It was Christmas day, 2015, when I embarked on a journey to sail down the Ganges. The idea was a great one. Like who else was spending Christmas, sailing down what I was told was the holiest of rivers. Usually Christmas at home was spent huddled inside ,to escape the cold and snow. But no, not this year. This year there was no snow. There was no ice. I was wearing a T-shirt. Life was GOOD
So the game plan was simple start sailing from Allahabad to Rajpura. When it got dark, bring the boat to shore, set up camp, sleep in a tent, wake up and finish the transit and get to Rajpura safely. For those of you who are not quite sure what I wrote, the answer is YES, we literally camped in the middle of no where, on the bank of the Ganges River. Cause we sure as hell weren’t going to continue sailing in the middle of the night. NOOOOO Thank You.
As the bus brought us through a small village in Allahabad, to get to where the boats were. We quickly saw a bunch of kids start to follow us. It seems the sight of a bus with foreigners is not something these people see very often. Soon the shouts of the children got louder as more and more children and adults alike left their small homes and joined us on our way to the shore. As we got off the bus everyone was trying to say hello, how are you in the little english they knew. Some were asking us to take pictures of them or asking to take pictures with us. It was scene I was not really used to, but something I eventually accepted here in India. I ended up taking countless pictures with people in every city/village/town I visited. For a second I felt like how it would be if I had been famous, except today all I was was a tall tattooed man with a big curly beard!
For hours these 2 gentlemen rowed the boat for us down this sacred river. For celebration sake I cracked open a cold beer “King Fisher” was the beer of choice here in India. The temperature was so warm it made it way to easy to chug that bad boy down. Which at the moment felt great, but I soon realized it was not a great idea. As many of you know, especially those that drink beer, is that beer quickly reminds you that we are blessed to live on land and have access to a certain technology which we take for granted called THE TOILET! So….. there are no toilets on a row boat, and the urge to pee was getting stronger and stronger. There wasn’t exactly enough room to stand up either, it wasn’t the biggest of boats. I slowly decided maybe I can just reach the edge of the boat, pull it out, and let it flow. SMART some of you may say, and I thought it was the perfect solution as well, until I decided to try to get my big frame to the side of the boat. It seemed that the closer I got to the edge, the more the boat would tilt towards the side I was inching towards. Eventually our “captain” said “NO NO NO, SINK.” and I responded in the only way I knew how, by saying ” Me, pee” while pointing to my private and making a arc shaped signal, which in my mind made perfect sense to signal the fact I had to go. Finally he understood and he rowed towards shore. Which thankfully wasn’t to far off. So FINALLY, what seemed like eternity while I held myself to avoid and unwanted spills. (this was in fact my only change of clothes which had to last me all night, and we all know a wet night is a sleepless night!) I managed to get off the boat and lived happily ever after! It was safe to say, I didn’t drink anymore beer while on the boat.
When I returned to the boat, I did feel a little bad. I just completely veered these guys off course. To make things worse one of the men rowing must have been in his 60’s. He was a work horse but I saw he was getting tired. So seeing I’m Canadian, and apparently we are the nicest people in the world. I offered to take his spot for an hour or so. And so ladies and gentlemen, I worked out on Christmas day. I’m going to exaggerate and say it was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done, and that i rowed till I maxed out but still continued despite everything and when I reached shore I stumbled and lay flat on my stomach and slept for hours. But that would be a lie. The water was very calm and I slowly rowed till the sun began to set and we reached shore.
As we waited for both camp and supper to be made we decided it was time for the christmas festivities to begin. The wine, beer and liquor started pouring. The night was getting colder but we were just warming up. We kept getting visitors, dogs, they were everywhere, just roaming around looking for food. Christmas Dinner was ready and we sat down, enjoyed the meal, drank and danced the night away. As the sun disappeared in the horizon so did the warmth of its rays. Soon the layers were piling up until I put on everything I had. As it was time to go to bed I just prayed that I’d be able to sleep for a few hours. As I settled in under whatever blankets I could find, I realized quickly it was going to be a long sleepless night. The dogs or whatever were howling in the distance, the wind which had no barrier in the open terrain just whistled past our tent. The temperature seemed to dip a degree every passing minute. And of course the urge to pee ( I need to stop drinking beer) kept me awake but I was too cold to get out from under my blankets and venture off into the dark. So awoke I stayed till the sun rose and our journey to Rajpura continued.
As much as I wished I could have gotten a better sleep. This was a once in a lifetime experience and I wouldn’t have changed a thing about it. It’s a moment I will always cherish and one in which I’m happy to share with you. The beauty of travel is to experience things that you wouldn’t normally back at home. It takes you out of your comfort zone for a moment, but that moment lasts with you forever.