After the hustle of the Rajasthan tour I am ready for Rishikesh…
The yoga capital of the world, spiritual Mecca, refuge for some stressed out Beatles in the 60s, and now for us. The plan is to decompress and detox over Christmas… it’ll be the first time in a very long time that we will not be drinking like fish and eating anything that comes our way!!
We spend a final few days in Haus Kahs, a district in south Delhi, then get an early train to Haridwar, a taxi to Rishikesh, and a trek across a narrow pedestrian bridge called Ram Jhula to our ashram, the famous Parmanth Niketan.
(Ram Jhula may have been pedestrian in its inception, but now it is now completely overloaded with people, motorbikes, carts, cows and monkeys… I’m absolutely amazed it’s still standing!!)
We are pretty knackered by the time we get there (and hating our backpacks with a passion) but the view and the clean air and non-cityness revives us.
Rishikesh is set on the banks of the Ganges, and surrounded by the young green hills of the Himalayas. The ashrams are away from the main town, set on charming but bustling cobbled streets (lined with yet more tempting touristy shops, cows, dogs, food stalls, fruit and vegetable carts and bloody motorcycles!), with various ghats (stone steps) lining the riverbanks. There’s even a beach! (Although few souls are brave enough to dip more than a toe into those waters… it’s bloody cold and deceptively fast moving… Well bollocks to that! We are Suffolk girls, and spent our summers on the east coast of England!)
The ashram is huge, with coral coloured buildings, large fibreglass statues of blue skinned gods in interesting positions and lots of lush courtyards. Our room is pretty basic, but has all we need (except enough blankets… stone floor and walls + December = cold people at nighttime… we get used to wearing all our hiking thermals and tell ourselves we are prepping for our Himalayan hike…)
Yoga, meditation, gong baths, ohm chanting, Ayurvedic massages, discussions with gurus… it all goes on at Parmanth. Every sunset they have the Ganga Aarti down on the ghat, which is a daily ritual worshipping the river, Mother Ganga. They light a fire, sing Bhajans, say prayers and make offerings. The connection the people of India have to this river is astonishing. Hawkers will sell you, for a few rupees, a little bowl of flowers, incense and tiny candle, at sunset people light their bowls and send them on their way down the river with a prayer. It’s gorgeous.
It’s all amazing, but I’ll tell you what really stayed with me, and that’s the Gong Bath… sounds hokey, it’s not. You lie in a circle in a candlelit room with your eyes closed. The master of the gongs proceeds to build up layers of sounds with different percussion instruments and they all resonate in your body and make your cells vibrate at different frequencies… it is seriously trippy stuff. I was blown away.
It’s not hard to detox here… we buy fruit and veg from the carts near the ashrams (the cows do very well out of our peelings), we make salads and soups in our little kitchenette. We drink lots of tea (The Office is hands down the best cafe around… chai and a chill out on the balcony…). We explore the hills. We get a lot of indulgent massages… it’s paradise
A sample of our days (I’m not showing off… well, not much… but I want a reminder stored forever online that I am capable of this kind of discipline!!!)
6am: wake up. Stretch. Lemon water
6.30: sunrise yoga
8.00: tulsi juice shot (Tasha calls it ‘hell-water’ and she’s not wrong)
8.30: go for a run
9.30: cold shower (not being noble… there isn’t any hot showering in this ashram)
10.30: fruit salad and tea for breakfast
11.30: hike the hills
1.00: picnic lunch on the hike – fruit and trail mix and some carrot sticks
3.00: chai tea in a cafe
4.00: afternoon yoga
6.30: vegetable soup
I’m not even kidding… I literally spend whole days doing this.
Who even am I??
The hiking is truly spectacular. We climb up river beds to find waterfalls, we hike for hours and stumble across tiny villages with views that knock you on your ass. We run out of water and find a little organic cafe that gives us herb tea and a salad grown in the garden where we are sitting… we even accidentally (sort of) trespass onto the Beatles ashram, which is one of the most bizarre ruins I’ve seen.
Life is simple. And I don’t ever want to leave!!
Tasha loves it here too. Even the yoga! But especially the waterfalls…
And the white water rafting!!!