We left home at 8PM on Friday, after I vomited my stomach out for 2 hours, due to minor food poisoning caused by a dreadful pizza I inadvertently picked on my way back home from office. I will spare you the ugly details and start from the point when my sister literally dragged me to a metro station and we boarded the 8:30 train towards VISHWAVIDHYALA. Well, there were fatal repercussions, but I just can’t bring myself to bail on my weekend plans, just can’t, and no amount of vomits or blinding stomachaches can stop me!!(also I already paid for the hotel and the buffet wasn’t complimentary).
Arriving ISBT New Delhi was easy, we were very excited, although I had trouble standing straight- But I promised myself to keep my sissy side under sheets for the weekend and let the Magellan out. So we WAITED for the Bus, Air-conditioned one-for the next 2 hours and a regular one, two hours after that. Soon we realized we made the 3rd biggest mistake of travelling to Rishikesh –Not getting the reservations done. First, there were no buses and when there were, people kept pouncing at us from all directions. We gathered ourselves together and pushed through the sweaty shirts and hairy arms, and got us a seat(smiley face).
The night went by quickly- We left at 1 am, reached Rishikesh at 8 and headed straight to our hotel. The Great Ganga Hotel- Three words- Excellent food, Great view and Decent staff. OK they were not exactly three words, but apart from its quality food the hotel offered most exceptional view of the Ganges. Located parallel to the Parmarth Ashram on the other side of the River, Great Ganga was exactly what we wanted(except of course the no LIFT clause and having to walk up and down the steepy entrance every time we headed out or came in). All in all, we loved it and instantly went into hibernation for 8 straight hours.
At around 4:30PM, we straightened ourselves up, fixed the smudgy Kohl, put on a Black Bindi and took off for the day. The gatekeeper showed us a very practical shortcut to the Ghat, from right in front of the Hotel entrance. We jumped into the mud and dived our way to the nearest Ghat(and saved 100 bucks we would have otherwise paid for transportation). And there we were, walking beside Ganga, watching religion, habits and tradition we instantly wanted to follow. Just the sight of Ganga converts you into a much calmer being. Amidst the pleasing murmur of “Hare Krishna Hare Rama”, we bought our Boat ride tickets from the blue counter and sailed to the other side.
We walked to our left for 500 meters till the Ghats disappeared and the river banks were covered with emerald sand. Bathing here was prohibited, yet we saw a few taking their evening dip in the Holiness of Ganga- the river that Forgives all the sinners and renders Salvation. We sat there for a while and at around 5:30PM left for Parmarth Ashram evening Aarti. En route we saw people, Sages, saints, fruit vendors, devotees, temples and shops- all blend together like a brilliant canvas.
We reached Parmarth Ashram and sat on the stairs, carefully measuring the distance between the ceremony stage and anticipated mob. As the Aarti began, people started pouring in and all our carefully crafted space was gone within seconds. We clapped at the sound of Shlokas(Sanskrit chants) and participated in the Bhajanas(hymns) and everything fell in complete harmony. After 90 minutes of euphoria (we took the smoke coming out of the burning lamps and blessed our foreheads with it, a symbol of respect and faith) we left the Ashram premises and began walking towards the Lakshman Jhula.
The route wasn’t well defined and apart from a few landmarks, we majorly depended on the locals for directions. Few of them even told us, it was far and offered us to hire a taxi, but GPS told us it wasn’t anything more than a Kilometer and let’s face it, who wouldn’t trust technology better than a bunch of strangers. Walking ahead, we crossed a few ashrams, it was past 8 and already dark. We heard the occasional mewing of peacocks and there were fewer people on the road.
In about 20 minutes, the whole ambiance toppled upside down and the darkness vanished in the sound of fun. With an array of restaurants, interestingly named as Peace, Nirvana, Freedom, Buddha, Little Italy, the area became more of a hamlet for hippies. We took a left into a narrow street and to our absolute surprise right beside the Ganges, on a tiny Ghat- A musical episode was unfolding. Drums, flutes, guitars, harmonicas swaying their way into the darkness- the atmosphere of utter Bliss. People were twirling to the sound of Ganga, gushing through the Ghat, blending into something Magical.
We lazed around at Ganga Café and ordered Iced Choco latte with Garden salad. As the time passed by, the mystical air became colder, music outside eventually stopped- we picked up our baggage and brought it back to where we started. We had the most amazing night in our river facing room at Hotel Grand Ganga- and that was Saturday :)
P.S- 2nd biggest mistake was not carrying a better quality camera.