Friday 10th October
Ahh, there’s nothing like a nice, long walk in the searing heat ay. Especially when you’re not exactly renowned for your sense of direction since that time you had to ask for directions out of a Marks & Spencers store because you’d just spent the last 10 minutes wandering around in circles before getting stranded in the lingerie section.
And I take back what I said about Rishikesh being cooler than Delhi, once you’re out of the shade of the buildings on the narrow streets the sun belts down with as much intensity as it does in the capital. Buuut it’s not like I was using that top layer of skin anyway and I’d been assured that my destination was on this road, I just had no idea how far up this road.
I felt like I’d been walking forever but in reality I don’t think it had been an hour. I was already halfway through my litre of water, there wasn’t a square metre of shade on this fucking road, I had the mother of all wedgies that seemed hell bent on splitting me in two and my feet were roasting like a lamb shoulder on a Sunday. I shit you not. Another hour and you could have served them up with seasonal veg and a spot of gravy. Though if I’d have worn my flip flops I’m pretty sure I’d have needed skin grafts between my toes so I did silently congratulate myself for wearing trainers. I was just about give up and turn back when I rounded a corner and saw the sign for where I wanted to be. Oh sweet joy of joys! I registered my name, nationality and passport number at the little hut, parted with ₹30 and carried on walking up.
Seriously, how far away could I be now? I pushed on. There was enough liquid dripping from my pores to irrigate a drought stricken African nation. I came to a little stall where the guys pointed me up a track which I scrambled up. I knew I was close now, I could fucking hear it. Just a little more. I looked up and saw the bridge and a group of people. Finally! Neergarh Waterfall! I was greeted with this gorgeous, refreshing plunge pool and a bloke selling crisps, chai and two minute noodles. No, really. He’s set up a little fire for heating water and he has packets of Maggi noodles. It’s genius.
It hadn’t even occurred to me to dress for swimming but fuck coming all this way and not getting in. I just emptied my pockets into my bag and went in fully clothed.
You’ll not be alone here, a lot of people visit the falls to bathe and relax, it’s a fucking awesome way to spend a couple of hours and if you carry on following the path up you’ll come to a second plunge pool which is arguably better than the first as it gets more sun. Of course there’s another dude selling drinks and snacks, just in case you fancied that quick, dirty carbohydrate hit after you’ve had your waterfall shower for the day. Utter bliss. I spent a few hours there then headed back to town before it got dark and booked myself in for some white water rafting the following day. That was the reason I came to Rishikesh in the first place to be honest. I had no real idea what to expect but so far I’m really, really growing to like it.
Saturday 11th October
Ok, so, I initially wanted to do a two day rafting effort where you camp on the beach but I ditched that idea once I realised yesterday that a chain smoking sloth would probably beat me in a 100 metre crawl and that given my laughable fitness levels I should maybe opt for the more standard 16km effort in order to minimise the risk of my arms dropping off.
The backpackers were assembled, driven for about half an hour up to the launch point, kitted out in life jackets and lovely, blue helmets and given a few basic instructions. An Israeli guy called Mattieus christened our team The Kittens (no, I don’t recall why) and we piled into the raft.
The thing with white water rafting is that you need to paddle in sync but that, my lovelies, is a metric fuck tonne harder than it sounds. Even in the smaller, grade II rapids it’s hard to keep time and in the grade IV motherfucker of a rapid where the raft is thrown around, paddling seems utterly futile but still you keep on going, your shoulders aren’t sure what’s going on but they’re pretty sure they’ll never forgive you, you can’t see, you’re trying desperately not to swallow a portion of the Ganga because I don’t give a shit how holy it is, you just don’t want it anywhere near your digestive system and oh, hello core muscles, I forgot you were there!
It’s an incredible amount of fun. There were ten of us in an eight person raft which meant that two at a time sat in the middle and enjoyed the ride whilst the other eight paddled and we swapped around so the rowers at the front got a rest. The guides were cool, as we approached each rapid they told us the grade and the name, names that made no sense such as golf course and names that you were like, ok, yeah I get that, such as rollercoaster. I got a few grade II photos when I was sat in the middle at the beginning but I think Clayton has a video of the bigger rapids later on. Once he sorts it out I’ll ask him if I can upload a copy here.
During a few sections we jumped into the river and were taken along with the current before having to clamber back onto the raft with all the grace of an elephant climbing a tree. Actually I had to be pulled back onto the raft by the guys, there was no way I was going to be able to get my arse out of the water and back onto the raft all by myself, I still have several weeks of Brighton dinners stored in fat tissue around that area. And and and! I didn’t pussy out of a cliff jump! Woo, go me! The last one I had the opportunity to do was in Cyprus where I stood at the top, glanced over the edge, muttered some excuse about the water being too choppy before slinking off back to my car to wallow in my shame. To be fair though, this one is about half the height of that one but we won’t dwell too much on that point. Ahem…
The ubiquitous chai and two minute noodles were sold at the cliff jump point too, I think it’s a thing. If you have the facilities to heat water on rocks where tourists go, feed ’em chai and noodles init. Tourists love that shit.
That night, most of us from the raft walked up to Parmarth Niketan Ashram up by Ram Jhula for the Ganga Aarti which is a ceremony for god. It’s so colourful! From what I can gather, an aarti is performed to a god or goddess, in this case Mother Ganga, the river, and there’s music and singing and fire. I believe three holy cities in India perform the Ganga Aarti and this one is lead by the children staying at the ashram. At the end, jugs of fire are carried round and people mob the kids so they can wave their hands over the fire and then they seem to either wave the smoke into their own faces or press their hands to their eyes or heads. It’s worth a butchers if you’re in the area though.
But in other news, I still haven’t mauled any stray dogs, just a few cows. Not that I’ve tickled it behind the ears, called it a good *insert bovine gender here,* got it to sit and given it a treat. People just run their hands down them as they walk past and they’re totally cool with it. Don’t even try and chew anyone’s fingers off or anything. Not like the starey bastards back home that look like they’re imagining all of the different ways they’d like to gore your face off with their sharp, pointy head gear as you shuffle nervously through their field. Rishikesh is awesome though, if it were any more laid back it’d fall into the Ganges. If it wasn’t for the lack of meat and booze I could probably live here but I swear, if I don’t get to eat something dead soon I’ll start getting cranky.
Rishikesh, Uttarakhand, India
Stayed at: Hotel Ishan