Published: October 25th 2007October 21st 2007
Today I went to Rishikesh and Shivpuri. Rishikesh is Haridwar’s twin city and is about 20km away which is actually an hour’s drive with the road conditions and the traffic. It lies even further upstream along the Ganges and is the starting point for the holy Char Dham pilgrim route of holy sites along the Ganges.
We drove through Rishikesh to the northern end of town where we parked. I wanted to walk across the Lakshman Jhula, one of two suspension bridges across the Ganges in town. It was cool and there were good view of the river from the bridge. The city sits on two sides of a gorge while the river runs through. It’s quite pretty and the water moves rapidly. It looked even cleaner here than in Haridwar which was way cleaner than Varanasi. Rishikesh is clearly touristier than Haridwar and I saw lots of backpackers and aging hippies. It felt a bit like McLeod Gang in that respect. There were lots of bookshops, coffee shops, small stores, restaurants, and a clear smell of pot in the air in several locations. I wandered around for about an hour before heading back to the car.
on the Ganges in very popular, although it seems somewhat sacrilegious to me since the river is considered so holy. Rishikesh is the end of the river run so I wanted to drive up a bit further. There’s a “River Tour” route that can be done via car or via raft.
We drove along a very windy and steep mountain road to reach Shivpuri, one of the most scenic of the many camps along the river. It’s also where the “Glass House on the Ganges” hotel is and I wanted to see that. There were lots and lots of monkeys along the road and my driver was very good at stopping so I could take photos. The monkeys think you are going to feed them and come racing to the car. I had to keep the windows up or they might have tried to get into the car!
The scenery was as beautiful as the road was scary! Many sections had been washed away by the monsoon rains so there were big potholes. There had also been landslides so the road was only one lane at many points. There were lots and lots of people working to clear
the ruble and to repair the roads. It’s apparently a non-stop process which gets repeated every year.
We got to the Glass House on the Ganges and I ate lunch there. I’m not sure why it’s called the Glass House since it’s a regular building with 12 small cottages, but it had a great view of the Ganges. I ended up talking to a man from Edinburgh who is a Rheumatologist. He’s actually co-chairing an international Rheumatology convention with a professor from UNC-Chapel Hill this coming December! Small world or what? We talked about the medical situation in India and what I had observed. He’s doing a series of lectures here so he’s seen way more than I have. It was an interesting conversation. After lunch, I took a walk down to the river. The hotel had a path and quite a stretch of riverfront. They even had a small sand beach. The water looked very clear so I took off my sneakers and socks and get my feet wet just for a second! I’m not sure that counts as ritual bathing, but I can now say that I have been in the Ganges!
We started back down
the road which was scarier than going up since we were now on the outside of the road (they drive on the left here). One false move and it’s over! Luckily, Abhimanyu is an excellent driver so we made it down OK.
Today is the last day of Dussehra, a festival where scenes from the Ramayana are re-enacted. It’s Day 10 or Vijaya Dashami so at night fall, there are celebrations and large statues of Ravana, the demon king who was ultimately defeated by Rama, are set on fire. It was about 4:30pm as we approached Haridwar and there were people pouring in from everywhere! Many of the roads were already blocked so we had to take the long way around. We passed several sets of Ravana statues, one of which was exactly across the Ganges from my hotel balcony. I’ve had enough of crowds so I decided just to watch from there. Many other people had the same idea so we had a nice crowd. The woman I had dinner with the night before was there so we ended up talking for a while again. There was music and about 75 minutes worth of fireworks, although there were
The Ganges in Shivpuri
The beach at the Glass House on the Ganges Hotel in Shivpuri
long stretches in between explosions. There was a man talking on a loudspeaker and he keep working the crowd up into a lather and we thought that was it, but then he toned it down and started all over again. Finally and all of a sudden, about 7:20pm, the two statues went up in flames. It was quite impressive!
I’m getting up early tomorrow as I want to leave for Corbett by 8:00am. It’s 200km away so that could be six hours in the car. I’m ready for the quiet of the forest so I called it an early night.
There are more photos below