I remember thinking that the “real” adventurous part of our trip began when we left Europe. At the time,
climbing a mountain in Africa, traveling through China for six weeks, and trekking in Nepal seemed like the epitome
of adventure. I won’t discount those destinations and activities, as they certainly provided moments of challenge,
intrigue, and mystique. But we’ve been in India less than an hour and already we have witnessed three
collisions---one between a bicycle and a motorcycle, one between a bicycle-rickshaw and a bicycle and the last
one involving a small child being knocked off a bike by a taxi, motorcycle or bicycle-rickshaw. There was such a
cluster of moving vehicles that I really couldn’t tell who hit who or what.  Even more shocking was the
nonchalance displayed by the child’s two older brothers (all three were all riding on the same bicycle). Rather than
yell at whoever ran into their little, defenseless brother with reckless abandon, they simply looked both ways and
darted in the swarming mass of traffic to retrieve their brother off the ground and throw him back on the bike
between the two of them.
    Combine that scene with the dust flying
up from the unpaved, or sometimes
partially paved, road, the constant honking
of horns and a fair number of cows, goats
and buffaloes wandering around and you
have my first glimpse of India. As sweat
dripped down my face inside our
air-conditionless taxi I had to pinch myself
to be sure I had not been transported
back in time. Where were the internet
cafes, coffee shops and cafes that made
their way into every other tourist
destination no matter how far off the
beaten path they were? Instead the roads
here were lined with ancient wooden
wagons overflowing with fruit being
pushed by barefoot men dressed in no
more than a piece of cloth wrapped around
their body. In the midst of all this chaos
darted scores of bone-thin, dust-streaked
children laughing and skipping, oblivious to
the startling scene that caused me to catch
my breath.
A typical street scene in India--complete with cows, scooters, and carts
    A few seconds later our taxi rolled to a stop in this mayhem. The road ahead which led into the Old City was
too narrow for cars to pass and therefore we were left to navigate the remaining distance to our hotel on foot. I
stepped out of the safe confines of our taxi, strapped on my backpack and followed Jarrod into the prehistoric
maze of narrow alleys that make up Varanasi’s Old City.

   We eventually made it to our hotel. I won’t bore you with the details, but it’s sufficient to say there was a lot
of map consulting, a fair bit of backtracking, and tons of saying “no” to hotel touts eager to take us to one of
their hotels in order to receive a fat commission. We elected to eat dinner at our hotel’s restaurant rather than
venture out in the dark again. As we sat down to enjoy a relaxing meal the silence was pierced by what would
become an all too familiar sound in India. A firecracker exploded no more than a few feet from our hotel. This ear-
piercing and body rattling activity continued throughout dinner broken up only by soft, melodious music coming
from a gentleman playing the sitar in the corner (a sitar is an instrument similar to a guitar). He was obviously
from India as the firecrackers didn’t faze him a bit.

   Overwhelmed by the sights, smells and sounds of our first day in India we made our way back to our hotel
room. Through the open interior courtyard of our hotel we could see the staff of the hotel rolling out their
sleeping mats in the lobby of the hotel. While the hotel owner and his family retreated to a wing of the hotel that
served as their home, the staff simply slept under and around the reception desk. The next morning we would
have to creep over their slumbering bodies to make it out of the hotel. This was their everything—the place they
worked, where they ate, where they lived, where they slept.
    I suddenly remembered a
conversation I had with a local man a
few days ago in Nepal. Upon learning
that Jarrod and I were going to
spend a month in India he raised his
eyebrows in mock horror and began
furiously scribbling something on a
scrap of paper lying in front of him. I
watched as he wrote the word INDIA
vertically on a piece of paper. He
proceeded to tell me that he lived in
India for three years and traveled
throughout the entire country, from
Delhi to Varanasi to Goa. He said
after three years he came up with the
following anagram to describe his
time in India. I-I’ll, N-never, D-do, I-it,
A-again. This, coupled with the wild
scenes we witnessed in our first few
hours in the country, gave me reason
to question the sanity of our plan to
spend the next month here. But
rather than anxiety, I was filled with
The autorickshaw, one of the most popular forms of transportation in India.
anticipation. I looked forward to experiences we would have in the next few weeks. We climbed into our
bug-proof sleep sheets and knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the next month would be non-stop
adventure in every sense.
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Welcome to India
Temples and Ghats on the Varanasi River
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