Fortunately for us, we have spent the last nine day in the beautiful town of Rishikesh, the yoga capital of the world. Located in Northern India, next to Haridwar.
The small valley, with huge mountains towering each side and the beautiful mother Ganga river running through the middle.
It has two small footbridges which connects both sides of the river. Footbridges that also commute motorbikes and cyclists. Which makes the bridges noisy and busy to cross.
During the first few days of our stay we stayed in the pamarath nikehtan ashram. 300 rupees a night each which included board, three meals a day and 2 yoga classes in the ashram. Bargain!!! The ashram was the biggest one in Rishikesh, and was surrounded by stunning flower beds and statues of the gods from the Hindi religion. But we weren't the only people who stayed there, among tourist and visitors, there were the baba's. The baba's where boys dressed in yellow and red who lived in the ashram. Their ages ranged from 10 to adult men and they spent they're days maintaining the gardens and the ashram. They had a separate dinning hall to us and we were often woken up early hours of the morning by their prayer chants and singing.
But beside from the babas, we also met a lot if people (backpackers) from all corners of the world.
Firstly we met Ben, he was from Melbourne and lived in the room next to us. He was a sweet boy currently traveling with his cousin and his girlfriend. We spent a day with Ben where we trekked through the small villages in the valley looking for a bakery which sold a chocolate brownie. We found the bakery in the end and enjoyed the cake on a rooftop looking over the river and the misty mountains.
We also met Eva and Charlotte. Eva was from Taiwan and Charlotte was from Denmark. Two very nice and funny women. We spent a day with them where we trekked up one side of the mountain to a temple which overlooked the valley. It was beautiful. While we were at the temple a man demanded we followed him to the top temple to a little room. We went into the room where he began to bless us, we had to drink Ganga water, eat these white sugar balls, he drew a bandi on our forehead and tied a piece of string around our wrists. It was a very random experience so we decided to buy prayer beads from him as a memorabilia for the day. The 4 of us took in the final views before climbing down 6 flights of concrete steps. Walking past a pack of monkeys screeching and fighting over peanuts.
Arriving at our favourite restaurant "The Tip Top", our group sat down crossed legged on the soft cushions in front of the tiny knee height Wooden tables, then ordered 4 of their finest strong milk coffees. We sat here for the next hour just getting to know these awesome people, laughing, learning and just having a good time before heading back for dinner.
Over the next few days we met a few more people, Brani, Victor, Ally, Dan, Lilly and Neta. Moving from the ashram and up to the luxury Swiss style cottage located higher up in the mountains, we spent many an hour drinking hot lemon and honey whilst enjoying the beautiful views and the warm sun.
On Christmas Eve, Lilly, Victor, Brani, Hannah and I, jumped in a rickshaw and head to another holy city just 40km away. The journey took over an hour, and cost us just 50p each!
Haridwar, a busy riverside town with thousands of people. Begging children, men and women surrounding the busy streets. Wandering around the streets, trying some delicious street food, ranging from spicy chick peas (the same as Delhi) and a few sweet dishes that were a lot like doughnuts but saturated in maple syrup!
The main reason for going to Haridwar was not for the food but for the sundown ceremony, this is where hundreds, maybe thousands of people make there way down to a small section of the holy mother ganja and place a candle on a floating bed of flowers, watching it sail down the river as a small gratitude to their gods. It was a very cool thing to see, Hannah even joined in an bought some flowers, but obviously in pure Indian style, some touts tried making money off of her by explaining everything and blessing her etc!!
Christmas Day, the highlight if our time in Rishikesh, white water rafting for 2 hours down the beautiful glacier cold river ganja, alongside a great group of friends. Our rafting instructor, who liked a lot like Carlton from the Fresh Prince, suggested that we all jump on and do some body surfing. Without any hesitation Hannah stood up, prepared to jump in, with Carlton giving her that extra little "nudge" to assist her into the water! I quickly jumped in after, the bone chilling water instantly causing all of my muscles to tighten.
We spent about 20 minutes surfing down the river, holding hands as if we were sky diving, joining with our friends as we went down. A feeling like no other, cold through to the bone yet having the best time, "cleansing" our souls in the holy water while taking in the stunning mountainous scenery.
Christmas evening our group of internationals all head off down the dusty road, to the famous 60's restaurant located on a little side street. With views of the river and comfy cushions to sit on, we all enjoyed a very untraditional Christmas dinner, mine being a vegetable jalfrezi with 4 chapati!
We both had an amazing time in Rishikesh, meeting people from all over the world as well as cleansing our souls, relaxing our muscles with some yoga and engulfing the breath taking scenery.