The bus stopped on the side of the road, outside it was dark and dusty, ramshackle buildings were illuminated only by car and moped headlights and despite the early hour, the roads were chaotic with traffic and people. We departed and grabbed our bags, although the sun had not yet risen the air felt humid and clammy and we weren't quite at our end destination of Rishikesh yet. The road was split down the middle by a corrugated iron fence, we found an opening in the face and crossed the road where we found a bus station. As the sun slowly rose the light transformed the area from something scary to something quite ordinary. With bleary eyes we waited hours for a bus, luckily we met a group of travellers on holiday from south India who were headed the same way. We boarded a bus, got told to get off and did the same again twice, my patience was wearing thin. Eventually, the right bus was ready and off we went. We arrived at another bus station which was really just a bus parking area in the middle of a field and caught a tuk tuk. From the tuk tuk we could see a procession of people scattering colourful petals around with naked men and a band playing instruments, I had to do a double take, naked men in the street?! There must have been a religious festival going on, we were right near the sacred river Ganges after all.
The tuk tuk dropped us off at a footbridge which we walked across with men on mopeds, cows, you name it. The river was fast moving and brown in colour, groups whizzed down in dingy boats. We found a hotel to stay in and had a lovely lunch at a very modern café. Apart from a walk to a waterfall and a walk to another footbridge along the river, our time in Rishikesh comprised mostly of sitting in a café that we found that overlooked the river and footbridge. We became so familiar with the owner that we could help ourselves to drinks from the fridge and pay up at the end of the day. Our go-to treat was a refreshing chocolate milkshake and a dish known as 'a sizzler' a hot pot of vegetables including fried potatoes in a rich gravy with rice, it was pure carb heaven.
We stayed in Rishikesh for eight days, longer than intended as we weren't able to get transport to our next destination. Though the town was nice enough we felt a little stuck and our adventurous spirit had dwindled, we could have found several more walks to do, had a go on the river rapids or enrolled in a yoga school but we just couldn't be bothered, which sounds really bad but is true. Travelling had taken it out of us, all those days trying to get from one place to the next had taken their toll and we were starting to feel exhausted. We knew that our two months in India were coming to a close and we were so glad with what we had done but we were ready to move on, either to Nepal or home. One memory I have is speaking to my mum on the phone while sat in the café on a cushioned floor with pillows strewn around and pink and purple fabrics draped across the walls. The river was in sight, fast and rumbling and I was talking to her about the sacred cows, she asked me to send her a photograph of ones we'd spotted on our stroll. I felt so far from home, in a place so different culturally and the distance really hit me.
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Have you been to Rishikesh? If so, what did you think? Maybe you're planning a trip? I've got tonnes of advice and tips I can share. Let me know in the comments below.
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