After some difficulty organising trains we finally made it on the overnight sleeper to Hardiwar and then took an onward bus to Rishikesh. There we descended across Laxman Jhula, one of two suspension bridges that traverse the Ganga, to our hostel, Shiv Shakti.
The hostel was really well run and organised lots of excursions, we partook in two of them: white water rafting and a sunrise trek. I don’t have many photos of the rafting because I left my camera at the hostel, but there are some photos and videos on Instagram. Disco and I were the only foreigners on the raft the day we did it so we were chosen to ride at the front of the raft, this proved to be a wise decision. We were given the security briefing and hopped in the raft, within about 30 seconds I was launched overboard by a big wave. I saw it coming so was prepared and clung to the raft but, materialistically, I was most annoyed that my flip flops had not survived the current. Luckily, they floated downstream after us and guide #2 was able to retrieve them from the river. After that I tied all of our shoes to the raft, didn’t want to risk losing half my footwear options in one morning.
Disco and I quickly learnt that we would have to be the engine on the raft as the men sitting behind us were too busy shrieking and laughing to be much assistance. We were encouraged to raft together and follow our lead but most of the time we were being splashed or oared in the back by the guys sitting behind us. They were having the time of their lives though and their hysterics were infectious.
The first two rapids were really big and our guide said they were ‘level 3’. This was not hard to believe as at some points the waves were two metres taller than the raft. Even though we had to “paddle, paddle” at some points I could not reach the oar down into the water.
It was incredibly enjoyable and a fraction of the cost of what you might pay in the UK, although I’m sure the risk assessment is also less thorough than in GB! Later down the river our guide said that Disco and I could swim down a rapid rather than raft it, we grabbed the opportunity as did two Indians who dove in with us, we all cheerily floated down the Ganga until our guide asked us to swim right to get onto that bank and rejoin the raft. At that point the two Indians told our guide that they couldn’t because they couldn’t swim. He asked them why they came in the river then and they said it looked like fun! I would never be so fearless. Similarly, they stop and let you jump off a rock into the river, lots of people queue up to do this, it’s not that high but the river is fast flowing and as soon as many of the men hit the water they start to flap because, again, they cannot swim. Thankfully, they are wearing life jackets and helmets, but still! Again we felt grateful that we had been taught to swim, our guide reminding us that 99% of Indians cannot. I am not sure if that statistic is accurate but I’d think it’s not far off.
We had trekked up to the waterfall on our first day, but on our third day we rose at 4am to be driven up to a viewing point, this was a boke-inducing ride, there we drank chai, admired the yogis who were meditating from a distance and waited for the sun to rise. The group we were with were all feeling a bit disheartened because it was really overcast so we distracted ourselves by striking a few yoga moves ourselves and then suddenly the rosé- coloured sun appeared in the distance, it was special, my photos are not.
From there we started our descent stopping for breakfast with some hungry looking monkeys who made us eat all that bit faster. It was quite a difficult trek because the path was very loose and we were not wearing the correct gear; me and another girl took a tumble but it was worth it for the cool bath in the Neer waterfall half way down the walk. After all that activity we enjoyed a painful-but-worth-it massage in one of the local haunts.
Rishikesh is primarily a place where people (Israelis and Aussies to be specific- there are hundreds of them!) come to stay in an ashram: the place was made popular by the Beatles who stayed there in the 60s, although this is not without its controversies, wiki it, it’s interesting, promise. That ashram is now closed down, but you can pay 600 rupees to look around the derelict building, we did not. It is very easy to see why they were compelled to stay there, the verdant forest and holy Ganga make it a really lovely place to visit and well worth a stop when travelling in India, we were sad to leave.
Disco’s low: yoga freaks- there was a lot of realigning of chakras happening, whatever that is
Footluce’s low: severe car sickness
Disco’s high: white water rafting
Footluce’s high: swimming in the Ganga Rapids