I was nervous. I could feel sweat accumulating in all the usual places when I feel anxious, on my forehead, and the small of my back. I hate dentists. Well, I don’t really hate dentists so much as hate having to go to the dentist, get shot up with Novocain, and suffer through all that…
Nestled in the foothills of the Himalaya, Mountains, on the banks of what the Indian people call “Mother Ganga”, is the city of Rishikesh, India. Rishikesh, is a trekkers dream. It doesn’t matter if you want an easy stroll along the Ganges, or a hardcore excursion straight up a mountain side, because there’s something for everyone. One of my favorite places to pass a lazy afternoon is at Neer Gaddu Waterfall, which is a simple 30 minute trek. Here is how to find and enjoy the tranquility of Neer Gaddu Waterfall.
How to Get There
Only about 6 kilometers east of the Topovan area of Rishikesh is one of the many precious gems of the Himalayas. You can easily access the falls by car, scooter, motorcycle, or by trekking from the main road. Before you head up the gravel path though you’ll need to buy an entrance ticket from the little shop down on the paved road. The fee is about 20 INR for Indians and 50 INR for foreigners. The Indian people always charge foreigners more, so don’t be surprised. It’s just the way it is. You may be asked for your entrance ticket or you might not, but I wouldn’t risk it.
It was hard to believe that what was once a vacant lot was now decorated in beautiful orange and white colors from floor to ceiling. I swear, the Indian people can make anything beautiful. They take great pride in their weddings, and this one was no exception. Arun was one of my employees at my last corporate job, and I wasn’t going to miss his wedding to his beautiful bride, Aashna, for anything. It was in Delhi, 7 hours away from Rishikesh, but I made the journey anyway so that I could show my support, and experience the tradition and grandeur of a real Indian wedding reception.
The Indian people give out a “wedding card” instead of an invitation. It looks like a fancy booklet, with details of the wedding and the reception inside. This one was written in English and even had an QR code inside. The outside was a lavish yellow satin.
Love does not overcome all. Oh, we like to think it does. Disney convinced us as young kids that it does. Cinderella gets her shoe back and weds the Prince. Sandy and Danny drive off into the clouds in their new tricked out muscle car, and…well, you get the idea. The fact is, reality is much different. It’s often more like the Titanic and Rose having to let Jack go into the depths of the sea. Life is hard, and so is love. Love can’t make an alcoholic sober, and it can’t cure cancer.
Be Careful Who You Love
I’m kind of an expert on this subject. You see, I fell for the wrong man, again. I didn’t mean to fall in love with someone twenty years younger than me and from another country. But we can’t help who we fall in love with, or can we? Is there a moment, in the early stages of passion, where you can choose to move forward, or to stop before someone gets hurt? We had the opportunity. Kirti tried to explain to me that it would never work, but I’m stubborn and tenacious and was determined to make us the exception. Unfortunately, we weren’t.
Driving through the park entry the landscape suddenly changed, from rolling brown dessert to giant rock formations and lava rock. It looked kind of like mars. In fact, Austin told me that NASA often practices handling their rovers in the park. It looked mystifying and beautiful, like Arches, Zion, and Sedona all rolled into one marvelous place. It was hard to believe I was about to go trekking in Teide National Park, on the Island of Tenerife, in the Canary Islands of Spain.
Mount Teide towers at an incredible 12,200 feet above sea level, making it the highest peak in all of Spain. Driving to the national park was full of interesting surprises; from the sunny south coast to pine trees and mossy forest, the geography changes suddenly. The park itself lies at around 6,562 feet and is usually covered in snow during the winter months. Temperatures vary throughout the year from below freezing to 104 degree.
Many people have never heard of the Canary Islands. In fact, Americans rarely visit them. It’s a popular destination for Europeans, but to most of the world the stunning Canary Islands, just off the coast of Morocco, remain a mystery. The island of Tenerife is a geographic wonderland, much like the island of Kauai. In fact, they even share a similar climate. From thick lush forest to lava rock filled desert, it’s a recreational wonderland and a feast for the senses. Tenerife is a stunning crown jewel of Spain’s Canary Islands.
Hiking and Biking
The choices for hiking on Tenerife go on forever. You can choose from a nice short walk along the coast to one of the island’s beautiful lighthouses, or a vigorous hike to the top of one of the many mountains. Mount Teide is an old volcano and towers above the island at 12,198 feet. So from mountain climbing to meandering walks along the coastline, there are plenty of options. The same goes for mount biking. Want to kick your recreation up a notch? Fly down one of Tenerife’s many mountains on two wheels!
