Sunday, April 22, 2012

Rishikesh Drifter


Rishikesh is a small town sprawling across the banks of river Ganga. The town and the river are of immense religious significance to the vast Hindu populace of India. A visit to the city and a dip in the Ganges is supposed to cleanse ones body and soul. If it was this easy for men to get cleansed, perhaps, Jesus died in vain. I wonder what these millions will have to say when they stand before the one true living God on the day of Judgement.

Anyways, Jaipur was behind me, and if I thought that the heat was too, I was terribly mistaken. Rishikesh is as hot as a town can be. There was a special train at 0600 from Jaipur headed to Sarai Rohilla in Delhi. I got the ticket a day before and I didnt even have to book in tatkal. Quite strange, in a pleasant way of course. The announcement at the station was hilarious. The lady on the PA system said, "train number 9721 Jaipur to Delhi Sarai Rohilla, 'Hollywood Special' is arriving on platform number ....". Well! at least I thought it was funny. Anyways, the train has only three stops. One at Gandhinagar in Jaipur and the other two at Gurgaon and Delhi Cantt, in the vicinity of Delhi. So it can be considered a non stop train in some sense. A bus from ISBT Anand Vihar to Nepali Farm and a Vikram (Tuk Tuk) to Rishikesh rounded up the days journey.

The purpose of visiting Rishikesh was to pick some expedition gear from an acquiantance and may be even raft. I did raft the very next day. It was a 27 Km route which some operators call  "Expedition" in order to make gullible clients feel ecstatic. I mean the raft is an inflated boat with 4 to 10 people in it. No matter what, the boat wont capsize, the occupants wont drown and whether a rafter paddles or not the raft just stays on course. I say this because I was stuck with a bunch of Jats from Haryana who just wouldnt do what the poor guide said. If anything, they would do the exact opposite of what he had to say and the boat would still stay on course. Of course, the rapids, which had funny names like three blind mice, roller coaster, golf course, crossfire  etc were thrilling. But to call the ride an expedition would be pushing it. Its good fun though. I even got to swim (well go with the flow) for a 2 Km stretch after "golf course". The stretch is called "body surf" where one might surf on his belly using ones arms, feet and the vest of course, which is meant to prevent one from drowning. The guys halted the raft at a place where people jump off a cliff. There are a bunch of vendors selling snacks and drinks at this spot. I jumped off the cliff which was probably 6 or so metres high. It was alright. The "jat" party had to do their own thing. So the guide and I waited at the raft for them. By the time we reached the town, it was past five in the evening. I think this rafting thing could be good fun for college kids and couples. Its not very physically demanding and doesnt require special skills. Would I do it again? I dont know. Even if I did, I seriously doubt it will be in Rishikesh. There is not even one joint selling meat or fowl. What does a poor, pure non vegetarian like me do?

I think I will stay here for a few more days, pick up the stuff I need and head back to Pondicherry or Chennai to get some rest before the climbs, kind of taper before the expedition. Or who knows, may be I will stay and plan a climb from here. Hopefully things fall in place sooner than later. Lord Willing.

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