The Ganges River Facing South
Yoga And The Beatles
We left Delhi by train for Rishikesh, India the yoga capital of the world and place where the Beatles got their inspiration for the White Album. We don't do much yoga and the city is full of yoga studios, halls and ashrams. Temples galore dot the Ganges river here and other than an abundance of monkeys and cows in the roads, not much else. The Ganges river was a welcome place to us. In Varanasi, we didn't dare get in for fear of some waterborne parasite or illness befalling us. Here the waters are green, clean and pristine and cold! We figured the water temperature to be around 60 degrees F. The temperatures however in Rishikesh however, were topping 105 F.
View From The Hill Top Swiss Cottages
Heading To The Heat
After spending time in Dharamshala and Manali, we were just getting accustomed to cooler weather and stepping off the train in Rishikesh was like getting blasted in face with Arizona-like heat and a hair dryer in the face. Taking a train from Delhi to Rishikesh is impossible. We had to go to Haridwar, which is about a 45 minute taxi ride south of Rishikesh. We hailed a taxi and traveled up the hill to our destination, the Hill Top Swiss Cottage. The HTSC was a great place to stay.
They gave us a room with a shared balcony overlooking the entire valley of Rishikesh and the Ganges river. The river is a wonderful color green in the foothills of the Himalayas, unlike the murky-polluted waters of Varanasi's Ganges. The room was simple and on top of the hill of the hotel on the second to the last floor. There was also a stairwell up to the roof where we could go and gaze at the valley below. Really a great place to stay. Their neighbors some other "Swiss Cottage Named Place" had a restaurant that was good and full of travellers. A free breakfast at this restaurant was also included, which were great!
The Town of Rishikesh and Suspension Bridge
The Town of Rishikesh, India
Rishikesh, India is a dry town, with no chicken served. We were getting tired of this and were glad that the Hill Top Cottages were far enough outside of town that they served both. We decided to rent a motorbike for the time in Rishikesh, because the walk down to town was quite long. The town itself is situated on the Ganges river with a foot/small vehicle suspension bridge in the middle connecting the two sides of the town. Rishikesh is a holy place to the Indian People, and like any holy town, it is full of Indian travelers who gawk at tattooed people like ourselves running around town on a motorbike. There are ashrams in abundance and Babas (holy men) everywhere. Yoga classes are offered at every hotel, hostel and restaurant imaginable. The town in particular is nothing special.
The Hills Are Burning
We relaxed mostly in Rishikesh, Sitting in our hammock on our porch reading, visiting cafes and riding around on the motorbike exploring the city. The hills surrounding Rishikesh were on fire. Being from California and seeing how dry it was here, I was really worried about the fires. The people here weren't concerned at all. Every night when the sun went down, you could see bright spots all over the hills and ridgelines a blaze. There was a smokey-haze during the day and the smell of burnt wood at night when the winds picked up.
Swimming In The Cool Ganges On A Hot Day
Finally Taking a Dip in the Ganges
We spent a couple of days sitting by the banks of the Ganges on some sand, dipping then tanning, then repeating. Other than that... not much else. No Yoga, no Temples, no Beatles Ashram, no "white water rafting" (the river is calm except for a few small rapids), no other things usually done in Rishikesh. We rode around the hills one day along the Ganges inhaling smoke and taking in the sights. The temperatures here and the extremely dry climate made it unpleasurable to do much else. We loved the scenery however, and can imagine when it's cooler, Rishikesh, India might be different.
Feeding The Grey Langur Monkey
Venturing Out to Feed Some Monkeys
One day we ventured out on the motorbike and headed to the other side of the Ganges to see that part of town. It's basically a long street running along the river full of shops, ashrams, and temples. We stopped at a few temples and took pictures and marveled at the monkeys and other animals dotting the road.
The Grey Langurs were out on a bench sitting around like the local people. Other than their species, they could have been just another person sitting on a bench. They were tame too, not like Pushkar. Shelly and I bought some papadum (Papadum is a thin, crisp, disc-shaped cracker, fried or cooked with dry heat) and hand fed the monkeys. A cow as persistent as well with Shelly and tried to hone in on the action. It was fun and interesting on the other side of the river, much more so than the side we were on. It's crazy how the animals mingle with daily life in India and actually become part of the landscape.
The End to the Himalayas (for now)
Overall, our Himalayan adventures was great! We enjoyed Manali, Mcleod, and Rishikesh, India. The mountains of India are beautiful and vibe much more relaxed than other parts of India we experienced. Riding motorcycles and relaxing in the mountains was a welcome departure from the busy cities and touristy things we had been doing for the previous 2 months. Now off to Goa to relax some more on the beach in temperatures and humidity not yet experienced here. Dry and 105 is a bit different from humid and 95.
Changing My Perspective In a Hammock
Change In Perspective
We really thought we were going to love Rishikesh, India and it was a no-miss type of place. Really we went quite a bit out of our way to get there. We didn't love Rishikesh. We liked it ok, however it wasn't at all what we expected. I never know what we expect. Really we shouldn't expect anything. Travel is about exploring and discovering. We have in our heads what a place will look and feel like. When we get there, we are often disappointed. Why do we do this? Shouldn't we just go.. explore... discover without preconceived ideas. This is the crux of travel, to do just that.
What were we thinking? We don't really do a lot of Yoga. The no smoking, drinking and sex thing at an ashram goes against every fiber of our being. What did we expect? Some kind of holy Beatle-like experience that would give us inspiration to write an iconic album? It is exactly this... Don't expect something is going to be one way or another, you set yourself up for disappointment. Explore, Dream, and Discover... this is the way of the traveler.