After spending almost a week in Delhi waiting for our friend Kirstine, doing some sightseeing and trying to figure out a way to get out of here (something not so obvious, as trains get booked well in advance and you may find yourselve stuck in “hostile territory”), an urge to leave the city overcame us. We were always running late, exhausted by the energy of the city and as we grew inpatients we decided to book a luxury bus at the travel agency of the hotel we were staying (The Vivek) to leave town on the same evening. Destination: Rishikesh, the capital of yoga for westerners.
A city where vegetarian food is NOT an option, it’s the only food you will get! A place where the waters of Ganga river still flow clear and clean and the number if ashrams offering lodging and yoga courses is only rivalled by the number of “German Bakeries” growing around, we counted 4 in a 1 Km radius, more or less and none of them run by Germans but rather by Nepalese people…
The trip was another rollercoaster, after paying 600 Rp per person (7 EUR, a lot of money taking into account you are travelling by bus, but we were paying surcharges for the short notice) to escape Delhi, we had to spend 12 hours in an oooold bus with broken windows. The driver of the shuttle bus took 2 hours extra to collect all the passengers and take us to the meeting point, close to the Red Fort in Delhi, and the bus we were supposed to take left without us. I don’t know who was the smat guy who thought the travelling through Delhi with a big bus to pick us all up 1 hour before the trip was a good idea but he was VERY WRONG. Traffic here is madness and I have no clue why but this evening streets were closed, I think it had something to do with a demonstration for the anniversary of the girl who was raped in a bus by 7 people and died later on, or by some electoral events (many things going on here always). Even the Indians were furious with the guy, but after missing the bus, the most important thing was to leave the city, so we just got in the replacement bus and endured the ride. They dropped us 5-6 Km away from where we wanted to go and told us this was the only stop before continuing towards Haridwar.
“Luckyly” for us, a few rickshaws were waiting there to take us wherever we wanted to go but we were so pissed off, we walked all the way to the ashram. A nice 1 hour morning walk after a horrible night, a bit chilly but very mind-clearing. Now, imagine our surprise when we got to Laxman Jhula bridge to find most of the passengers walking in group, touristing the town with the bus driver and smiling at us like if they were happy to see us again when they had all told us they were going to Haridwar!!! Are you kidding me???
Anyway, by then our priorities were others and breakfast at the German Bakery was all we could think of. Niiiiice! Everything in Rishikesh was different, the air was so clean, the people was not constantly coming towards you… we even so people jogging! Not Indians though, for this place, holy and ancient as it is, was made so popular by the Beatles that nowadays most of the attractions are made for us, who overflow the town looking for enlightment. This does not mean the place is not visited by Indians. December is actually on of the months were westerners tend to leave town, looking for warmer areas in the south like Goa or Kerala, while Indians, profiting from their New Year holidays, come to visit the temples and bath in the river. It is nice to see Indians doing tourism in their country. It brings you closer and makes you feel less like an intruder.
Following Kirstine’s advice we decided to stay at Anam Prakash Ashram. A place devoted to the teaching of Yoga with an Indian guru and his Canadian wife. Unfortunately, the last yoga course was just finished and the guru left the ashram the same day we arrived. We were not able to learn from him but the place was our perfect place to relax, practice yoga and suffer our first diahrreas of the trip. Maybe the body had just been holding while we were in Delhi and most probably the cold conditions and poor rest of the trip played their part, but as soon as we got here we all started feeling the symptoms. The ayurvedic doctor adviced as to drink electrolites to avoid dehidration and eat kitchri lentils (the “illness-killer” meal, as one of the people in the ashram defined this dish) to keep us strong. Thinking about it I don’t know how would we gave managed in a different place. The food at the ashram was reaaaaally good and the tranquility and friendliness was almost shocking after Delhi.
Unfortunately we understood why most people tend to leave in winter. We came from Austria escaping from the cold and found ourselves sleeping in our sleeping bags with winter underwear, hat and three blankets on top, defenitely not the weather we wanted. The days were sunny and warm but the sun would go down at 5pm and from that moment on, temperatures would quickly drop 15-20 degrees. So after 5 evenings here we left to Haridwar and took a train south back to Delhi. The Idea was to go directly to the Tourist Centre at the station and book the main trips for the rest of our stay in India: Delhi-Kandwa (to get to Omkareshwar) and Nasik-Varanasi (after the Yoga course). This way, our door out of Delhi would be secured (we could not leave the same day but just the day after) and knowing the problems to find tickets, the longest journey (28 hours to Varanasi) would also be saved.
We said bye to our lovely friend Kirstine, hoping to see her again in Varanasi in february and we thought “See you soon, Rishikesh”, with the hope to return to this beautiful place, to visit the falls, the temples and to dip into the Big lovely holy Ganga when the temps are warmer 😉