Travels with Caitriona

Caitríona's Journal


Egypt (photos)

Africa (photos)

India with Richie

The Andamans (photos)

India and the Andamans with Benen


Thailand (photos)

Travels with Lorraine

Travels in India
By Richie Power

Cyril kept in contact with me by email, as he did with the many of the people that knew him. Cyril was a gifted and entertaining writer, his imagination was boundless and his sense of humour tremendous. I started getting his emails in 2004, when I was out of the country travelling. Filling me in on all the news and ''scandal'' from the ''Projects'', Cyril would tell me about his plans to travell and ride along the eastern and western coasts of India on a Royal Enfield motorcycle.

cyril and richie

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At this time I had no plans to visit India, and all the while, Cyril's escapade developed, becoming more and more complex, Egypt, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Cambodia, Thailand, India, the Andaman Islands, Nepal.

To be perfectly honest I couldn't believe all of this possible. I know Cyril had worked hard to save, forgoing opportunities to meet up with all the lads and friends, instead only going for a social beer or two. It still amazes me now, when I stop to consider what he achieved.

Cyril was determined and did set out to see more of the world, his goals high, meaning to visit 8 or 9 countries in only two fast years. From first hand experience with Cyril in just India, he didn't merely visit a new place and leave as any other tourist would, Cyril formed relationships, friendships and connections, with shop keepers, restaurant owners and the local people that he met.

One time, having strolled by a small street stall in Goa, which he passed everyday, I watched as Cyril bought a pack of cigarettes from a Conganeese vendor, just to talk to her. A week later he rented their family moped, and shortly after was invited for dinner with the family.

Cyril wore a thick silver bracelett and sported expensive clothing, ordinarily out of reach of many Indians. In Goa, the locals thought Cyril was a wealthy Karen tribe member, many of whom were living in poverty in India as refugees and ex gorilla fighters, reason enough for coconoia.*  However, after spending a few brief moments observing Cyril's genuine warm and familiar approach, and listening to his excited humorous banter, well I can't say exactly how they felt, but they behaved as though they recognised Cyril and assumed a likewise friendly manner. Eventually they would wave at Cyril, call out running jokes to him and even honk their horns as they passed him in town. This is my recollection of those days, which grew from what followed after a morning spent following Cyril through the deep grey muddy banks of the Holy Ganges.

The date was the 19th of Septermber 2006, and only days remained leading up to finally meeting Cyril in India, all the time tense with the mounting excitement, until finally I checked my emails; 

Dear Richard and Karen
I can't believe we're going to meet up in one of the most radical places in the world. It's as if the universe conspired to make all this happen. Richard this is destiny..........you know how our minds are, we are about to meet up in "The City of Eternal Light" the city of eternal learning and knowledge.

When we meet we must go for a long walk along the Ganges and soak in all of the atmosphere. Richard think about it, think about all the crazy things we've ever said and done and think about where we're about to meet up. It will be a precious time we must relish and forever revel upon in the future.
Ok here's the plan, tommorrow morning I fly to Joburg(20th) @ 14:00 I then fly to Dubai, @ 02:00 I then fly to Delhi........I arrive to Delhi @ 10:00 in the morning (21st). That day I'll try organise a train or bus to Varanasi the following day or maybe the next. I should be in Varanasi for 23/24th of this month. It is now nearly 20:30 19th of Sept and I'm in Capetown, the next few days this will be my mission to get to this magical place to meet you, I shall not fail as it is now destiny.

Please let me know what your thoughts are and how your journey is as I'll be awaitting emails daily till then. I look forward to seeing you both, take care my good friend.

Love Cyril

I read this email in Kaharajo, both a holy and historical place, located an overnight train journey and a six hour bus ride, which I spent crammed ass to face with a hundred Indians and one brave Irish girl. Eventually we arrived, at our Varanasi hotel. The Hotel Hindustan International, one kilometer from the railway station and two kilometers from the downtown area, it has 108 rooms which encircles one enormous open central space. I'm sure that not untill the night of the 22nd of September 2006, had the hotel experienced two mad Irish men posing as internationally acclaimed press photo journalist, moderately drunk and half believing their own story. I checked my emails again. One was in the inbox, it was from Cyril and it read; ''I'm in Varanasi now.'' That was it, the game was set. I sent back an email telling in him in no uncertain terms,  ''to get his ass over here.'' deserving beer served continuously in the prestigious hotel lobby - and rightly so.

At about five in the afternoon, Cyril rang from that lobby to my room; '' Richard, how are you man? I'm downstairs, let the madness begin!'' I'm on my way, I said. Quickly putting down the receiver and telling Karen he'd arrived, I raced out the bedroom door. Downstairs I saw Cyril standing beside the marble reception desk wearing a pair of black sandals, long shorts with pockets, a checkered blue/white shirt and a green woolen beeny hat. We hugged, smiling and laughing, excited to see each other, I remember it so well I recall a near by Indian lady stood entertained by us,  smiling at Cyril and I greeting each other with hugs, and the friendship we had. We went to the room and the three of us sat down, ordered burgers and beer, we cajoled and later drank a lot more beers, we opted not to sleep but to spend the night awake in order to take a morning journey in a boat on the Ganges. This was the height of spontaneity that Cyril relished and lived for, and more than once initiated on a whim. Any thing could happen when with Cyril, he caused adventure, but also to deepen friendships. With the same level of enthusiasm and he once managed to convince me at two in the morning to go for a swim on Portmarnock beach in Febuary.

