Delhi/Rishikesh some rain but mostly nice and sunny weather
Once again we returned to buzzing Delhi. Since our last visit the temperature had improved significantly, yet the streetlife remained unpleasantly crowded and scruffy. We spend a day or two on some shopping. Our favorite Sikh-run money change office provided us with a fresh stack of Rupees. In preparation for Nepal and the Himalayas we needed some hiking equipment: A large backpack and hiking poles. On internet we found Rocksport which turned out to be the tiniest outdoor shop ever, but still they had everything on our shopping list. In the evening we retreated to the number 1 restaurant in the Karol Bagh area, Bikaner Vala and filled our bellies once again with the delicious thalies and lassies.
When arriving at Kaulson motorcycles we were warmly greeted by the owners and our rejuvenated, squeaky clean bikes. The clutch plates, oil and oil filters on both bikes were replaced and the windscreen on Marlieke’s bike was repaired. After a long month of backpacking we were a little bit hesitant to mount the bikes and confront Delhi’s traffic. So we took a deep breath and slowly forced our way out of the city. Again Indian traffic did not relent and at a traffic light a bicycle rickshaw drove over Marlieke’s foot. The driver did not look too bothered and continued his way unmoved by Marlieke’s agony. Beyond the city boundaries the Indian traffic did not improve much. Car drivers kept on cutting us off, trucks did not bother to give way and the busses still horned frantically even tough there was absolutely no room to overtake us. As a result the short drive to Rishikesh took two exhausting days.
Rishikesh is beautifully situated in a lush valley, crouched against the fringes of the Himalyan mountain range. The Ganga river runs through this small city, making it a premium Hindu pilgrimage site. Temples and shrines are dotted along the river banks and the streets are teeming with Baba’s, Indian tourists and “experienced” hippies. The city has a relaxed atmosphere, which is enhanced by the clear river water, the small streets without cars or tuktuks and the easygoing shop owners. It is also known as the world capital of Yoga, so the next morning we decided to attend a class. The first 20 minutes of the class were easy, but then the teacher got excited and introduced some more challenging poses. To cut things short, we only attended this single lesson and spent the following days recovering.
There are many ashrams in Rishikesh, but one of them is especially famous. A short stroll along the river and souvenir shops took us to the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Ashram. Back in the sixties this site became world renowned, because the Beatles took base here. The ashram was unfortunately closed in the mid eighties and the complex has been crumbling down slowly ever since. The site is generally not open for visitors since, amazingly, nobody has picked up the idea of turning it into a tourist attraction. Luckily we were able to locate the gatekeeper and after a modest “donation” we were granted access. The former central meditation hall was decorated with astonishing wall paintings, inspired by well-known Beatles’ lyrics.
A short walk though the under-grow led to a gloomy underground complex full of small meditation cubicles. The former dormitory buildings and offices were in a bad state, fully stripped for copper wiring and pipes. Documents were scattered across the floors, giving the impression that the ashram was abandoned in a hurry. Tiny, egg shaped houses could be found all over the site, which, back in the days, housed the dozens of Baba’s. The roofs of these eggs are beautifully decorated with small stones from the Ganga river. These small houses have a really cosy feel to them and bear an oddly close resemblance to the “Smurf’s” homes.
All in all Rishikesh was a bit more quiet than the places we visited in Rajasthan: A nice final chapter of our time in India. Still we very much looked forward to going to Nepal, less challenging traffic and easier-going, so we hoped.