07/10/17 – 11/10/17
Arriving in Rishikesh we discovered that this seemed to be the place there people went to find themselves, meditate, do yoga and become one with the world. Aka become a hippie.
We sat on the ghats of the Ganges with our feet in the water and watched as the sun set. The river is much cleaner here than Varanasi because it is so close to it’s source.
Crossing back over the bridge, there were LOTS of monkeys just waiting for an unassuming tourist to whip out their phone.
We went for dinner at our hotel where they have few resident dogs which are technically strays. They’re so friendly and cute though. They were often found curled up the your feet, hoping to get any leftovers!
We had an early start the next morning – 4am to be exact! We were driven almost to the top of the mountain then walked up the billion steps from there to Kunjapuri Temple where we would see the sun rise!
As the sun rose, the forest on the surrounding hills slowly began to hum as the insects and birds woke up. Finally the sun broke over the horizon and honestly I don’t think I’ve seen a sunrise or sunset that was so beautiful. EVER. I just wish that photos did it justice! You’ll just have to go and see it for yourself!
Looking out at the view on the other side of the temple complex we could see the shadow of the temple’s roof which reached a small village 15 miles away!
In the distance, to the left of the rising sun, you could even see seven of the snow peaked caps of the Himalayas!
When the sun had risen, we walked around the temple and then went inside to be blessed by the men inside. We weren’t really sure what to do so as you can imagine we were kind of awkward. Once we were kneeling in front of them, they dipped their thumb in a red paste and placed it on our forehead. They then picked up a few grains of rice and stuck them onto the red dot. We were handed some puffed rice and not entirely sure what to do with it, we just held on to it and backed out of the temple, back to our guide. For future reference, the puffed rice is for eating 😂
As we walked down the steps leading out of the temple, there were different mantras written on the ceilings and plying over the speakers. One of them was to the monkey god Hanuman to ward off bad monkey spirits.
Ranesh (our guide) started to lead us down the hill for our trek. He stopped us and told us to get into a pose for a photo – SURPRISE! We are tree people now!
Another guide, Vishal, and his two tourists joined our group because it was Vishal’s first time leading people down and he didn’t want to get lost! He was only 17!
Not even 100m into our hike I slipped down the gravelly path and Danielle wasn’t far behind! And so the low power/full power joke came about. Every time someone slipped, even a few centimeters, we would all yell “No full power! Only low power!”
After an hour or two we stopped to take in the sights and have a quickly snack break. We checked the coast was clear of monkeys before opening our chips but in no time we saw some rustling in the trees nearby and had to stuff the food away!
We passed several small “villages” which were basically just two houses and some fields. We saw some people working on their farms and in the rice fields.
Some of the paths we walked down were actually sealed roads. The people who seal these are often Nepali nomads who set up camp and seal the road in the area before moving on. That’s how they make their living.
On our next pit stop we saw a massive fuck-off spider. Its body alone was about the size of my finger and it looked absolutely terrifying!
Near the end of our hike (about 4 hours later) we came across a massive waterfall and OH GOD how we were dying for a swim with everyone else! But because we didn’t have a change of clothes and weren’t super keen on swimming half naked with a bunch of men, we had to settle for just getting our feet in, much to their disappointment.
Many of the men that weren’t part of our group wanted selfies with us. We refused (with the help of a lovely American guy) because we were still slightly traumatised by what happened in Lucknow train station!
The rest of the hike Vishal and Ranesh taught me the Hindi basics like “What’s your name?” (“Aapka naam kya hai?”), “My name is ______” (“Meera naam ______ hain”) and heaps more but these were the first ones I nailed 😁
By the end of our hike, the young American guy who was a bit of a dickhead anyway had gone ahead and left us. So the 5 of us jumped on the local bus at the bottom of the hill back to our hotels. We all laughed when we drove past the other guy from our group who had ditched us earlier – shame.
The bus driver was actually crazy! He was speeding down a road that on one side dropped off a cliff, swinging dangerously around each corner and even overtook people! Danielle and I were praying that we would actually make it to the hotel alive!
By the time we got back it was only 9am and we had gone to the top of a mountain to see the sunrise, been blessed in a Hindu temple and hiked 18km! Never have we ever been so productive! We collapsed on the bed and went straight to sleep for a few hours and spent the rest of the day wandering around the stalls and relaxing next to the river.
Unfortunately however beautiful India can be, rubbish is everywhere! This hillside really hit home to us tidy Kiwis and it wasn’t the only one of its kind!
The next morning we went rafting down the Ganges with to cool people from Argentina, Leo and Ingrid! The route took us about 15km down the river through HUGE rapids that I wish we had photos of! In some of the less hectic sections we were allowed to jump in to swim next to the raft while holding onto the rope. Right before the end, we stopped at a cliff about 4-5m high to jump in.
We acquired ourselves a “prisoner” from one of the other rafts which had too many people. When we weren’t fighting the rapids, we were fighting the other teams!
Our guide seemed super cool and seemed like he was used to interacting with other cultures. What I mean by that is it didn’t seem like he was taking our smiling and usual friendliness as flirtation. BOY, were we wrong! We met up with him later on because he said he could show us how the aarti ceremony worked. Yep, no. He told us to meet up at a time that was AFTER the ceremony had finished and we sat in the shadowy corner of the temple. Awesome, just another creepy Indian. Bolted out of that one ASAP! It’s a shame really, because he was pretty cool until he got creepy.
On our fourth and final day we visited Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s Ashram. In 1968 the Beatles came here to learn transcendental meditation. Here they also wrote HEAPS of their hit songs! These days the ashram is in ruins but people still come for the piece and quiet.
Inside the Beatles’ caves the walls and ceilings had awesome paintings.
In other parts of the ashram there were other amazing paintings tucked away on the walls of the run-down buildings.
There was a larger building that held many more “caves” which in it’s prime would have looked incredible! We could even go up on the roof to see the view!
Afterwards we packed our bags and jumped in a taxi with Ingrid and Leo to go to Haridwar for our train. I had to spend the whole hour with my bulky 18kg pack on my lap in the front seat! 😭