Stepping out of the jeep taxi in the middle of a busy market street in Rishikesh was a strange jolt to the senses. Just half an hour before I’d been soaking up the simplicity at the ashram and now suddenly I was back in the colourful, noisy bustle of India, dodging the cows and traffic again. Rishikesh isn’t too crazy though, and was a good half-way house to stop off for a couple of days on my way back to Delhi.
Rishikesh has been called the ‘spiritual supermarket’ of India, full of dippy, hippy, new-age westerners looking for a mediation or yoga fix, a chill-out vibe and bargain clothes to suit any student wardrobe. It didn’t feel too much like ‘authentic’ India (although there were plenty of Indian tourists here celebrating their Diwali holiday period), but I really liked the place. The pleasant mountain climate (cool at nights, warm but pleasant and breezy during the day), relatively low traffic levels, tasty veggie food, all the monkeys you could hope to meet and bargain-bucket accommodation was a winning combination (I paid around 3 Euro for two nights for a double room in a clean hotel with a private bathroom with hot water!).
Many of the ashram crowd were also staying here, so everywhere I walked I’d bump into someone I knew and it was possible to spend hours drinking chai, chatting and relaxing barefoot in loungey cafes with new-age soundtracks and soft floor cushions. A favourite hangout was the ‘Pyramid Cafe’, which was set back on a leafy hillside. It was great for banana porridge breakfast, had wi-fi and its own cows!
I went to an ‘Acro Yoga’ class on the beach one afternoon and had so much fun trying out all kinds of crazy poses and balances with a partner. It took me back 30 or so years ago to my gym club days!
It wasn’t all happy vibes though, as it was time to say goodbye to the lovely ashram crowd, in particular to Michal, my new Israeli ‘sister’. Saddest of all was waving off Michael, my lovely travel-buddy as he left on his bus to Chandigarh. Over the past weeks we’ve shared a lot of laughs, near-death experiences (he’s learned that it’s a bad idea to piss in the Ganges) and adventures and I’m really going to miss his company. I even forgive him for shouting ‘Oi, Griffith’ at me in the middle of my silent ashram meditation and demanding that I wash his clothes in a bucket for 10 rupees an hour….
Next stop, back to Delhi for a big Diwali party!