickly in Hindi, but taking care to drop in the word 'crocodile' a lot. Jokes. I think.
The sun went spectacularily down over the Ganges around 8pm and the fourth boat, our floating kitchen, worked miracles. Including French fries. The tired crowd was well pleased. From across the river, drumbeats started up and fireworks exploded. A festival of some sort.
Later, we drooped one by one to our tents. Most of us were to resurface at some point during the night to the central harem, choosing to fight the battle against creepy crawlies rather than the close humidity of the tent, under the star-studded sky.
I woke up when the sun insisted at dawn. The drummers from the out of sight village were still at it. But we'd survived the night, for once it was almost cool and the crew were handing around tin cups of scalding masala chai so life was rosy.