Video: A sadhu singing by the Ganges River, Varanasi

One of the best gifts travel gives you is all the great music you wouldn’t otherwise hear. Strange tunes often stick in the mind long after the memories of meals and sights have dimmed. Last week I brought you a video of a kalimba player in Malawi. Here’s a completely different tune from a completely different country, yet both tunes have gotten into my head.

This man is a sadhu, one of the countless Hindu holy men who wander the city streets and country roads of India preaching the tenets of Hinduism. He’s playing by the Ganges River in Varanasi, one of the holiest spots for Hindus. Watch how he plays two instruments and sings with ease. The camera is a bit shaky at the beginning but gets much better. Does anyone know what he’s singing?

“Dudes on Media” travel the Ganges by rickshaw and rowboat

It was probably while floating down a river full of human excrement and semi-cremated bodies that the Dudes on Media team knew their adventures had just reached a new level.

Accomplished film makers and veterans of human-powered adventure travel, the Dudes on Media organization is the brainchild of J.J. Kelley and Josh Thomas, two American adventurers who create documentaries based on their exceedingly difficult long-distance excursions.

Having met while thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail (which they ended up finishing together), Kelley and Thomas later set out to bike 1,300 miles across Alaska from the Kenai Peninsula to the northernmost shores of the Arctic Ocean. Born out of this epic wilderness sojourn was the duo’s first documentary, Peddle to the Midnight Sun.

Having conquered the nation’s largest state on two wheels and inspired by the success of their first film, the team next decided it was time to switch things by heading south and taking to the sea. In wooden sea kayaks that the two adventurers constructed themselves, Kelley and Thomas set out from the gold-mining turned cruise ship town of Skagway, Alaska on what would be a 1,200 mile paddle through the fabled Inside Passage. Paddling and camping their way through incessant rain and miles of temperate rainforest dominated by brown bears, the team finally pulled into Seattle and got to editing their second film, Paddle to Seattle.Their most successful film to date, Paddle to Seattle has garnered 15 film festival awards and has been called “the best feature film about paddling produced in the last decade” by Paddler magazine.

You would figure that after two projects requiring such a herculean effort it would be time to consider a rest for a while, but that’s the last thing that Kelley and Thomas had planned.

According to Kelley, choosing the next adventure “was a particularly challenging question for us. We had created our own small legacy of traveling through wild places for months on end. We felt we’d reached a high point for ourselves under those conditions, and we weren’t content to rest on our laurels. For us the next big thing had to rip us from our shells and slam us against the wall. The support and encouragement we received made us realize that we had to pursue another adventure…enter the Ganges”.

That’s right. The Ganges, which last time I checked is nowhere near Alaska.

Lusting for another adventure, Dudes on Media traveled all the way to India to trace the polluted and sacred shores of the world’s most populated river basin all the way from its glacial source in the Himalayas to its eventual terminus in the Bay of Bengal.

Along the trip down the Ganges the two would encounter unmentionable poverty, a terrorist attack in Varanasi, and the aforementioned half-cremated bodies that had been dumped into the sacred river.

Combining their two previous modes of transport, Kelley and Thomas proceeded to navigate the entire journey in a locally purchased rickshaw, a simple rowboat, and a a decrepit old Vespa scooter that finally died on them with only 10km left in the journey.

Having recently completed their journey down the “Mother Ganga”, look for the ensuing film to hit the independent film festival series starting in January, 2012.