Friday, 2 November 2012

Rishikesh - yoga capital of the world and there is blue sky!

So, not much happened today really. Other than travel to Rishikesh.

My day started when my breakfast arrived, at 4.30am instead of 5.30am as I'd requested! Checked out, paid for my extra night (ended up getting a 25% discount - still £19 tho which is expensive for India!) and was on my way to New Delhi station by 6.10am. This was no ordinary journey though, this was me, my backpack and my two other bags...on a cycle-rickshaw, holding on for dear life whilst trying to keep hold of all my bags, in the dark!! It was truly like something out of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. It was not the best start to my morning, but I have a feeling I may just have to get used to that sort of journey. Best of all, I was dropped off not at the station, oh no, but on the OTHER side of the busy main road from the station. So I then had to navigate, with my bags, across a Paharganj road - tuk tuks, lorries, cycle-rickshaws and cows galore!

Then my journey got even better...PLATFORM 16 for the Dehradun-New Delhi Jan Shatabdi Express!! A 10min friggin' walk, battling the crowds, up loadsa steps...oh and we'll just throw in a nice security and bag check while we're at it so you have to offload everything to then put it all back on again, just because we can! However, finding my carriage and seat was slightly easier - carriage 8, 2nd car down!

It may have been because I was in an Air Conditioned Chair Car, but it was surprisingly nice! Set out like a plane, seats even recline further back than a plane! Had the middle seat between two Indian guys. One was really lovely and we chatted pretty much the whole way and swapped stories of each others cultures - he seemed impressed my dad was a Chelsea supporter, apparently they are big in India. He found it hilarious that my dad watches Gladiator so much - he loves Russell Crowe too, but not that much he said!! He gave me a tip to buy lots of pairs of glasses in India as they are dirt cheap and send them home - because he was shocked how much I paid for mine. And he also gave me some Indian films to try and download which sound really good - so I shall get downloading.

Not even half an hour into the journey, down comes the Chai-Wallah, though they were just serving tea this time. We got a massive bottle of water each, a flask of hot water, teabags, biscuits, sweets...and this was just round one! I didn't realise that the train ticket, all of £17 for a return journey, included this and breakfast.

Around 9am came breakfast which consisted of a weird vegetarian pattie thing that looked like two hash browns and was incredibly spicy, plus bread and jam, mango juice, and more tea in a flask! Then at around 10am, came another flask of tea - tea on the hour! It was better service than an airline and all they ask is you tip the Wallah a little amount for his service, which was impressive - trying to fit a whole carriages worth of flasks on you, is not an easy feat! Toilets weren't so bad either, got worse with each hour though.

Arrived at Haridwar station at 11.25am, where I then had to get a bus to Rishikesh. Note to self; I really need to learn how to balance 3 massive suitcases on my head, looks so much easier than carrying a backpack and is the way most people do it here! So I followed a couple of other backpackers heading that way (just look for the bible-sized Lonely Planet India in everyone's hand) it was literally just across the street. In case you hadn't realised you were in India yet, there's always the handy warning from a fellow backpacker of oncoming traffic to set you straight: "Warning, cow on the sidewalk, we have a cow up ahead doing a dump!" Highlight of my day.

So me and two girls from New Zealand went to search out the bus for Rishikesh, which meant asking every single bus driver - typically, it was the last one we got to, but luckily, it was leaving almost as soon as we got on - score! The journey was pretty good actually, cramped because I had all my bags at my feet and on my lap. But I got a window seat so the view and the wind kept me happy (as it was baking hot), an hours journey for 60p - a bargain if you ask me.

Arrived at Rishikesh and got a crazy tuk tuk driver to take me to Bhandari Swiss Cottage, way up in the hillside overlooking Lakshman Jhula (bout a 20-30min walk from it). Here's the view from the upper balcony:

Turns out the 2 girls from New Zealand are staying in the room next door, but think they are looking for somewhere cheaper as for some reason their room is more expensive and they aren't here for that long so by moving closer to town they get to see more.

Checked in and my room is pretty decent, has a shower room, everything you need and a balcony. Bed is rock solid, so not sure how my back will fare - but it's an excuse to have some massages. Only real problem is it's quite noisy but Delhi was bad too so I'm sure I can cope. If I'm really not getting on I'll find somewhere else, but at £4.60 a night (less than £50 for 9 nights, an ashram is more expensive) it's not half bad:

Plus it keeps me burning off the calories from all these curries, walking up the hill everyday. Which is precisely what I did next, went to the restaurant for a refreshing lemon tea and an amazing Chicken Masala, with cashew nuts and flaked coconut on top - delish and only £1.80 for the lot - followed by a walk down and back up the hill. Just checked out the local area, bought a pair of harems for £2.50, got some water and shampoo, (gotta make a small shopping list tonight) and saw 2 cows, 5 monkey's, a donkey and several stray dogs along my way.

Now I'm just using my quota of internet for the night - 6 hours worth so I'm gonna use every single hour as I won't be able to afford to use it often. Downloading begins! Skype the parentals later and then it's sleep-time ready for a day of checking out Rishikesh and maybe booking some yoga or meditation classes for next week.

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