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A trip to remember

A three-day trip to Rishikesh turned out to eventful – and full of adventure

WHEN SOMEONE mentioned Rishikesh to me, the first thing that came to my mind was ‘spirituality.’ I have heard that people from all over the world visit the place in search of ‘nirvana’ or to attain peace. Known as the ‘yoga capital of the world’, the city has an old-world charm – and the vibe is meditative.

Thus, my main motive to visit the holy town was to get away from the chaos of city life, and celebrate my birthday in solace. And with me were two of my closest friends. We three girls headed to this city for a much-needed break from monotony and for a mental reset. The trip turned out to be more eventful than we imagined.

HOLY COW!

Situated on the banks of the Ganges River, surrounded by hills on three sides, Rishikesh is not far from Haridwar in Uttarakhand. The town is considered to be sacred and is perfect for meditation and yoga.

There were numerous temples, and the whole place had a spiritual aura. Statues of gods and goddesses like Lord Shiva, Ram, among many others, adorned the town. And one can spot sadhus roaming about in the streets. But one more thing that caught my attention was how the roads were filled with cows and bulls. And little did I know that soon we were about to confront the ‘sacred’ animal.

After checking in at Zostel Rishikesh, we decided we will visit the Laxman Jhula (which was just 10 minutes away). And from the reception we got invited into an Open Mic at a nearby hilltop café. We were told that one of the hotel staff will take us, and other tourists who were residing in the Zostel will also join. So, we agreed.

The visit to Laxman Jhula was bliss. A famous landmark, the 450-feet long iron suspension bridge runs over river Ganga, connecting Pauri and Tehri districts. The panoramic view it offers is breathtaking! Also, the lanes which lead to the jhula have a line-up of small shops and cafes.

After this, we went to the zostel to be taken to the open mic event. But turns out, there was only one guest who joined us. The four of us dutifully followed the boy – who said the cafe is just 10 minutes away. But it turned out to be quite far – that too the way was through a steep, dark alley.

And while we were on our way, a bull – which seemed to be in a bad mood – chased us, literally! I hid behind a tree while my friends had almost a close encounter with the angry bull. The two men who accompanied us tried to shoo it away. And after a lot of screaming and running around, the bull was out of our way!

We were scared at that time. But later, we all laughed it off while listening to a live performance at the cafe.

ENCHANTING AARTI

Since the day we reached Rishikesh, we wanted to see the Ganga aarti. We even thought of how we will dress up in traditional attire. But it turns out that when we did witnessed it finally, we were in our casuals – because it was unplanned.

Day 2 started with us visiting the beautiful Neer Garh waterfalls. It was serene and calm, with a small bridge nearby – where we sat and had chai. After that, we decided to visit Ram Jhula. It is a few miles downstream from Laxman Jhula and links Swarg Ashram on the western bank of River Ganga to the Sivananda Ashram on the eastern one.

This bridge was constructed later than the Laxman Jhula in the year 1980. As you walk on the bridge, river Ganga gushes below with full force and you are surrounded by the beautiful Himalayan range. On both the sides of the bridge are various temples as well as ashrams. There are markets too, selling incense, books on religious and spiritual topics, idols of gods and goddesses, keyrings and other knick-knacks.

After exploring the place and having lunch, we took a ferry to reach the other side – and landed in Shatrughan Ghat. We got to know that the 6.30 pm aarti was about to commence. And what we witnessed after that was nothing short of magical! All the onlookers in the ghat were mesmerised and tongue-tied – to say the least.

In the end, we offered flowers, along with a lit diya, to the Ganga – and heard people praying to wash their sins away.

AGAINST THE TIDE

None of us knew swimming but decided to go for river rafting anyway. So, the third or last day at Rishikesh was adventurous fun.

The weather was perfect but little did we know that the water was freezing cold. When we started paddling, we got drenched in no time. The main challenge is rafting was to fight the rapids (sections of a river where the river bed has a relatively steep gradient, causing an increase in water velocity and turbulence). The ride was smooth but rapids – both big and small ones (and each had a funny name! like ‘tornado’ for a fierce one, or ‘mickey mouse’ for a small one) – made sure that our journey was eventful.

And while we rowed through the smoothly flowing part of the stream, I sat back and enjoyed the scenic beauty around me. This made me draw a comparison between life and rafting. Life just flows normally, but at times there are challenges, like rapids – which we have to fight to reach the shore or –our destination!

GOOD TIMES

Apart from all the places I explored – be it the iconic jhulas or the waterfall – there’s one place that made the journey more memorable. That is the zostel we were staying in. It was my first time in a set-up like this.

It made me live my college days yet again – as I felt like I am staying in a hostel. I was living in a dorm with my friends – which had bunk beds! And the place had a common area/hangout zone where we used to spend the evenings and nights playing or watching movies. They arranged for yoga classes, Bollywood dance classes, bonfires and many other fun activities. The best part was we made new friends – who were backpackers from different states of India. They made our stay in the town more fun!

And each one had an interesting story to tell. Someone came here to take a break from his monotonous life. Some other traveller said he wanted to get over his heartbreak, and thus left his city. Another person was bored with his job, so he left it and came to Rishikesh to figure out what he wants in life.

And I, along with my friends, was also there to celebrate my birthday and mark the beginning of a new chapter in my life. What better start could I have got?