Cows and the Crematorium

27/ 100 Cows and the Crematorium

We were told that if you are a Hindu, dying and being cremated in the Indian city of Varanasi, on the banks of the river Ganges, is possibly the best way to end your physical existence. So much so, in fact, that people nearing the end of their lives relocate to the town to be sure that they will be able to have the cremation ritual they want.
Pollution. A camel amongst the traffic in Jaipur, India

25/ 100 Pollution

We were there in February when it was fairly cool, but the air was still thick and smoggy. The sky had an ominous yellow tinge and every surface is filthy with a layer of black sooty dust.
A far-away view of the Taj Mahal, seen from the Red Fort in Agra where Shah Jahan lived his final days.

24/ 100 Shah Jahan

Can you see the building in the far distance, next to the massively polluted Yamuna River on the left, that’s the Taj Mahal.
A small monkey picks through the littler in an alleyway in Varanasi, India.

23/ 100 Rubbish

Littering is taken to a whole new level in India. There are barely any rubbish bins in public places and pretty much all the food and drink you buy in the streets comes with an astonishing amount of packaging. Although, having said that, you can also buy fizzy cola in nothing but a clear, and very thin, plastic bag.
Boys flying a kite over Varanasi for the Maker Sankranti festival in India

22/ 100 Kite Flying

kite flying in India is HUGE. For weeks before Makar Sankranti, and for weeks after, people are completely obsessed with it and you will find bits of brightly coloured kites littering every surface. Children especially clamber up to the roofs of the tall buildings in the towns to fly their homemade kites, and, according to our Indian friends, fall to their deaths far too often.
A line off pillowcases drying in the sunlight in Varanasi, India.

21/ 100 Hanging out the Washing

The relics of the caste system are still plainly obvious in India, despite people telling us it had long been abolished. The owner of this particular B&B wasted no time in introducing himself as a Rajput, a member of the warrior caste that sits right at the apex of the pyramid just beneath the Brahmin or priests.
Line of boats at dawn on the river Ganges in India. The perplexing river Ganges.

20/ 100 The Perplexing River Ganges

So here’s what perplexes me the most about the river Ganges. As the river is so incredibly important to them, why do they quite literally treat it like a waste disposal site and toilet? It is worshipped by the very same people who fill it full of pollution and grime.
Chickens in India

19/ 100 Chickens in India

Whilst wandering the streets of India we often came across elderly people, sitting in chairs next to the road wrapped tightly in several blankets (we were there in the winter), dozing through the day. I am guessing that there isn’t a great state-run care system for the elderly that is accessible to everyone so, if you could, it seemed common to take your parents to work to look after them.
A baby having its hair shaved in a religious ritual in Varanasi, India.

18/ 100 Baby Shave

People frequently ask me why I love India so much. It is, after all, not the easiest place to get around and there will certainly be times when you wished you were back at home. I've seen some of the most horrible things there, and also some of the most wonderful and on each of our two trips there were times when I would have happily been teleported back home. Not all of those points in time involved toilets, but was certainly a major factor.
Chow standing at the top of the ghats in Varanasi, India

17/ 100 Can Cows Climb Steps

Before our second trip to India we were chatting about our previous visit with a friend who was a farmer. The conversation was mainly about the scattering of un-farmed farm animals that were dotted through every city we visited and were free to roam anywhere they desired. Things got a little heated when he told us it was a well-known fact that cattle can’t climb steps. He said they were very reluctant to walk up them and would never walk down unless forced by a farmer. He said their physiology wouldn’t allow it.
Two boys taking a break from flying their kites by the side of the river Ganges in Varanasi, India.

16/ 100 Fishermans Friends

These two young boys magically appeared each day whenever we sat down so that Fiona could work on her travel sketchbook and I could have a mental reset after a hot day walking the streets of Varanasi.
A bull in the Indian town of Pushkar casts a large shadow onto the road.

15/ 100 The Dangerous Suburbs of Pushkar

The small town of Pushkar, in the dry and dusty Thar Desert between Jodhpur and Jaipur, was a fascinating place to visit. We arrived into Ajmer on the wonderful Shatabdi express train from Jaipur. Unlike some of the other trains we had experienced this one did indeed offer an express service, and had a great food served to us too.