Saturday, 29 November 2014

India: Rishikesh

Getting to Rishikesh was a bit of a mission. We had to get a taxi from Pushkar to Ajmer to get a train to Haridwar and then get a bus to Rishikesh bus station before getting a rickshaw to the old town where we were staying. However, after all of that, we were told that the old town doesn't allow any motor vehicles in it so no rickshaws or taxis could take us directly to our hostel. We were dropped off at a bridge which crosses the Ganges river which would take us to where we needed to be. We were instantly taunted by a group of monkeys - and not the traditional, cute, relaxed type that you see at the zoo but rather a clan of rhesus macaque monkeys (check them out) who began hissing at us and eyeing up Sarah's crisps which she hurriedly hid in her bag in fear of being attacked. A few locals managed to scare them off by throwing stones in their direction and we quickly shuffled across the bridge and safely made it to the other side. Phew!

Upon arrival at our hotel, Hotel Green View, we were welcomed by the manager who informed us that we had free room service included in the cost of our room which we immediately pounced on and ordered some beans on toast, chips, and spaghetti bolognaise - so Indian! We were so exhausted from all of the travelling the day before, overnight, and for some of the morning that we decided to take a 'quick nap' and woke up about 5 hours later, meaning most of the day had gone by. We really needed the sleep catchup though so weren't too disappointed. In the evening we decided to just go out for dinner and have a chilled night and managed to find a reaaaaaally cheap restaurant which served the most delicious Indian food and, as you've probably come to realise by now, we love food and we love a bargain so we were pretty satisfied by this!

The next day, we headed out into Rishikesh to explore the shops and the Tera Manzil temple. The temple is a famous tourist spot and holy multi-story temple located on the river banks of the Ganges. The holy shrine has 13 storeys and each storey has several idols of Hindu Gods and Goddesses. On the way back from the temple, we explored some of the small stalls and shops which lined the streets of Rishikesh. We found the items they were selling to be quite unique and different than others we'd previously seen so need less to say, we spent quite a few hours weaving in and out of them. Along the way we were subjected to yet another monkey attack. We hadn't quite learned our lesson from the initial taunting and were walking along casually minding our business and snacking on some crisps when the monkeys appeared and spotted them straight away. Sarah decided to surrender her crisps to the enemy in order to save herself (of course we're not being dramatic...) while Sam, as usual, was completely oblivious and subsequently became the prey of the largest monkey ever. He ran at her and jumped up onto her to steal the crisps and actually managed to graze her skin with its sharp claws in the process. However, the cutest old man came to her rescue with a large stick and managed to shoo the monkey away before warning Sam that she must keep everything hidden in her bag to avoid becoming a target again. He then gave her his stick to protect us just in case we came across any more monkeys along the way. After finding some bargains in the shops and stalls, we decided to have a pit-stop in Cafe Coffee Day for an iced latte and lemon iced tea which we would highly suggest trying if you're ever in India, sooo tasty!

The highlight of our time in Rishikesh is most definitely doing river rafting along the Ganges. It cost around 400 rupees which is about £4 for about 4 hours - another total bargain. We got picked up quite early in the morning in a jeep and off-roaded north for a while until we reached the point where we would get onto the river. We got suited up in our sexy life jackets and helmets and got given some oars and we were good to go! Unfortunately we didn't take a camera because we were worried it would get damaged if it got wet but when we got there the rafting guys pulled out a dry bag that we could have used to keep the camera dry. Mega fail by us. We got told that there were 9 rapids along the route we were going to take and that each would be a different level of difficulty - between 1-3. We started off nice and easy and came to a level 1 rapid first - it was so much fun rocking over the rough water, most of which splashed up into the raft completely soaking us and we can't even begin to explain how cold the water was! We carried on along the river and met some of the stronger rapids which were so rough we thought we were going to fall out - apparently this is a regular occurrence so a real possibility. The water was splashing everywhere around us coming right up and over our heads - there was not a dry part of us left but it was soooo much fun. After a while, the guy controlling the raft told us to get up and jump in which we were very reluctant to do (for about 30 seconds) after getting to know the water's temperature but we decided to man up and take the leap and ohhhh myyyyy god it was FREEZING! Our life jackets were up to our necks and our helmets were basically hanging off; we looked so attractive! After about 10 minutes of floating in the water which our bodies just could not adjust to, we decided we were too cold and asked how we got out. We were then gripped by the top of our life jackets and literally heaved out of the water like sardines; as we were getting lifted out our heads were shrinking inside our jackets - the crab look? We also got to jump back out of the raft whilst we were going through a rapid which was so much fun because the water was so rough and just dragging us along. It was really surprising how quickly you float along the river with the current. The views along the way were pretty spectacular too; its impossible to explain just how much fun we had. We wanted to do it all over again as soon as we reached the end. :(

Just before leaving, Bethan and Sam decided a massage was necessary. For the last few weeks we've been lugging around our ridiculously heavy rucksacks, sleeping on trains, sharing beds, getting pushed about amongst the busy streets, and just getting generally worn out. We booked for an ayurvedic massage - a bargain at just 800 rupees (£8) for an hour's full body massage. We were covered in a variety of oils and then massaged from head to toe - a perfect way to relax. We were very surprised afterwards to find that all of our chronic aches (knee and back pain) were much more soothed. Sam has been suffering with a bad back for the majority of our time away and hasn't really had any trouble with it since! We followed up our massage with lunch in a cute rooftop restaurant which overlooked the river - very peaceful and very tasty!

Rishikesh has definitely been one of our favourite places to visit so far - the atmosphere is just completely different to anywhere we've been before and is definitely much more relaxed. We think that having no traffic constantly beeping and no rickshaw drivers hassling you makes the world of difference and really allows you to appreciate your surroundings at a leisurely pace without having to rush through to avoid such hassle. In our opinion, its a definite must see in India!

Happy Wanderers

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