I headed to Nepal for 5 days after the tour finished, hoping to head form Kathmandu to Pokhara to paraglide and do some trekking. Unfortunately I came down with the flu and this adventure trip turned into spending 5 nights in a Kathmandu hostel. The city of Kathmandu is still in stages of re-development following the earthquake in 2015. Power was on and off during the day, piles of rubble sit next to housing foundations and hot water wasn’t available in the area I was staying. Stunning mountains surround the city itself, the locals are very friendly and the monkey temple is definitely worth a visit. I am planning to go back if I have time in a few months to follow my original plan and visit other regions.
The weather is getting hotter by the day in India; I vouched to head further North into the foothills of the Himalayas to avoid the extremes of the south. Rishikesh sits 8 hours north of Delhi along the beautiful Ganges. Famous for yoga, trekking and whitewater rafting the city attracts an array of people from around the world and India itself. As a Holy place, alcohol is hard to come by but in compensation the area is very well known for producing Hash. The best Hash in India comes from the Himalayan region making it a magnet for stoners. Authorities overlook it and smoking in cafes is completely fine. The vibe of Rishikesh is amazingly chilled and friendly, I have a feeling I might be staying here for a while!
I arrived into Rishikesh late afternoon and met some friendly folk at the hostel, we headed out in the evening to a café overlooking the river with some live music, it was the perfect introduction into the city. The following morning a group of 6 of us headed for the rapids, whitewater rafting is something I have always wanted to do. Geared up with helmets and life jackets we drove 16km upstream along the windy roads. For this 2 hour rafting venture it set me back only 4 pounds, I’m not too sure what that says about the safety ratings but nevertheless I jumped on board. Kicking up the adrenaline we paddled our way through the force of the water coming close to flipping the raft on the biggest rapid ranked at level 4. It was an absolute blast, we were given opportunities to jump into the water in the rapids and on the calm, I opted for the calm. I can’t wait to do it again make it a weekly venture while I am here in Rishikesh!
After a few more days staying at the hostel, riding scoters through the streets, hiking to waterfalls and constantly chasing monkeys away from my belongings (they did steal my shoe) I headed to a yoga ashram to get into the true spirit of the area. With daily yoga classes and the Ganga at your front door it is an amazing place to chill out.
I am lucky enough to have been here in Rishikesh for the Holi Day celebrations, the day of the year when locals welcome in the springtime by throwing powdered colour and buckets of water at each other. I was really looking forward to it and was not disappointed. The evening before a massive bonfire was lit in the main square which we danced around amongst hundreds of other ravers. Colour was thrown around a bit but we were warned that the chaos was yet to come. The following morning at the ashram began with a paint war; we were now ready to hit the streets. It was advised that we coat ourselves in oil beforehand so the dye wouldn’t stain, however 3 days later I still have rainbow hair and pink feet. Being pre dyed before hitting the streets also helped but still didn’t prevent being bombarded by men who plastered colour onto my face and tried to get a sneaky grope in there. “Happy Holi” is said whenever someone approaches to smother you in colour. Kids were armed with water pistols filled up with puddle water and most likely containing loads of cow shit, unlucky to those who were blasted. Others clung to water tanks and constantly loaded their buckets full of water to dump on anyone passing by.
Everyone was united, celebrating with each other, there were no boundaries and no rules for this festival day. Celebrations went on until about 3pm, shops opened their doors after this and things rapidly calmed down. It was such an exciting time to be in the India and become so heavily involved in their celebrations. Bhang lassi is consumed on this day more than any other, a potent lassi made with a drug they call bhang, which is produced from marijuana. It hits you harder than expected and will leave you feeling severely stoned for a whole day. You can ask for a light, medium or strong but can never estimate how much they will put in.
Rishikesh has served me well, I have been rafting twice, surrounded myself by nature, bathed in the Ganges, met some amazing people and worked in an Indian kitchen. I may be stuck here for a while! Namaste.