Wednesday, October 5, 2011

{ Rishikesh: the jungle! PERFECT weekend }

King Kong in Rishikesh?

The Ram Jula Bridge

This weekend, I went to Rishkesh!
 {Yoga capital of the world!}
{Gateway to the Himalayas}
Oh, and we stopped in Haridwar, too.
What a MARVELOUS adventure!
I loved every minute of it.
River rafting.
Bathing in the Ganga.
Swimming in a waterfall.
Trekking through the jungle.
Ate at a German Bakery.
Explored the beautiful city. 
Yogied on the bridge in Rishkesh.
etc. etc. etc.
Everything was perfect.
I don't think it could have been better!

Random facts: Rishikesh is a fully vegetarian city - by law. It is also an alcohol-free city (not smoke-free), and plastic bags are banned. 

It was so incredible to be situated along the Ganga river all weekend. It is very sacred in the Hindu religion and Indian culture. Read about Goddess Ganga here. She is said to be the only living Goddess. Many hindus believe that if you never immerse yourself in the waters of the Ganga river, then you will not go to heaven. It brings good fortune and washes away sins. 

At 10:15 pm on Friday night, one of my best friends, Anita-ji, and I left to go to Rishikesh. Sarah and Katie were supposed to go but were unable because they weren't feeling well. We took a bus from Old Delhi Red Fort. Ajay-baiyyah (Winnie Ma'am's driver) dropped us off (after we spent nearly a 1/2 hour asking random tourist shacks where the stop was located, etc.). The bus left a little early so it's a good thing we arrived when we did! The first 2 hours were freezing (as usual on buses in India) but after our stop for a snack at 1:30 and a little convincing from Anita, the uncle turned down the A/C - much to everyone's relief! (Why doesn't anyone else say something sooner? We haven't figured it out either...). Then, we slept peacefully through the morning. 

Anita insisted on taking this photo - haha Ajay-baiyyah (middle right - he's a cutie) did not want to take the photo.

Anita and I ready for a long night bus ride!

We arrived in lower Rishikesh at about 6:00 am. We first joined the crowd of hundreds of other Hindu Indians by the Ganga River for a small, incomplete bath...and a quick prayer. Some even sent their candlelit floats down the river. This is called aarti. It is a form of puja, or an offering to the Gods. Read more about aarti here and here. I will speak a little more of it later as well.

On the ghats in lower Rishikesh on the Ganga river early Saturday morning

Floating flower leaflets down the river...

We "freshened up" in this public washroom

The sun rising in the Himalayan jungle

After visiting the Ganga, we stopped for a small breakfast of biscuits and tea at a little local cafe. Then we took a rickshaw into Laxman Jhula - the main part of Rishikesh.  We crossed the Laxman Jhula bridge on our way to the main part of town. This is one of features of Rishikesh that really stands out. There, we did a little yoga and were enamored by the beautiful clouds as they caressed the jungle mountains, enveloped by the Ganga river. Rishikesh immediately captivated my heart (and I was excited to see the Yoga Study Center just across the river!) We saw signs for Yoga and Meditation all over the city - on ever wall, bridge, building, walkway, etc. It was insane. And we would walk past a yoga/meditation ashram every 2-5 steps - seriously. I would have loved to stay there longer and do some more yoga!

We had to stop and take some photos on Rishikesh's Laxman Jula bridge!

It was early morning so we quickly walked through the city to find a temporary room to take a nap and refresh.We found a little tourist home just off the main road. We found some lunch at a little cafe that overlooked the river, did a little shopping (I found the most beautiful sterling silver rings with real gems!), and headed for some camping.

We stopped at this little tourist home to take a nap, take a bath, and refresh. I love the Indian way of living life!

Our breakfast cafe by the river!

As we were getting off the bus in Rishikesh earlier that morning, we noticed another couple that was going camping as well. We took a rickshaw into town with them. As we were getting off, we walked in the same direction as them and 'Nita says, "We only have 2 people but we reserved camping for 4 people...should we invite them?" So we did! They didn't have any reservations so it worked out perfect! We met up with them at about noon as we headed to the campground. Ironically, my camera broke - it wouldn't focus! It was frustrating but it worked out so well because the couple we met, Raj and Anu, let us use their camera and they gave us all the pictures. As Anita said, "God prepared the way...he made it perfect!" 

After a 20 minute drive up a long, rocky mountainous road, we arrived at our jungle camp! ...breathtaking! Our tents were situated just next to a gorgeous waterfall (with 2 different sources that merged into one!) and some banana trees. PARADISE. It's difficult to accurately describe it's beauty. It felt like a dream. 

We spent the afternoon bathing in the upper pools of the waterfall, went trekking through the jungle, and just enjoyed nature. The water was so clear and clean with a beautiful turquoise tint - it was drinkable! As it got dark, we played some uno, had a dance part, enjoyed some snacks of roasted peanuts with onions and popcorn, etc. It was all so relaxing! We enjoyed spending time with Anu and Raj :) They were so sweet and the most beautiful couple! Our meals at the camp were so yummy - they provided a vegetarian lunch, dinner, and breakfast. The bathroom facilities were so clean (they were brand new). I had no complaints!

Trekking into the jungle

Our tent - look how CUTE Anita is!!!

Look at this jungle camp - INCREDIBLE!

Swimming in the upper waterfall - tooooo much fun!

