I spent the entire morning (more than four hours) with the guide book, train timetables, and map trying to make plans from here. At the end of it I had three possibilities. The first was I could head to Mumbai. It's 30 hours on a train, but gets me to the south before it gets too hot - this was my original plan. The second idea was to head back to Rajasthan and spend some more time in that region. There's a lot I want to see there, but from what I've heard I'm going to have problems getting a train ticket, plus I'm not real happy about backtracking that far (almost completely across the country). The third idea was to head to Calcutta and try to get a flight to the Andaman Islands. This has the advantage of getting me off the tourist track, and the Andaman Islands are supposed to have fantastic beaches and diving. According to the guide book I might have some major problems getting flights, but if I did, I could fly back into Chennai (Madras) and again end up in the south before it gets to hot. I'd also be able to see Calcutta and Puri, both of which I had decided I wasn't going to be able to see.
I left my room with the plan to go with number three - if I could get the flight out to the Andaman's - so I was off to find the Air India office. I asked the manager of the hotel for directions, but when he asked where I wanted to go he told me it would be impossible to get tickets in Varanasi - I'd have to buy them in Delhi or Calcutta. Over lunch I met an Australian guy who'd lived in Calcutta and after talking to him I decided to go. If I can't get the flight then I'll train down the east coast. I ended up spending a couple hours sitting on the roof in the sun talking to Chris - he's spent a lot of time in India.
Shortly before dusk I set out to check email. After I walked along the ghats then headed up to the Shanti for dinner. I met Chris and a couple other guys and had a few beers and talked about the Kumbh Mela in Allahabad which all the others had been to. One of the guys gave me the number of a guest house where I could probably get accommodation (my great fear of going since 30 million people are supposedly there - I've heard claimed it's the largest gathering of people ever). So I think I might keep my room here, and head up to the Mela for a night the day after tomorrow, then maybe another day here and then off to Calcutta! I also made plans to meet Daniel, a Dutch guy, before dawn tomorrow morning to hire a boat to take us out on the river - a ambitious plan since it was already past midnight and I'd had four beers.