I tried to sleep in, but after being up until five reading it still wasn't anywhere near enough sleep - especially since I was considering an all nighter tonight. I got my gear together to take with me to Allahabad - basically I decided to take my cameras, sleeping bag, and the clothes I was wearing. On my way out of the guesthouse I told the manager my plans. He told me that I needed to be out of my room by the 30th (the day after tomorrow), and that I should get my train ticket to Calcutta immediately as it's likely to sell out way in advance He also told me that my plan of spending the night in Allahabad was "not possible" and that I should go up in the morning, but then I would miss the dawn.
I started walking towards the main ghat (Dasasvamedha) since I need to walk out of the closed and crowded streets until I can catch a rickshaw or tuktuk to the train / bus stations. As soon as I turned off the river I realized that though I've been here five days, I've never left the river side - there's still a huge city that I haven't seen. After a half hour of walking I found a tuktuk and headed for the train station. At the train station I was able to go to the tourist desk and buy my train tickets immediately - there were none available for the 30th, so I'm leaving Wednesday night (the 31st). There were also no nice berths available so I'm also booked in the bottom class again - at least it was cheap, less than $6 for a 13+ hour train ride. From he train station I walked to the bus stop and got there just as three busses were leaving for Allahabad. They all claimed to have room, but were absolutely packed. Since I wasn't willing to stand during the three or four hour trip I decided to wait. About an hour later an empty bus pulls up right in front of me, but despite my best efforts is nearly packed again by the time I get on. I finally manage to score window a window seat - it's in the back row so it's a rough trip, but it had a little extra leg room.
The trip ended up being quicker than expected, only three hours. When it got to the end of it's route I could not figure out where I was so I just followed the vast numbers of people (there were a lot of busses) down a dirt street. After a half hour hike we ended up looking over a vast city lit up like Las Vegas (no neon - but lots of chasing lights). A little bit further on and I realized there were no buildings it was all tents! Clearly I was on one of the Mela grounds (there are three that I knew of), but which one, and had I gotten there by walking away from, or towards the city? What struck me the most was how organized everything was - here was an endless (or so it seemed in the light fog) tent city laid out in a grid with street lights, roads, water, and toilet facilities (of a kind) in India! This temporary gypsy city was far better organized and supplied than any place I'd been to in India. I wandered for a bit and decided that the worst case was I'd spend the night waling (there is plenty to see), or camp in the rough - lots of people doing that too. Then I found a river (but which one, the Gangas or the Yamuna?) with a series of pontoon bridges crossing it. I knew there were bridges involved in getting to or from the city so I crossed. Another hour hike got me to the city where I was able to get a rickshaw to the right area, where I was able to find the guesthouse recommended to me and they had a dorm bed available! I talked with some of the other people in the dorms (a pretty even mix of foreigners and Indians), had a delicious dinner of curried veggies, and set my alarm for five - want to be back at the Mela grounds by sunrise (about 6:30).
I was a little surprised at being able to find a bed. I was here for the Kumbh Mela - the largest religious festival in the world - and quite possibly the largest gathering of people ever! It only happens every 12 years at the confluence of the three holy rivers, the Yamuna, the Gangas (Ganges), and [supposedly] the Sarasvati (the mystical underground river of enlightenment), and one of four spots where Vishnu accidentally spilled a drop of amrit (the nectar of immortality). All Hindus are supposed to make at least one pilgrimage here during their lives. Bathing at the confluence during the festival is supposed to wash away a lifetime of sins. They're expecting more that 30 million people to show during the six week festival, with peak crowds to be around 20 million - tomorrow is a peak day.