In the early hours, after taking photographs with the hotel security and the hotel from every other conceivable angle, an elderly woman looked down at us from her room, which was way up, probably on the eleventh floor. Cyril and I waved at her. Moments later we both stood up as she arrived and she sat down beside us on our L shaped couch in the lobby and cordially introduced herself. Cyril later told me that he considered her ''absolutely inspirational'' and thought of that meeting as having real significance for him and his journey. She emphasised her life philosophy as the reason she had led a rich and eventfully exciting life. She told us; '' No one is going to hand it to you, you have to go out there and get it, what ever it is, you have to make it happen for you.'' I think Cyril did exactly that. He had always done so, but now his tenets and principles were reinforced he visibly looked renewed and empowered. I estimate the woman to have been in her late eighties or early ninties, she was however a lady, asking politely for her tea in cup and saucer, speaking in a russian accent, and entertainingly recounting stories of her proposals from Prince royals and her time spent as a world famous trapeeze artist in a travelling circus. Cyril and I were delighted, what a prize encounter, we truly appreciated the entertainment value and uniqueness of this woman.

An hour later our guide arrived and we left for the second part of the adventure. We slowly made progress through the busy morning streets of Varanasi, stopping for Cyril to visit a bathroom. Afterwards, and with remorse Cyril told me that he had gone to the toilet in a hotel but they had no toilet roll. Frank Quinn, I can now give you an idea where those missing pages of that travel guide you lent Cyril went,they were for him a last and regrettable resort to a difficult situation. I found it very funny though.

Cycle rickshaws, sacred cows, pedestrians ambling along in their droves, and holy men of many religious disciplines travelled with us on the same streets that morning. We were on our way to the ghats, where families spent days queing with their departed loved ones remains for cremation. It is a holy city to the majority of Indians and Hindus, to us it was an experience that was blowing our minds. The clamour of gongs, the smell of incense, the plums of smoke on the Ganges from the Ghats, thousands of Indians, praying, washing and bathing there in the morning light was phenomenal.* We passed through the crowds, fragrant smells and incessant rhythmic drum notes surrounded us, until we were directed towards a 10ft rowing boat and our second guide.


The sound of the chiming bells, the aroma of flowers floating in the river, smoke and incense increased magically as we came aboard, it was a tantalising experience and we whispered to each other in reverence and amazment of how awesome this all was. The boat journey lasted about forty minutes. The boatman offered to take us back to the jetty but Cyril asked him; ''can you please just let us off here.'' We were in the middle of the Ganges, I looked about me, towards the reeds there was water, towards the land there was mud. There, that morning, the Ganges was a holy river and in it the Ganges river dolphin (platanista gangetia) an endangered species, is concidered sacred. They are solitary creatures and are only found in fresh water. The river water is so muddy that vision is useless and so these dolphins are blind and their eyes have no lenses. It was appallingly apparent to me that the Ganges were to have two new inhabitants - not so equipped to accost it's depths. However, pollution of the Ganges has become so serious that bathing in and drinking its water has become very dangerous. The major polluting industry along the Ganges is the leather industry especially near Kanpur, from which Chromium and other chemicals leak into the river. Another huge source of pollution is that of the nearly 1 billion litres of mostly untreated raw sewage that enters the river every day. Inadequate cremation procedures has also contibuted to the pollution.

Cyril lept from the boat knee deep into the grey viscous mud with utter abandonment. Bathing in the river is believed to wash away one's sins. To bathe in the Ganga is a lifelong ambition for Hindus. I could wait. It is their belief that the river will guide the souls of the deceased straight to paradise. I really could wait longer if necessary. It is believed that any water that mixes with even the smallest amount of Ganges water becomes holy with healing powers. Although I had established that I could wait, I took the leap of faith. Upon landing, my conscious self met the subconscious self and they both argued why I hadn't considered how it would feel. Cold, wet, slimy. The worry of a sharp stick piercing my skin and exposing me to countless bacteria struck my conscious self  as a possibility. It was only subconscious self that considered how this kind of  twelve steps, delivered quite an unspiritual form of enlightment. I think some of the mud actually got into my mouth.

We climbed up onto the concrete, dangerously covered in the mud. Cyril and I looked at each other with worried looks of concern. He turned to me, and going into full sales pitch mode he said, ''don't worry about it, when we get back to my place we'll wash all this funk off us and get a few beers into us.'' I just laughed my head off, Cyril then joined in and we were in stiches, crippled with the laughter we mused, '' What have we done!'' I know I said. We couldn't believe the night had come to this, we were partially elated by the nights events thus far and at the same time partially worried at what was next. The night had been filled with so much, I think we had crammed more than a years worth of craziness into sixteen hours.

It is not the length of life, but depth of life felt.
Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take,
But by the moments that take our breath away.

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