02.11.2009 - 02.11.2009 28 °C
The final piece to this adventure let us discover the more spiritual side of India, exploring life on the banks of the River Ganges. Seven hour bhangra-fuelled drive through some amazing village scenery bought us to the holy city of Haridwar.
First impression as we parked up the car was a bit, well strange. We seemed to have stopped in a side street next to a huge pile of rubbish. Pigs and cows rummaging around in discarded pile of plastics, guys pissing in the streets again, someone even doing a cheeky squat in full view, euuggghhh. The stench was baaaaaad, memories of eau de Delhi came flooding back. We really had been spoilt by the tranquility of the mountains. Caught a rickshaw to the main streets of Haridwar and, thankfully, these first impressions quickly vanished and were safely stashed away in the 'not overriding impression just part of the experience' memory that I reserve for such 'cultural' shocks.
How to desribe this place? Intense, busy, frenetic, but at the same time unique, genuine, welcoming and well yes spiritual. Yet again, a very different side to India. To me, this is an important reason why I would love to go back. The diversity you get in different cities or villages in India is kind of addictive and fundamentally appeals to my adventurous side. What are we going to discover at this place then? No idea atall, keep an open mind we will find out what kind of experiences await us, be prepared for anything to happen, expect the unexpected. Again, I was pleasantly surprised by the lack of tourists here, just full of Indian people going about their daily lives, their routines, their rituals. Diverse Indian people, still the beautiful saris on display but many holy men and sadhus (wondering monks) with their characteristic dreadlocked hair, long beards and ochre robes. More about these guys when we get to Rishikesh.
Strolled along the ghats of the Ganges (steps leading into the water) taking in the unique vibrant atmosphere. People gathering, chanting, washing in the Ganges, performing religious rituals. Cleansing of body and soul. People shaving their heads. Babies heads being shaved, except for a single tuft of hair, an offering to the gods and apparently a significant gesture of surrender and humility. Wow.
We then took in the colourful, busy, city bazaars, displaying spices, sweets (jalabies and gulab jumun yum yum!), flowers and saris. Thankfully, the air smelt much less Delhi, more floral incense with a bit of cinammon somewhere thrown in! As we only had a few hours in Haridwar, I felt myself getting annoyed by the photo requests this time, my smile gradually deterioriating into a grin. Chello chello... time for the next adventure, camping on the banks of the Ganges. Was both worried and intrigued by the thought if this. The intensity of this whole trip was starting to take its toll and I was starting to crave warm showers and a decent bed to be honest.