Wonderful Rishikesh, India
15/10/09 - 14/10/10 38 °C
This is India, where anything is possible. Soon two of the people that I had met in Bundi also wanted to escape the raging heat and head to Rishikesh. This was perfect for me, my last two sleeper trains had seen me in predominantly male carriages and although there were no problems I had still felt uncomfortable. Having travel companions made the experience a much more enjoyable one. Especially the eight hour lay over on Delhi’s famous backpacker boulevard ‘The Paharganj’.
I discovered that Anna & Denis, my lovely Russian friends from Gokarna, were in Rishikesh. I was very excited to see them again and actually it turned out to be God send in more ways than one when they let me stay on their floor because there was no room at any of the inns.
What I hadn’t expected was that whilst thousands upon thousands go to Rishikesh for spiritual enlightenment, yoga, meditation, mind-expansion and of course the Kumba Mela, I went to improve my motorbike passenger skills.
Anna & Denis get around India on their ‘Enfield Bullet’ the motorbike of choice for any self-respecting India traveller. I, however, hate bikes. As Anna was taking Hindi lessons Denis and I would go and meet her after for breakfast – on the bike. I understand the principles of being a passenger: Sit still, shut up and go with the flow. All of which I find difficult enough on terra ferma.
Trying to make your body completely relax whilst feeling abject terror is counterintuitive, to put it mildly. Denis has safely driven him and his wife all over this country and I had to put my faith in him. To take my mind off the situation I tried things like “how many goats can you see?” and “how many varieties of magenta can you count?” I even tried closing my eyes but that didn’t work because when I opened them again we were heading towards a reversing bus. I even managed to internalise my shrieks and squawks, or so I thought, Denis said he could still hear me. I felt as though on a rollercoaster when going down hills and the first time couldn’t brave going over Ram Jhula Bridge. I did in the end though.
My faith was restored in Indian cuisine and I had chicken for the first time since Andaman Islands. I was finally able to make contact with the Ganga River, right by the source in the Himalayas, I bathed my feet and hands in the icy, glacial (clean and disease free) water. I lit anther candle and this time it didn’t fall apart, but floated beautifully away. (Pictures on Anna’s flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/anna_vesna/4458809949/in/photostream/)
I cannot talk about the wonders of the Kumba Mela because I didn’t see any of it. A combination of fatigue, laziness and logistics meant that getting a rickshaw to Haridwar just didn’t happen. I did see some of it on my way to the train station though. Huge campsites set up to house and feed the devoted and the whole town was lit up like a Disney castle, any permanent structure was festooned with colourful, twinkling lights.
However, it is no cooler and the temperatures are reaching late 30’s. It is impossible to go out during the day and time-is-a-ticking, so onwards and upwards or sidewayswards. I have booked myself a first class cabin on the night train to Amritsar...ooooh the luxury!