My plans to retrace Captain Cook's unfinished voyage have been postponed a year while I work on the next Marine Diesel Basics book and get my new boat SV Oceandrifter ready for sea.
A Walk Along the Ganges
Walk Along the Ganges
I can still remember many of the people and incidents as if the 2000-mile walk happened recently, though it is almost 25 years since I completed my solo pilgrimage along the length of the river Ganges, across northern India. Even as a boy, growing up in England and Scotland, I’d dreamed of going to India. Which British schoolboy did not? But how to do it without just scuttling from city to city by train and not getting out into the countryside where more than 80% of the people lived at that time.
I decided that I could walk out of the cities and that if I just kept walking it would be possible to travel from Ganga Sagar, where the holy river enters the Bay of Bengal, to the sacred source at Gau Mokh, at the mouth of the Gangrotri glacier at Gau Mukh.
1 Finding My Feet
2 By the Banks of the Hooghly
3 Calcutta: A Hell Filled with Good Things
4 Led North by the Sacred Thread
5 The Inland Sea
6 Where Angels Fear to Tread
7 Round and Round the River Bends
8 Benares: City of Light, City of Dark
9 When the Land Dies
10 ‘Is it Cholera?’
11 Burden of Heat
12 Tiger! Tiger
13 Up the Mountain Road
14 Bathing at the Cow’s Mouth
Appendix: Equipment List
Author’s Note from the book
The idea of walking the length of the Ganga fixed itself in my mind suddenly one morning while gazing over the Nile, but it was several years before I felt myself ready to undertake the journey. My motives and ambitions were mixed. I wanted to make a great walk, to set off with no prospect of ending for months. I wanted to see the land that had fired the British imagination for generations. I wanted to travel at the pace of rural India, where four out of five Indians live, and to walk in the footsteps of the peasants.
And why the Ganga? I was searching for answers to one question: How could a river also be a goddess? For millions of Hindus, the river Ganga is the physical expression of the goddess Ganga; bathing in her waters is both spiritual ritual and necessary ablution. We have learned so well in the West to separate sacred from secular that the very notion of their being indivisible, like the Ganga, seems absurd.
However, the Native Indians of Canada have a saving. ‘Never judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his moccasins,’ and this was something I took literally. I was determined to wear village clothes, eat local foods, adopt local customs for washing and toilet and as much as possible speak the language. I felt that meeting India’s people and walking through her villages and beside her most sacred river was the only way to learn about the country. Perhaps then, I thought, I might begin to understand something of the relationship between the Ganga and her devotees and might find answers to my question.
My walk beside the Ganga was also being used as a money?raiser by Save the Children Fund in England. ‘If you’re crazy enough to make the walk, can we use it to raise money for our work in India?’ the Fund’s head of public relations had asked. Project Ganges was thus born under the direction of my mother, who was vice?chairman of the Fund’s United Kingdom Committee at the time. This aspect of the journey was to become more and more important to me as the walk continued and I saw the conditions of some of the poorest people in India. It was with immense gratitude to the people who donated to Project Ganges that I had the honour to present the final cheque to HRH The Princess Anne, President of Save the Children Fund, when she visited Bradford, West Yorkshire in November 1984.
The walk along the Ganges was made between November 1983 and June 1984.