Thursday, May 23, 2013

Rishikesh, Uttarakhand

My beautiful moonstone mala necklace. Peach Moonstone supports the heart as it stimulates the mind, soothing worry or anxiety, and bringing out the best in people. Its loving energy promotes the Divine in all situations, and is an emotional support for intuitive or sensitive children.
Oh Rishikesh. Poor thing. Let’s just say I just had a break-up with Munnar, definitely wasn’t ready for, and Rishikesh had to be the rebound. I left nice cool lucisously green Munnar for dry hot cow poop covered walkways holy city of Rishikesh. Rishikesh is a special place, I just believe it’s a bit hyped and I wasn’t ready to be back in the heat. It’s also a bit tricky when there are more cows to dodge on the pedestrian walkway than actual people. I did enjoy my few days in Rishikesh and made sure to slow down to enjoy the ashram lifestyle.
Anyway, Ami, Mona & I parted ways as I headed up North. I flew into Dehra Dun thinking that’d be the best option and then I could take a 30 minute bus to Rishikesh (as told in lonely planet). Well unfortunately the airport is in BFE and the local bus didn’t come after 2 hours; luckily I did make friends quickly and 2 soldiers ended up sharing their lunch with me.  After my full belly, I gave in and shelled out the fixed price 600 rupee fare for the 20 minute taxi ride. In the scheme of things that’s not much money, it’s more of the principle that was irritating.

I made it safely and found a room at Parmath Niketan ashram. I spent my days here going to yoga, participating in the nightly ganga aarti, attempting to stay cool, reading and relaxing with my new friend Myriam from France. Also, there are tons of great souvenir shops in Rishikesh. One tip, shop on the other side of the river (opposite of Parmath). The shops over there had much better deals! 

Unfortunately, this ashram was not what I was hoping for. It felt more like a business than a place for spiritual pilgrimage. The front desk staff were not very welcoming and I could tell that they were not happy people. The ashram also didn’t have many opportunities for teaching or allowing you to get involved. It would have been nice to have an orientation with history of the ashram. The meditation and yoga classes were pretty dry. If I were to do it all over again, I would have sought out better yoga courses and spent the time to find a teacher that I connected with. I think Amma’s ashram set the bar high!

One of my favorite moments was when we asked around and volunteered one evening in the kitchen. We were rolling out and making chapatti like it was nobodys business. Or so I like to think…in reality we were amateurs and the aunties were trying to help us – use less flour, roll them out a bit more etc. The people I met at the Ashram were very lovely and I was glad to be there. Myriam and I had many wonderful deep conversations together that I won’t ever forget. We also attended the Ganga Aarti each night at sunset – it was always a different experience each night. Here's a video I took:

Cows on the beach even. They are everywhere!

You can raft the Ganges...more like paddling though because it's not that swift and there's not any white water.
OMG finally a salad!
Putting my feet in the Holy Ganges river.
The pollution is very sad. The governement doesn't provide trash collection so garbage is everywhere and then they burn it. We are so lucky to live in a soceity where are government provides basic needs such as garbage pickup.

Where the Beatles wrote the White Album.

Overloaded bicycle!
Our building for our stay at Parmath.

Myriam and I at Ganga Aarti

She was so adorable, happy little girl!
Meal time!! That cauliflor was pretty tasty.
Where we dined at Parmath.

Adventures in Transit
Here’s one for you. I decide to take one last government bus from Rishikesh to Delhi – a nice 7 hour ride, but I can make it. Or apparently I can’t…or the bus can’t. Bus breaks down about an hour into the trip, we all grab our bags and stand on the side of the road. Nobody speaks English and can explain what the plan is. So after about 30 minutes of waiting I flag down a rickshaw and head backwards to the closest train station in Hardiwar. Not to mention my bag is beyond exploding & I desperately need to send 15lbs back to the US at this point. As I said lots of good shopping in Riskikesh J
Now I get to embark on my least favorite experience once again – buying a train ticket at the station. You fill out this little paper, everyone shoves and cuts equals immediate headache.I highly recommend if you are going to India to setup a Cleartrip account so you can book train tickets online. In this circumstance I needed a ticket asap so the station it is. I am waitlisted number 8 for an express train that leaves in 5 hours. I keep my fingers crossed, grab lunch, send a box of 15lbs of goodies back to the US and then “wait” in line again to find out if my seat was confirmed. YAY luckily I am confirmed in a lovely A/C chair car seat that includes meals and snacks. Delhi I am on my way!

To take the tone in another direction, the train station is such a wonderful place to people watch. I love it. Then you’ll also have sweet moments at the train station like this one. I was walking around trying to find the car that my seat was in…quite important to be at the right end of the train in India as these babies are long, usually at least 30 cars is my guess.  As I am meandering, this sweet lil old woman comes over shakes my head, reaches up and squeezes my face with a huge smile spread across her face. I can’t help but smile myself!
While I was waiting for the train I took some candid photographs of people walking by:

Hard to watch this poor guy on his little skateboard since his legs don't work.

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