15 January 1968

So I'm sitting on a houseboat on the Holy River Ganges.  The sun 
is hot and I've got my shirt off to soak some of it up.  Just 
behind me are a couple of hundred thousand Hindus bathing in the 
filthy holy river.  A few hundred meters up the bank are the 
bonfires, where bodies of the dead are constantly being cremated 
and tossed into the same river, for devout Hindus come here--to 
Benares (Varanasi)--to die.

But I only came to see Benares, not to die in it.  There is,
however, a young Norweigan guy here who bathes in the Ganges daily, 
and who's been living the Ultimate Bottom Life Experience &
Existance for 3 years--voluntarily--who prays and begs in the 
streets, wearing only holy beads and a rag, just like the other 
Untouchables, except for his long blonde beard and hair.  I just 
came to see it, and it's worth it. 

It's the most fantastic place I've seen yet in India, or perhaps 

Erik and I have a houseboat for 2 rupees a night.  It's pretty 
comfortable and it's right on the end of the Ghat where the 
stairs descend to the river and the pilgrims bathe.  This being 
the Holiest City of India, every good Hindu must come here once 
in his life and bathe in these waters.  Five miles from here is 
Sarnath, where Guatama Buddha preached his first sermon.  Holy 

The only...well, ok...the major problem with this place is that 
to get to or from the houseboat we've got to wade through vast 
crowds of beggars lined shoulder-to-shoulder along the streets.  
This can be unpleasant if we actually look at them...they have 
it bad, and there's just too many of them to help.  The other 
day we saw a pilgrim's wagon being pulled through the crowd, 
rich pilgrims tossing japoti (wheat bread) out to the beggars
--who swarmed over each other like animals, trampling one 
another to get at the food, a completely uncontrollable mob.  
Kinda scarey.

We left Katmandu a week ago and came by truck to India, Erik and 
I.  Tom stayed a few more days and arranged to meet us in Benares.  
We crossed into India at Birgani, then came by train via 
Muzaffarpur.   But the next train we tried to get on there was so 
full that people were hanging out the doors and windows when it 
pulled out of the station and we couldn't even get on at all.  
So we decided to hitchhike.

It's not easy hitching in India.  Drivers are friendly, but the 
rides are short and it's pretty hard to go directly anywhere.  We 
became very lost several times, spent a night with a Peace Corps 
couple.  Next day hitched halfway to Benares before I found out 
that I'd forgotten my sleeping bag back with the Peace Corps folks
--and also found out that there was no bridge, and therefore no 
traffic through to Benares, and had to hitch back anyway (after 
a cold night without my sleeping bag).  Retrieved my bag and 
crossed the Ganges to Patna before we could hitch on to our 
destination.  We finally took trains for the last hundred miles, 
there was simply no traffic.

Tom was already here by the time we arrived, it had taken us a 
week to come from Katmandu.  But it was a good week, and we saw 
a lot that we would have missed out on otherwise.  It had also 
been a relief not to spend so much time on Indian trains, which 
are unendurable.

Tom was now travelling with a Dutchman: Sammy, whom I knew from 
Africa last year, back when the motto was "see you Christmas in 
Katmandu!"  Sammy and I had shared a hotel for a week in Tunis, 
so it was one of those funny surprise reunions.   We hadn't seen 
each other for a year and a half, and he was just on his way to 
Katmandu now.  We arranged to meet up later in Ceylon and I got 
his address in Amsterdam.

Benares is a great town, interesting and exciting, but like all 
towns, relatively expensive (relative to my budget).  We were 
spending 15 rupees a day here, and in the countryside we spent 15 
rupees a week.  There's too much to buy here: beads and silks and 
Coca Cola.

Went to an Indian movie last night.  India makes more movies than 
any other country in the world (gee, I didn't know that), so we 
had to go see one; a big studio super-production about Hindu Gods 
& Goddesses,  (Cecil B. deMille tradition).  It was so bad we 
couldn't sit through it.  Indian movies are worse than Arab movies
--about 100 years behind European/American standards.

A few more days here and we'll head for Calcutta, but we've got to 
get some photos of the burning bodies.  They burn their dead 
wrapped in colored robes, then toss the ashes into the river--except 
that the guys who do this don't always finish the job if the family 
paying their fee has had enough heartbreak and leaves early.  To 
speed up the process, so that they can earn more money burning the 
next body, they dump some pretty big chunks of dead people into the 
Ganges.  Lots of well-fed but hungry dogs are waiting: run in, 
snatch a delicious chunk of barbeque from the river, and drag it off 
to eat, fighting with the other dogs for the biggest pieces.

Interesting place, Benares.