Playing my wood flute besides the Ganges River, watching the birds soar high into the Himalaya Mountains, I felt like I never wanted to leave. Rishikesh does that to people. I know more than one person that has showed up in the quaint village only to decide not to leave. The town is brimming with visitors from all nations, creed and color, and most come for one thing, health. Whether it’s to enjoy the holy Ganges River, the many ashrams scattered throughout the hills, or all the vegetarian cuisine, it’s a great place to chill out and find peace with the world.
We checked into our hotel, which was about a half a block away from the river and right next to one of the two walking bridges. On one hand it was quite noisy, but on the other hand it was great people watching….and monkey watching! Within just half an hour of our arrival a large momma Langoor monkey joined us on our balcony to nurse her baby. She was big, and less than 10 feet away. We weren’t sure what to do, so we quietly watched and moved very slowly. Eventually we left her with her baby and headed inside. I closed only the screen door behind us because it was so hot out. I turned around to see that she had moved to position herself right outside our screen door and was acting like she might come in! We quickly closed the main door and locked it! I’ve learned all too well that monkeys here in India can be quite aggressive and very intimidating.
As if to prove my point, we headed out a short time later across the walking bridge to the opposite side of the river to check it out. Kirti was carrying a jug of Frootie, which is a mango flavored fruit drink. A different kind of monkey (this one brown) grabbed it out of his hand just as sneakily as any human pick pocket out there! Kirti wisely let the monkey have it and we spent the next 5 minutes watching the monkeys fight over the Frootie! Eventually one of them bit a hole in the hard plastic bottle and they fought over the ability to suck the juice out of the container. When it was empty, the battle was over and temporary peace resumed.
Once across the bridge we checked out the shopping and we bought a number of unique handicrafts from local artisans. They have colorful textiles (purses, blankets, clothing), hand carved woodwork and amazingly inexpensive jewelry! Their semi precious stones, such as lapus and turquoise are plentiful and make for stunning jewelry sets.
From my observations, Rishikesh has three main categories of people. The first category are hippy like individuals or transients. They call themselves babas. They are typically on some sort of spiritual quest, wear loose colorful clothing and often travel from place to place with only a small pack of meager possessions. We sat next to a couple of them down by the river as they got high on some local weed. They were friendly and gracious men and we enjoyed visiting with them.
Hippies and Locals
The second group of people are transplants from somewhere else that have decided to call Rishikesh home for a period of time. These “locals” seem to all know each other, are generally into yoga or adventure sports and enjoy a very simple and healthy lifestyle.
The third group is made up of tourists from around the world. We chatted with people from Australia and Germany and enjoyed the diversity of those individuals. It was a fascinating mix of people and even the indigenous locals seem to enjoy all the interaction.
The food was amazing and healthy! Kirti said we absolutely had to try a delicious fruit salad he enjoyed on his last trip that was all the way at the other end of town. I had the wrong shoes on and tuck tucks and rickshaws are not available, so a couple of blisters and about 5 kilometers later we arrived at the little restaurant tired and hungry. It was totally worth the effort and the blisters! The fruit salad was full of all kinds of fresh fruits that they cut up in front of us, including apples, mango, bananas, melon and pomegranate. We had the option of adding curd (yogurt) or soy milk, along with fresh coconut flakes, muesli and honey. The result was delicious!!
The Ganges River
The next morning we got up early to go sit by the river and enjoy the serenity that only mother nature can provide. We headed down to the bank of the Ganges, with our journals and my wood flute in hand. The last time we were in Rishikesh the water was turquoise green, but because of the monsoons it was a dirty brown with bits of rubbish and drift wood floating down. Still, that didn’t stop people from bathing in it and filling up their water bottles with the “holy” water to take back to lucky friends and family. We were joined by a wild dog that seemed bored with our desire to stay put, so off he went to continue his journey. On the way back we came across the picked clean bones of a once sacred cow, scattered among the rocks of the river bank.
There was a new temple recently erected right on the bank of the river and we passed it on our way back to the hotel. Morning prayer had just begun and so I took a picture of the followers gathering for their morning rituals. The chanting music was soon blasted out to everyone through loud speakers, destroying the morning solitude of the previous couple of hours.
The time went by entirely too fast. It was time to leave and I felt like we had just got there. On the 8 hour drive home we passed a couple of slums, many busy villages and had to drive through swollen streams over the roadway. There was one particular section of road that made me especially nervous, but as always, Kirti navigated the obstacles like a pro! It was a fabulous weekend and my new favorite weekend retreat. I can’t wait to return to Rishikesh! I hear her calling me already