The next day we find a lot of jackal tracks so they must be regular swimmers as well. We make it to Just above Dorighat and opposite a large cremation ghat that burns late into the night. we can hear political rallies about how the queen of England is visiting without a passport. Nationalistic fervour is hard to escape from these days, even on a beach. The next day is too foggy for us to leave. We meet bathers and fishermen who all comment of the lawlessness of the area and the dabang or goonda sarkar. we go to the market and get some firewood and supplies. some fishermen we met upstream have now drifted down with their nets and sell us some Baikara fish which a “Number 1” fish. We have a good bonfire that evening and enjoy a good dinner.
The next morning we see a family of otters whose footprints we had photographed extensively the previous evening. we also see a group of neelgai for the first time. The halt at Dorighat had been well worth it. We pass the confluence with the Rapti that day and the water is suspiciously darker. we camp a little lower down and have a mushroom and cheese risotto for dinner.
We leave late again, because of the fog, from Mahua Paar village. We hear horror stories about how otters will bite your “eggs” off. Gharials are rarely seen here. Also get lessons on how to dig a pit in the sand to get filtered water. There is a thin layer of floating silica that can be removed using rendhi seeds or by rubbing your forehed and dipping your finger in the water. forehead grease clears all ( this trick only works if you don’t bathe every day). We camp at a small bay that belonged to a curious dolphin. Lots of interesting animal tracks, largish cats and turtles. Its Christmas eve and we celebrate with the last the last of the rum.
More foggy mornings but we get to a spanking new bridge that was inaugurated by the CM two weeks ago. Go buy some soaked chanas for dinner. We have Sarus cranes as neighbours on this island. the have a very loud beautiful call, kind of what I imagine a melodious dinosaur would sound like. Fishermen tow their boats upstream at night and drift down to their homes, fishing along the way. the beach here is covered in doodles made by clams that are now exposed by the retreating water. the next day is just as foggy and we cross many large islands with dense Khagar grass. It’s been a while since we have crossed such wild looking stretches, and we find a good sandy
We are camped on a large sand island on which people from a villagenearby grow water melons. We meet a family that is getting large bales of grass across to make wind breakers so their crops don’t get covered in sand. The fog doesn’t lift all day so we have to stay on the island. It’s winter solstice! we spend the day cleaning out our water
filter which has started clogging up with sediment. The river is much more turbid where it’s shallow because of the currents that circulate from the bottom reach the surface. Whenever we are at a deep section, the water turns from olive to a clearer deep green.
we share our island with neelgai and wild boars which are both evidently competent swimmers. All the sand has been sculpted into little and large dunes that are fractally similar to those crated by the water.
We leave the next day and make it to Tanda where we stop to get some rations and fuel for our stove. It takes a while because the people at one pump refuse to give me petrol because i don’t look like im from around town. There is a very large comunity of fisher folk here and a “harbor” with plenty of boats. We pass a NTPC sewer, the town Sewer and multiple cremation Ghats and we stop about a kilo meter bellow the main town and the only non slushy spot is at a ferry poin (Ghat) which has been compacted by the people walking by. Tanda’s milk suply
crosses the river here and we get some milk and a large audience the next morning as we pack.
We leave faizabad in the afternoon and are seen off by our various helpful friends at Guitar Ghat. This was the spot where Ram left this world and set off by walking over the water and then ascending to wherever he meant to go. We paddle to Ayodhya and are for the first time able to get an accurate estimate of our speed since we know the distance, 6 km/hour including sightseeing breaks. We stop just bellow the town and for the first time the pollution is more than we can ignore. We see many cremation ghats and the amount of plastic and other religious trash( like A4 holographic posters of Shivji and large grass effigies of of invariably feminine divine forms) litters the beach. We see a dead horse float by and get beached close to our tent. We still filter, chlorinate and use the water. We have another foggy morning so we leave later than expected. We pass by a small cremation ghat next to a village where we stop for some supplies. We see some sand graves and find out that unmarried women, and children are not cremated. They are hurried in shallow graves on the beach which are swept away each year by the flood. There are crocs that hang out by the ghat and people say the have become man eaters. They apparently killed a boy who was swimming across the river with his buffaloes. They rarely attach buffaloes because they swim in big herds and breathe loudly. People who die of snake bite are not buried but have their limbs bound to pots of sand which make them sink to the river bed. Tantrics that roam the river river side look for them and resurect them as zombies! Few dolphins and no gharials. The jackals however sing all night long.
We are received at Guptar Ghat by Bantu who helps us get our stuff to the railway station and takes us to his home the next day for some unbelievable dinner. We spend the rest of our time cleaning and servicing our boat. We get a huge parcel from home with two stoves, goodies and other gear. We swap these for some heavy stuff we were carrying but never using. We see some very strange river fish at the fish market and also speak to some regular bathers at the Ghat. The town is full of monkeys cows and dogs all minding their own business and getting along splendidly.
We eat our parathas, pre boiled eggs, bread and fruit for the next three days but we do OK. Fishermen at Ronahi ghat speak of the drastic change in fish species after the Farakka Barrage was built. We reach Faizabad which is about one quarter of the way down the river!
The weather has packed up, and our stove needs to be repaired so we stop for a day at the Budhwal Railway station. Despite our brand new pair of pliers and an hour of fierce tugging, we cannot open the fuel line. So we drink some beer and buy a lot of packed parathas to last us till Faizabad where our new old stove is being sent.