Time to unwind (sigh of relief), and sleep (finally)
The home of Yoga did not disappoint me, in fact it was a breath of fresh air. I’m not going to completely sugarcoat it (this is still India) there are still loud and busy streets. Luckily finding serenity is as easy to find as a cheap pair of sunglasses. There are waterfalls in all directions, the mighty Ganges flows through the town and the foothills of the Himalayas are surrounding Rishikesh like a mob of locals trying to sell textiles. Finding an outdoor activity is easy too, as there are numerous offices advertising white water rafting, parasailing, bungee jumping and trekking. Yoga and meditation classes are in abundance, so after a long day of adventure it is easy to unwind. Locals consider the Ganges sacred, watching their ceremonies and offerings is inspiring.
Swimming: Waterfalls and Ganges
Our first full day (the real first day was spent catching up on sleep) we decided to hike to a waterfall just outside of the city. Our hotel (Mama’s Cottage) rested near the north end of the city, which allowed us to walk about 40 minutes to reach the gravel road leading to the waterfall. After another 30 minutes of hiking up a steep incline and losing a pint of sweat, we reached the first waterfall. The water looked so incredibly refreshing, we wasted no time jumping in. Sitting underneath the falling water was exhilarating and torturous at the same time, as water was pounding the top of my head. After cooling down we resumed our trek in search of more waterfalls. Passing by the second waterfall we decided to follow the other hikers even higher. It was totally worth it! The third waterfall was actually two waterfalls in one and the swimming area was very large. Trying to swim into the falls was difficult but we tried it anyway.
After a short discussion one evening we decided to be adventurous and sign up for some white-water rafting on the Ganges! Since it was early in September we only had the option to do a 9km trip. Monsoon season wasn’t over and the river still had too much power upstream. We chose Dream Life Adventures and the next morning we jumped in a Jeep to head up the river. Following a quick lesson on how to paddle, our group of six got in our raft. As soon as we started moving downstream our guide stuck his paddle in the river and proceeded to fling cold water all over us. None of the rapids were really big on our trip but it was exciting nonetheless. On three different occasions we were allowed to jump out and float along side the raft. One guy with us didn’t even know how to swim but he jumped in too! The whole experience lasted two hours and it only cost each of us about seven dollars!!
CEREMONY ON THE GANGES- GANGA AARTI
Ganga Aarti is a ceremony that is performed every night at multiple cities along the Ganges river, including Rishikesh. The Ganges is considered the Divine Mother and the giver of life as she not only inspires but irrigates farms and purifies the land. Large crowds of people gather to watch in the evening,including many people that come from the nearby ashram called Parmarth Niketan. While we watched people give offerings, there was beautiful chanting and singing.
Our adventurous side got the best of us again as we thought it was a good idea to rent scooters for a day. As we headed out of town for Robber’s cave the plan was to ride for an hour, see the cave and head back. Well…. after numerous wrong turns and a serious traffic jam, it ended up taking three hours. Although it was a long trip the adventure of riding scooters was exciting.
Not knowing what to expect from Robber’s cave, the sight of people wading through cold water was a welcome sight. The cave is basically a large rock formation with a river carving through the middle of it. At times the water was above my waist and flowing fast. As we made our way through the first thirty feet we realized that the cave is much deeper than we thought. After walking in for about five minutes it became much narrower and the water moved with a lot more force. At that point we turned around and headed back, much to my delight we saw beams from the afternoon sun piercing into the cave.
We headed back to our hotel and about thirty minutes before reaching Rishikesh, the rain started pouring so hard that there was flooding across parts of the road. Visibility became low and there was an added challenge of dodging deep puddles and tidal waves sent from passing vehicles. After reaching the scooter rental shop all three of us were completely soaked but we all had big smiles on our faces.
Rishikesh was a great place to relax and have some adventures at the same time!