Saturday morning we headed for Rishikesh which is "the yoga capital of the world" and is located about 35 km outside of Dehra Dun right on the Ganga (Ganges) river. We stayed at an ashram there (a place where they usually do yoga, have meals, and is supposed to be a quiet kind of place). For a double room, with a balcony overlooking the river we paid 250 Rs or about $3 a person. That's my kind of deal. On the ride up there I listened to everyone talk about how long they are staying after and all the places they are going and wished I had time to explore everywhere. However, once I got there my mind I thought differently for a few hours. It was my first real "India city" experience since I have been in the hills the past few weeks and I was feeling pretty overwhelmed. It was hot, there were cows (and consequently cow dung...and there for FLIES) everywhere, it was dirty, trash everywhere, there were tons of beggars...just overwhelming in general as India tends to be. I was talking to another girl in my group and she felt the same way. Just an hour ago I wanted to stay for a year, and at that point I just wanted to be at home away from it all. Culture shock experience #2.
My status on how much I love India changes daily and sometimes even by the hour (aeb the last story, haha). Literally from 1 extreme to the other. Somtimes I am absolultely in love with it, others I wonder what the heck I am doing here and how obvious it it I don't belong (maybe the constant staring contributes, haha). It is just so vastly different from America that it is hard to convey it all. It really is like walking through another world. I was talking with a guy in our group who has traveled pretty much everywhere and he said India is more extreme than anywhere he has been. It really is an overload of every sense....the people, the poverty everywhere, the trash overflowing out of the bins and strewn everywhere, the cow dung you are constantly having to avoid, the new smell that assaults your senses with every turn of a corner. Nonetheless, after those first few hours, I adapted and grew to like Rishikesh. And once again...I loved India.
We saw a ceremony that first night on the Ganga called arti which happens daily and where people light candles on flower leaves and set them afloat on the river as a prayer. We stuck our feet in the water and it really hit me then that I am actually in India. The ceremony was really interesting...except for the flies. I have never been so surrounded by flies before!! Also that day, we had a massage. It was nice but I'm just not a massage person...too ticklish so I was spent the hour trying not to laugh. The next day was spent walking around all day. We went to a Hindu temple which was very interesting. They had rooms for all of the gods (probably 100's of them) and it looked like something from a fairy tale. The idea of a religion worshipping so many gods, with no formal text, holy day, etc is just so foreign to me that it was really strange to see. I was also confused as to why a lot of things are closed on Sunday if it's not a religious day.
Anothrt interesting part of Rishikesh was the "pedestrian" bridges. I use the term lightly because there were people, motor bikes, bicycles, cows, beggars, and the occasional monkey ( who looks cute but you have to give it leeway because they can bite!) all going both directions on a bridge about 4 ft wide. Also, we all noticed how stereotypical most of the foreign travelers were. They were your usual hippie type who looked like they just needed a shower. Some of the guys we passed just had on a wrap skirt type thing and flip flops....are they trying to fit in or are just too lazy to put on clothes, haha.
On our way out of town, we met up with Dharindra who was our yoga teacher in Than Gaon. He was so nice...he met us at the hotel on Sat, booked our taxi on Sunday, and met us back at the ashram to take us to his house for tea. His mother and wife had made us a table full of homemade snacks which were delicious. Then it was time to head back to Dehra Dun in our taxi (which was brand new but looks like it came from the '40s. I love the taxis here!