03.11.2009 - 03.11.2009 25 °C
Next up, a complete magical mystery tour. All we knew was that we were to camp out for the night in tents on the banks of the River Ganges somewhere near Rishikesh. We were pretty tired and grubby at this stage so the thought of camping out was not an attractive one to say the least. This really wasn't helped by the horrendous drive through the mountains in the dark on an extremely dusty road. It was so hot in the car but no way could we have the windows open with the choking cloud of dust that surrounded us. I was also getting worried about quite a big swelling on my finger. I had cut my finger on a door when we were staying in Betalghat, the lodge in the Himalayas. In the last few days it had obviously got infected and gradually swollen up bigger and bigger. It was now pretty hot to the touch and about double its normal size, Yikes! Slumming it for the night was the last thing I felt like doing but hey. Nidhi, our Indian guide, had worked out by now that we from England appreciated our drink, so we did a stop on the Haridwar/Rishikesh border for essential supplies. Being holy cities, it is forbidden to sell alcohol in either place but there was this very strategically located village, Raiwal I think it was called. I am sure they were doing a roaring trade from visitors to the area! Still, only men were allowed to go and buy alcohol, lucky for us we had Gavin and Rob who volunteered to do our little booze run!
We followed the Ganges upstream from Rishikesh for miles and miles, nearly a 2 hour drive, where the hell were we staying? Car finally pulled up in the middle of nowhere, very dark but we could just make out that we were on top of a steep drop down to the river and our camping spot. It was a long old trek down to the river and man it was scary doing this just under torchlight, didn't enjoy it one bit. A one point passed over a very wobbly suspension bridge, could hear the rapids below but not see anything. Several times I lost my footing and was so relieved when we got to the bottom and to feel sand between my toes. We were greeted by the campsite owner carrying an oil lamp and were given a welcome drink of lime soda of the salty variety. Fresh lime soda seems to be a very popular drink in Northern India and comes in three versions, plain (quite sweet), sweet (extra extra syrupy sweet) and salty (I am sure is good for rehydration and all that but Yuck!) It was like a lottery as to which version you would get as they all looked the same. Today we lucked out with the salty version. I drank mine as needed a drink after the trek but i could see others 'burying' theirs in the sand hoping no-one would notice! Maybe they were also trying to limit use of the campsite 'facilities' which were simply a hole dug in the sand filled with shit, very pleasant. Eventually found our tent and were pleasantly surprised by what we could see, which was not a lot just with a little headtorch, could have been covered in cockroaches for all we knew. Chilled out with a few beers round the campfire. I would have given anything for a french merlot at this stage, not really a beer drinker but we had some laughs. We were telling the others about our Bhangra music discovery and how unusual some of the hindi/English hybrid lyrics were. There was one song in particular kept sticking in the mind and we explained how we kept getting laughed at in the streets singing the lyrics 'Give me water, I am thirsty'. Nidhi looked at us horrified and we soon realised why when she explained that the lyrics were sexual innuendo and the song was banned in India! Ooopps hahaha no wonder all the attention and grins when we sang it in the streets, blissfully unaware of the interpretation. We decided that when we got to Delhi our mission will be to try and buy this on CD!!
After a reasonable nights sleep, punctuated by Nigel's monstrous snoring in the next tent, woke when the sun started rising and peered out to take a first glimpse of our surroundings. Take a look for yourself, this place was unique. The Ganges here was a milky green/blue glacial colour that reflected perfectly the surrounding mountains. The white sand was soft and powdery, reminded me of a Thai beach. This was surely one of the most beautiful settings I had seen, and so remote.
It was just a shame that we were only to spend a few hours there before leaving for Rishikesh. Quick game of beach volleyball, breakfast, a walk along the beach and a wash in the Ganges (definitely not enough time for this, would have taken at least a few days to wash away all my sins!) The trek back to the top was infinitely more pleasurable than the night before when we could actually see where we going and could take in such beautiful views. I promise I will be back here at some point to spend at least a few days. I really fancied the white water rafting on the river, but there was just not the time, Chello Chello (again!) ...