The sun is setting in Rishikesh. We are setting the alarm for 4am tomorrow to get a taxi to Haridwar and then a train to Delhi. Full circle, back to where we started our adventure. We are even staying at the same bed and breakfast we stayed at when we arrived, we liked it so much (temprapedic beds...ahhh).
Yesterday we woke up at 4:30am to take a taxi up the winding Garhwol Mountains to the very tip top. The drive took about an hour. We were with our hotel manager, who was our guide (we found out later was a secret thing he did on the side, which is why the cost of the trek was so much cheaper than other places offering it), another friend of his, and a driver. We drove up the mountain in the dark, with the lights of Haridwar sparkling below and some Hindi music with a good beat jamming on the stereo.
When we reached the top we climbed dozens of steep stairs to a Shiva temple (its all about Shiva in this area, I've noticed). We walked around to the back of the temple. We stood and gazed at the Himalayas and soon watched the sun rise to the right of them. (A side note: I read "Into Thin Air" earlier in the trip, so it was especially intriguing to see the deadly mountains) We have now seen the sunrise at both the lowest and highest elevations we have been at in India.
Once the sun started to blind our view of the Himalayas, our guide and his friend made offerings in the temple and we started our way down the mountain. The trail was very steep and was covered in loose rocks. We passed through the remote villages of rice farmers, passing the occasional child going to school (where the school was, I have no idea). The trail eventually became the aqueduct for the rice fields. We followed the waterway while taking in the lush green rice fields, the sound of rushing water at our feet.
Halfway down the mountain we started to see several waterfalls. The first one was in the distance, across a field...I would guess, at least, 60 ft. high. The second was about that height, split into two, with a pool in between them. The bottom of this one poured into an emerald green swimming hole. When we arrived, there was another tourist who had just finished a swim...we shared our bananas with him.
For the rest of the hike we followed the running water as it flowed down the mountain. We passed various black faced monkeys and Indian guys swimming in their undies.
When we returned to the hotel, around 11am, we went back to bed and slept until the late afternoon. It was a great day.
Today I accomplished my other goal for Rishikesh. The Ganges. Yup. I did it. Riley did too. Granted, the Ganges here is not like in Varanasi or other big cities in India. There are no funeral pyres and there is hardly any garbage on the banks. Rishikesh is where the Ganges starts, so the water is very clean, but very cold.
I marched right in with my clothes on, dunked my head two times, and marched back out. It was freakin' cold. Then Riley went in. That was about it. We haven't seen any other Westerners go in, but lots of Indians.
That's all for now. I'll try and write again when we are in Delhi, but we are running short on time before our departure for the States. Has it been two months already?