Ok. Fine. I admit it. Lemon, ginger and honey tea appears to be just as good at fighting cold and flu symptoms as pseudoephedrine. There, I said it. I draw the line at wearing brightly coloured woollens and stinking the place out with patchouli incense though, I’m not that much of a fucking hippy yet. I couldn’t be a hippy anyway, I like practical trousers too much. I was told a couple of times in Delhi by one guy (who I assume runs an Indian clothing shop) that I should adopt Indian dress whilst I’m over here but I just don’t think I could rock that look. I’ve seen a few Western chicks in Indian dress and it’s lovely and feminine and therein lies the problem. I can’t pull off feminine. I walk like a bouncer. I’d look like some manner of hideous drag parody of their culture. I may or may not have given some nice, floaty tops a second glance in one of the shops in Rishikesh though… Aaaaanyway, there will now follow a series of poorly written, fragmented paragraphs interspersed with photographs which I shall pass off as some manner of story-so-far round up.
I did like Rishikesh. I liked it a lot. I might even try and get back there after Nepal. Travellers tend to stay around Lakshman Jhula which is the name of the suspension bridge. Now that’s fun to cross at the weekend as you try and make your way around sadhus, tourists who’ve stopped to have their photo taken with the amazing Shri Trayanbakshwar Temple behind them, people who are simply trying to cross, several motorcycles, some scooters, a shit load of monkeys and a cow.
It’s one of those places where, on first sight, I couldn’t get my head around why people stayed for so long but like Salento in Colombia, it totally won my heart. It’s the kind of place where I have to make myself move on for fear of waking up one day and realising my visa has expired and I’m still planning breakfast in one of the cafes on the south side of the river.
Well I’ve been here just over a week and I’m still not shitting through the eye of a needle. One habit I’ve had to get out of in India though is brushing my teeth in the shower. I brush my teeth in the shower because if I brush them over the sink I get bored halfway through but you really shouldn’t be putting tap water in your mouth. You’re meant to use bottled water to brush your teeth. I ignored this little pearl of fabulous advice in Bolivia and whilst I didn’t feel at all ill it definitely seemed like my internal organs had liquidised and fallen out through my arse every time I sat on the bog. I felt fine, I could eat, but every time I did eat it reappeared out the other end half an hour later and still almost recognisable as food. I’m not gonna lie, shitting lettuce leaves can be somewhat disconcerting.
Anyway, I’m spending tonight in Haridwar because I have a train to Delhi at stupid o clock tomorrow. I wanted to give Ajit a call but I’ve lost his contact details so that pisses on that idea, so I’ve had a bit of a wander around the place. Haridwar is a holy city, you’re greeted as you enter from Rishikesh by a massive statue of Lord Shiva. I still don’t know why there are so many statues of Shiva and not so many of the others. Maybe it just seems that way because he’s the only one I recognise. From what I can gather, Hindus believe in one god who takes no shape or form, one supreme soul, and we are all part of that soul or something. But there are three incarnations of that god and many incarnations of them in turn and fuck me, Hinduism is complicated! I think Lord Brahma is the creater, Lord Vishnu is the protector, and Lord Shiva is the destroyer, and I’ve yet to learn where Ganesh the elephant headed god or Hanuman the monkey god come into play.
Here, people come to bathe in the Ganga river, Ajit told me it’s the first place the Ganga river touches the ground after flowing out of the foothills which is why it’s such a holy place. There are several people selling flowers which you light and float on the river, and water containers of varying sizes so you can take a bit of Mother Ganga home with you.
I’ve even got up the bottle to start asking people if I can photograph their stalls. I still haven’t managed to interpret the Indian head wobble so at the moment I’m assuming a smiley head wobble means yes and a frowny head wobble means fuck off, tourist. Thus far, everyone in Haridwar seems friendly. This pleases me. Because tomorrow I’m going back to Delhi where you have to do battle with all and sundry, just to get a fucking samosa. I’ll probably stay at Hotel Namaskar again, it does the job and the owners are friendly enough despite the fact one of them tends to talk directly to my tits. Can’t say as I blame him, I do sport a cracking pair, but you’d think he’d try and be a bit more subtle about it ay.
Right, this concludes the round up so far. I’m not dead, I still have a working sphincter muscle, I’ve got a train booked to Agra so I can go and gawp at the Taj Mahal because it’s probably law to do that if you set foot in India or some shit and life, in general, is pretty fucking good.
Haridwar, Uttarakhand, India
Stayed at: One of the cheap little hotels near the station. There are loads which are fine for one night and an early start to catch a train.