Looking out over the aqua blue water of the Ligurian Sea, while standing in the ruins of an ancient castle, took my breath away and made me feel insignificant. Nothing can compare to the glorious feats of mother nature and the Roman empire. I was surprised at the gorgeous diversity of the landscape of Italy. Within just an hour or two of Florence is the Ligurian Sea, the majestic Alps, and the beloved wine region of Tuscany. I’ll always cherish the beautiful trifecta of Lucca, Florence, and Puerto Venere Italy.
Lucca is best known for its giant wall that is five kilometers long, about 20 something feet tall, and more than 20 feet thick, and surrounds the oldest part of the town. The wall was built by the Romans to protect its occupants from invasion but it still stands proudly today. Tourists and residents alike enjoy walking, biking, and jogging along the wall. Alongside it are great restaurants, food vendors, shops, and a vast variety of fascinating sculptures. The wall really is the heart of the city.
I always thought chianti was a style or type of vino. Boy was I ignorant. Chianti is actually a region found in Tuscany Italy. So, you can even get white chianti. I learned all kinds of interesting things on my wine tasting tour, like you can buy a $70 bottle of balsamic vinegar, and that it’s pretty hard to hold a yoga pose when you’re a little drunk from all that wine. It was an incredible autumn day in Chianti Tuscany, and it was full of fun, fascinating facts, and new friendships.
The day wasn’t perfect. Even though I thoroughly enjoyed the tour, the lack of organization surrounding the transport of guests was pretty shocking. It was kind of similar to my experience at the Rolling Stones concert in Lucca. It was a great event with lack luster planning. I can’t recommend to anyone using My Tours or GetYourGuide. The shuttle on the way out was 45 minutes late, and the shuttle at the end of the tour was over an hour late. I’ve been told that is just what you should expect as “Italian time”, but really? At the end of the tour, I had to call and pester the guide service to actually do what they had promised, shuttle me and some new friends back to our originating town. It was a real buzz kill, quite literally!
I went to the Rolling Stones concert in Lucca Italy, but I didn’t “see” the show. Probably only about 10 percent of the 55,000 people attending were able to see the show, because it was general admission on a flat field, that sloped slightly downhill the opposite direction. It didn’t take long for the crowd to get frustrated and soon drunk concert attendees were climbing up anything they could find to get a glimpse of the stage. Trees and concert rigging were popular places to perch, but it seems the best seats in the house were on top of the portable toilets! The Rolling Stones concert in Lucca Italy can only be described as a spectacular disaster, but I’m still glad I went!
I didn’t go to Lucca with the intention of going to the concert. But on my second day there we drove by the venue where they were erecting the stage and I realized that the Rolling Stones would soon be playing only three blocks away from where I was staying. So, I decided to go, but by that time tickets were next to impossible to find. I tried buying some online but the websites were all in Italian and they would only snail mail the tickets. With only a few days to wait before the show, I didn’t want to risk the tickets not arriving in time. Finally, I looked on Craigslist and got lucky! An American many (Jason) was going to go with his girlfriend, but she cancelled on him at the last minute. Like I said, I got lucky, and he got $200.
When my Italian friend and host suggested we go to Sassi for the weekend, I agreed, but I had no idea what, or even where, it was. Next thing I know we are headed out of Lucca and towards the mountains of northern Italy. Before long we are zooming along steep switchbacks, away from the city, enjoying the changing colors of autumn and the view of the valley below. Finally, we enter the most charming little historical village and stop in front of a giant red home, made of stones and concrete. To my right the Alps are towering in the distance and an ancient castle sits high on a hill. It was like like a view from a postcard. Staying in a 250 year old home, enjoying the astounding view, and mushroom hunting in the forest were all remarkable, and made for a most delightful weekend in Sassi Italy.
The Historical Home
Paolo Pocai’s family has owned the old homestead for generations. The front part of the home was built in 1770 and there is still an old brass plate above the door with the date on it. As if that isn’t remarkable enough, the back part of the building was a 15th century tower and still contains some of the ancient doors and the original circular stone staircase. The home contains some of the most beautiful antique furniture and chandeliers I have ever seen! It’s hard to guess how big the “house” is, as some rooms in the basement have never been completed, but I would estimate that it was well over 4,000 feet, which seems to be about normal for summer homes in the country in Italy. I helped Paolo prepare the home for winter as he doesn’t go there much anymore in the off season.