The Road to Rishikesh and the Land of Om's
Trip Start Jan 28, 2011
20Trip End Feb 15, 2011
Map your own trip!
Show trip route
Where I stayed
Aggarwal Guest House
Haridwar is one of the most spiritual and religious places of India, and pilgrimages are made not just on Holy days, but daily. There seemed to be endless people boarding the train. Wooden trunks, dufflebags, backpacks, flour sacks, and large cans filled with belongings all made the march from the platform onto the train even trickier than just pushing through all of the bodies
By now I've learned some Hindi words and phrases and have no reason not to use them. So I started shouting "Cello!" (Let's Go!) Just as loudly as the locals, and eventually made it onto the train. Off to Haridwar.
I slept uneasily for about half of the trip and passed time drinking chai for the other half.
On the train we passed towns where children were sitting in circles in dirt fields wearing school uniforms and cradling books on their laps, with who was presumably their teacher in the center of the circles. There were train stations where the platforms were packed with families laying shoulder to shoulder on the ground under blankets. I would guess that train stations are probably the most opportune area for these people to collect food and money when busy trains empty out. Sad, but interesting to see. I gave some more kids pieces of chocolate when they knocked on my window and they ran away smiling.
Haridwar. For the first time since I've arrived, the sky is not clear blue, but instead cloudy and grey. Some of my layers start coming in handy here. Now comes the fun part, the continuation of India: Unplugged. No place to stay
Plan B: Rishikesh. A town 18 kilometers further up the road, and supposedly the yoga capital of the world. Also known to be far more touristy than Haridwar, which is why I hadn't planned to go there. However, considering that I haven't seen or heard a single American since I've been here and seen maybe a total of 75 "Westerners," I'm starting to think that the "touristy" areas aren't so bad. Am I cheating? Maybe, but I enjoy life very much, and would prefer to stay alive at least a bit longer. Something just didn't feel right in Haridwar.
Back in a rickshaw, I was heading to Rishikesh and passed a sign that said, "Elephants do have the right of way. Please do not attempt to obstruct." Best sign ever.
I arrived at Plan B and my driver told me he couldn't drive any further, that it was a pedestrian path only. Turns out he just didn't feel like driving anymore (there were plenty of vehicle driving further), but I could take the workout anyway. I walked down an extremely steep set of extremely deep steps and roads that were like rollercoasters, across a bridge and back up a hill until I found a patch of hotels and guest houses. I stopped in at a guest house to see about a room, and I was shown a small cement cubicle with no windows and a bed the size of my living room table. Next. Aggarwal Guest House. An old woman named Ghita runs it, and the "reception" area is actually her bedroom. I took a room there and headed out to see the town.
Rishikesh is beautiful- it lays at the base of the mountain range in a valley where the Ganges River runs through, and the hillsides are dotten with amazing, bright Buddhist temples 30 stories high. When the wind blows, you hear chimes, and bells ringing when prayers begin. It's very pretty and calm
I passed dinner time in a treehouse cafe eating Tibetan dumplings and watching the daylight disappear while listening to chants of "Om"s from surrounding Ashrams, and then headed back to my room.
Not much else to do or see here in Rishikesh- the town is small and there's a very concentrated area of interesting sights. Tomorrow begins my long travel day up into the Himalayas to Dharamsala and McLeod Ganj, which will be my home for the last week of my stay in India and a jumping off point for a trek a little further up.
Tonight there will be dreams of snowcapped mountains. Almost there.