The train arrived in Allahabad three hours late. On this occasion I wasn’t really bothered about the poor punctuality as it meant that we didn’t have to get up at 6.30am. From here we were transported to the Ganges River via minibus. With not especially great roads it’s easy to see what why the train is the preferred mode of transport for the Indian masses. En route we passed an area containing a lot of tents, somewhat resembling a Indian Glastonbury. Ajay told us that this is where three holy rivers meet and is therefore a popular pilgrimage for Hindus. Every 12 years, the Allahabad Kumbh Mela is held here which is a huge ritual event. At the 2013 edition the largest ever gathering of people was recorded here. Thirty million attended, which seems mind boggling. According to the internet this easily surpassed any other turnout with the top ten also including the Chicago Cubs World Series victory parade last year (5 million) and Rod Stewart’s paltry crowd of 3.5 million on Copacabana Beach in 1994.
Upon arrival at the Ganges it was apparent that we were certainly in small-town India now. We left the minibus in a small village where seemingly half the population came out of their homes for a look at the tourists. They didn’t seem to be bothered about acting especially discretely as they lined up for a stare, although it wasn’t done in any sort of threatening manner. The locals seemed genuinely curious about why outsiders were passing through their village and were happy to reciprocate waves and smiles. We split into two small groups and boarded the boats. A third vessel provided a kitchen for some excellent food, considering it was being prepared on the river using a camping stove. We enjoyed a relaxing few hours sailing along the Ganges River through the heart of rural India. After a hectic last few days the tranquility and escape from the hustle and bustle was lovely. The gentle rocking of the boat on river was enough to induce an afternoon snooze.
At teatime we docked at an unspoiled beach on island in the middle of the river. This would be our campsite for tonight. Before it went dark we had a game of cricket on the sand. The boat crew all joined in, although the star of the show was probably Ajay who was certainly a bit of a player. I managed to split my walking trousers beyond repair attempting a difficult caught and bowled attempt. I’d already sewn these up in South America but now they’d completely had it! After all the fun and games we relaxed on the beach and watched the sun go down in what was a fairly impressive sunset. Again the chef pulled off a blinder and provided a nice meal that included freshly cooked chips.