India    31.01.2014    Transindus

What a way to spend a milestone birthday! School geography lessons had fired my enthusiasm for the great Ganges and its long meanderings from the snows of the Himalaya to the Bay of Bengal, but I never dreamt I would cruise on it - and in such memorable style: on the elegant riverboat ABN Sukapha. 

On the Great Day I woke early to a spectacular sunrise over the Rajmahal hills - a forceful portent of a wonderful decade to come, I felt. Then, clad in our bright orange life jackets, we chugged to a hamlet nestling below a little temple backed by a hillside of luscious greenery, to which we climbed. The holy man beckoned us inside, where I placed flowers and some holy Ganges water on the shrine.

The day continued with a series of memorable gems: huge mounds of colourful bangles glinting in the sunshine on a stall; a winding drive along Bengali country lanes; chugging against the current in a fruitless attempt to reach the island shrine of Colganj; present-opening on the sun-deck with my new friends, interspersed with excited cries of "Dolphin!" as we cruised upstream.

We celebrated with Indian champagne and birthday cake in the evening, carried in by one of our ever-smiling crew, a Naga girl in traditional costume.

It was a day to savour forever.