It’s our last night in Rishikesh. Tomorrow we will attempt to get to the Corbett National Park. I say attempt because we are assuming we will be able to get a bus there, but this is based on the fact that Lonely Planet mentions there is a bus connection from Haridwar (an hour’s bus ride from the main station in Rishikesh); the guy at the hotel said that there are no fixed times for this bus but it goes a few times a day. So, we’ll go to Haridwar tomorrow morning and see what we can figure out. 😉
The night train
I loved the mountains and landscape in Mcleod Ganj so much, and was eager to get back into a less urban setting and check out more of India’s outdoors. The state of Uttarakhand seemed to have a lot on offer in terms of amazing nature and I thought it might be neat to check out the yoga scene at Rishikesh. We arrived here by night train from Amritsar, travelling in AC3 class – basically the best class there is for over night travel in the standard trains.
The first night train experience during the group trip was a bit of a shocker – we’d had our expectations set for something à la the ‘Orient Express’ and had been imagining private cars, chic on-train dining, something pretty swanky. Instead we discovered that there was no dining car at all – just chai, soap and playing card wallahs who roamed the corridors between the bunks constantly hawking their wares. And during the ticket collection, the train official made us sign what was basically a waver saying that we understood the risks of train travel and the importance of keeping an eye on our things, etc. Very reassuring before settling down for a night’s sleep. 😉
In the end, the journey was just fine and actually lots of fun. Nevertheless, it was nice to see just how much more relaxed and easy it all felt this time around, now that I knew what to expect. (This time there was also no official giving us a warning about thieves) Like the bus ride to Amritsar, we arrived at our destination quicker than I could have imagined – and having gotten some solid hours of sleep to boot. 🙂
Similar to Mcleod Ganj, Rishikesh has a good amount of Western tourists. This seems to have a bit of a demotivating effect on Roman, so we’ve had a pretty lazy stay here. It’s not as high up as Mcleod Ganj, but the hills and mountains are lovely. As is the Ganges, which is broad and fast moving here – we’ve seen white water rafting groups meandering down the river every day. And every night after sunset, this amazing, strong breeze kicks up that makes a gorgeous sound as it moves through the trees outside our hotel.
For me though, it doesn’t compare to the rugged mountain beauty of the area around Mcleod Ganj, and I found I haven’t had such a strong connection to the vibe of the town either. It’s been cool to see all the Hindu temples and Ashrams, and we’ve had some nice walks in the area, but the best part for me has been enjoying the hotel, reconnecting to yoga and time with Roman.
We’re staying at the cheapest place so far; at R350 a night, our room at Bhandari Swiss Cottages is actually one of the more expensive ones on offer, because we are on a higher floor and have more of a view of the Ganges. For a true budget hotel, this place is pretty darn nice.
Room is a good size, simple but relatively clean. The bed is not super comfortable and could smell a bit better, but it could also be a lot worse. 🙂 Very few bugs and none that are too disturbing or invasive. This may be due to the fact that we have some gecko friends living in the room with us – very cute and very welcome if they are in fact eating bugs! 😀 Another one of those ‘the bathroom is also the shower’ deals, but this one comes equipped with a squeegee and while I have yet to perfect my technique, squeegee-ing the floor after showering is for some reason becoming a random thing I am loving about the India experience.
The outdoor café is a lovely bonus. The Indian food is the worst I have ever had (including outside of India), but they do killer muesli with yogurt and fruit, great fresh juices (lemon and mint is my favorite) and decent brown bread. Pretty good Nutella crepes as well! And it’s just a great setting to hang out in. All sorts of beautiful foliage growing all around, full of butterflies and birdsong. There are a few sweet dogs that I think belong to the hotel that hang out, you can see cows ambling down the street and today there was even a monkey having a snack in the woods by our table as we were having breakfast. (I love the monkeys! Although after having met two people since being in India who have been bitten by monkeys here, I’m also kind of scared of them. 😉 ) Eating our last dinner there this evening was fun; there must have been a festival going on in the town below because there was music floating up – male vocals and instrument accompaniment (maybe some sort of organ?). Not sure what sort of music it was or what the guy was singing about, but to our amusement, it sounded like an Indian take on the Macarena – pretty awesome mood music!
Our room at Bhandari Swiss Cottage
Gecko friend. 🙂
The bathroom – check out the high tech plumbing on the sink – a tube leading to a drain in the floor. 😉
I’ve been attending the hotel’s yoga classes as well. Taught by a young, nice Indian named Arvind; it’s different from the sort of yoga I usually practice. It’s a very simple class of pretty basic, classic asanas with more of a focus on stretching than strengthening – I haven’t even worked up a sweat once. But as always is the case when I come back to it, I am amazed and grateful at how good it feels to reconnect with my body, with my breath in that conscious way, with yoga. Even seeing how flighty my mind is during class – a clear sign that I am way out of practice – that bit of broader perspective that allows even that simple observation feels like such a relief. I love yoga! And will have to try to get a ‘home’ practice going from on the road.
I can feel that Roman and I are settling a bit more into this travel thing. I’m realizing that we’re still really at the beginning of this thing and still have a lot to figure out about traveling in general and traveling together specifically. He and I are still ‘arriving’ in some ways – still adjusting to the reality that we no longer live in Switzerland and that our time is really our own. I am still trying to get my head around what that really means. There is a bit of internal pressure about what we ‘should’ be doing, and sometimes I feel a bit restless, thinking that we should be doing more (more what, I don’t entirely know). So far I haven’t felt inspired towards volunteering, taking courses, etc. but I can see myself doing something more structured/active like that at some point.
But knowing how long we intend to be on the road, I’m happy that we are pacing ourselves and taking it easy right now. We talked about this a bit today. In general, Roman tends to be a more chilled out person than I am, so we’re trying to keep that in mind and intend to look for ways that I can be more active when I need to without necessarily being dependant on him (i.e. having to drag him along to stuff because of safety issues for a woman doing something on her own – we’ll have to see how this develops; perhaps we are being too paranoid and in a few weeks time we’ll have forgotten that this was ever something we considered). It’s feeling great that we are able to look at and talk about these things together – so far he is a really great travel partner and I love being able to explore not only a new country together but also new aspects of our relationship. 🙂