This is our view from the dining hall where we ate our meals :)

Trekking through the jungle...

I love this photo of Anita!

We wanted a picture with our Baiyyah who guided us :) He's the middle in purple.

Playing late night uno in the dining hall!


The next morning, we woke up to the sound of the jungle birds. Anita and I spent some time by the river in our pj's, brushing our teeth, writing in my journal, splashing in the water, etc. It was amazing. What a great way to start a Sunday! We had a nice breakfast of Aloo paratha, omelets, and toast and headed to the river!

Banana trees right outside our tent!

Ready to go rafting!

River rafting was amazing. No, incredible. 
It wasn't much different than rafting in the US - the guides were "pros," the procedures the same. The only difference was the only words I really heard in english on the raft were "stop" and "paddle forward." hahaha I was the only white person I saw all day on Sunday! I was an anomaly for sure. The rapids were simple and fun. I felt like I was on a roller coaster in Disneyland. But the best part was the cliff jumping, body surfing, and the spectacular views of the mountainous jungles as we skimmed the surface of the Ganga. I was staring in awe, my mouth gaping open. Anita was so cute!!! It was her first time on the river and she kept squealing with delight - for more water, bigger waves, etc. When we went body surfing (i.e. swimming with life jackets), she wouldn't let go of the side of the boat - she was smiling wide but scared for her life at the same time. I was just moseying around in the water. It was too fun. When we went cliff jumping, she went twice! She would count..."1. 2. 3...wait one more time Baiyyah...1. 2. 3...eek!" It was so cute! But she did it. I was so proud of her!

By the river 
Best friends - love all these guys!

Look at that jungle!

Cliff jumping!!! So what if it was only 20 feet?!

For a special someone :)

Did I mention that we camped and went river rafting for only Rs. 1,300 - that's approximately $27. That would be about $80 bucks (at least) in the states! It was so worth it. 

We had a "quick" lunch in Rishikesh at an outdoor patio German Bakery, right on the Ganga River - we sat on the floor and ate. It was so relaxing! Then we headed to Haridwar - about 30 km from Rishikesh - where we would catch our train. The rickshaws in Rishikesh are different - bigger! They can easily and very comfortably fit 4 people - there are two benches across from each other, and a little longer too (from the ones in Delhi). I liked their rickshaws :)

Walked right past these monkeys...

Look at his eyes!!

The larger rickshaws in Rishikesh

We arrived in Haridwar just at the end of the Aarti ceremony. We purchased our candlit floats - rounded from large leaves and complete with beautiful flowers, incense, yarn covered in ghee, etc. Anita wasn't originally planning to buy one (Rs. 10) but she decided to do it on behalf of her family - she is always so sweet! We quickly lit our candles and incense and stepped towards Goddess Ganga, made our wish, and let it float away on the river...we watched as many others did the same. We then spent an hour or so, dunking ourselves in the river over and over to wash away our bad karma! I loved feeling the tender arms of Ganga surround me. Because the water current is so stronger, there is chains placed skillfully in the ghats (stairs) of the river for the people to hold onto as they go underwater in the river. 

In Haridwar, many people sleep along the riverbank - they come there as pilgrims, from long distances to immerse themselves in the water of the Ganga. They come regularly to wash away their sins and bad karma and wish themselves well with God. 

After bathing in the Ganga, we went to the public changing room and then said our goodbyes to Anu and Raj - what a great weekend! We were sad to see them go. 

This is Haridwar at nighttime :) The lights at the top of the photo are a temple all lit up on the top of the mountain.

Hindu 'priests' hold this fire and people walk up to it, touch it, and wipe their hand on their faces and various places of their body. It's symbolic.

Bathing in the Ganga at Haridway 
Praying to Goddess Ganga with our candlelit floats

This is what the floats look like!

My good friend Anu :)


Bathing in the Ganga 

Saying goodbye...not forever!!

Anita and I did a little shopping in the town (it was getting late, there were few people on the streets, and a silly drunk guy ran by us and hit my legs and spit on my foot...what?! gross), had some dinner at a local restaurant, and then headed to the train station by rickshaw. It was funny - I wanted some Rasmalai soooo bad but there were no sweet shops by the restaurant so I gave up. We got to the train station and our rickshaw parked right across from a sweets got it! With Rasmalai. We enjoyed a quick treat and then waited in the train station for about 1 hour until our 11:10 pm train. I bought a little mat, made from Cocoa Chewy bar wrappers, for Anita and I to sit on. It is large! And I only paid Rs. 10 (about .22 cents). I really wanted a skittles mat...I'll find one! 

We arrived back in Old Delhi at 8:00 am, took an auto to my apartment and arrived at 9:10 am, showered, and were ready for work in time (and unpacked) by 10:00 am. What an adventure! I enjoyed it :)

Thanks Anita-ji for the bestest weekend ever!!! I loved every second of it. 
PERFECT (as Raj says).
Absolutely perfect.

I will be back to Rishikesh again!

And for the record, I never realized just how white I really am, until I spent a weekend with 3 other beautiful Indians! I would gladly take their beautiful skin anyday!


  1. Ohoh lizz .. i get so Emo now .. Why our this week end get over ??? i want to stay some more days with you all. Miss u lot.

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  3. Nice Article! Thanks for sharing with us.

    Rafting Rishikesh

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