Saturday 21st April, we arrived in Haridwar train station after a comfortable ride in first class seating for the first time. We were actually quite impressed with the standard, as some of our 2nd class sleeper experiences weren’t as comfortable as this. We all looked at each other and decided, this was the way to travel. Anyway we needed to catch a rickshaw to Tapovan, where we were staying at the Kriya Yoga Ashram. A tip here: always ask a local traveller how much it is to your destination, when stepping out of the train station they will offer you prices that might seem okay, but far from it. We were quoted all sorts of prices, ranging from Rs. 700 down to Rs. 400…that seems fair. Well, we went with a local family traveling and caught it for Rs. 200 for the 4 of us, and that was a little higher as we had all our back packs and day packs. Generally with less luggage Rs. 25 – Rs. 30 will be fine. What a difference hey?
As we drove north, OMG we saw the Ganges River. It was gorgeously clear, with bluish water moving south with small rapids in places. I immediately wanted to just jump in. What a contrast from Varanasi’s Mother Ganga. As westerners we just found it to dirty to plunge our selves in Varanasi but here in Rishikesh it was heaven. Mind you the powerful energy of the Ganga in both Varanasi and here in Rishikesh was prevalent. We were all very excited at the thought of actually having a swim, as its been a while. But to have it in the Ganga – the Sacred Goddess Ganga River, was amazing.
Now, checking in to the Ashram was great. We were tied and needed a few days to settle in and rest, as our bodies were in need of recuperation, especially after the Delhi belly a few days prior. We all started our meditation daily at 5.30 to 7am every morning and evening from 6.30 to 8pm. in this beautiful dome temple, where yoga and mediation was held. It was a little rough some mornings getting up at 5am, but no pain no gain they say…LOL. Yes, Tahira our 10 year old was with us meditating also. A matter of fact people visiting the ashram were again inspired by us doing this as a family. It wasn’t always harmonious but everything has its process when experiencing and embracing new things and opening one self to personal growth.
We have made some beautiful connections here, meeting other travelers, staff and Swami’s that are at the Ashram. Connecting with many spiritual masters. We had plenty of opportunities sitting around the dinning tables sharing our stories, learning, teaching and being part of the wisdom and spiritual life of India.
We decided to go to a quite place and take a plunge into the Ganga. As we headed to the Ganga we found a Ayurvedic message place, and was compelled to stop and say hello. You know that feeling, where you meet someone for the first time yet you already know them and recognize the past soul connection? Well thats how it was with Radha, within 2 minutes we were upstairs having tea and sharing stories together. We spent several hours and then we all went off for our Ganga dip. Just around the corner from Radha’s place we found this beautiful spot and noticed sunset was near, perfect timing.
We got into the Ganga, cautiously placing our feet on the muddy rocks provided by nature and feel its great energy. Did I mention it was quite cold? Well, it was so cold that your body felt like it was on fire. For me personally, I take a moment, say a payer, acknowledge “Here I am in the Mother Ganga River”; this Holy revered place, that so many visit from all over the world. Its invigorating and healing energy that flows from way up in the Himalayan glaciers. I now submerse my whole body under and surrender. This ritual of cleansing, purification and rejuvenation was certainly an amazing moment in my life, but we all had our personal experiences. As I mentioned earlier sunset was near, well, it’s now upon us and it was breathtaking to experience whilst in the Ganges and the sun setting behind the mountains.
We visited Radha several times, enjoying here beautiful cooking. The food is light, nourishing and full of love. One thing you must try is bell fruit. Its a taste unlike any other. Squeeze this juice for a refreshing drink on a hot day. Then, one day, on one of our visits, Radha tells us that she is taking us to Rishikesh to meet a swami, a yogi, who is 118 years old. We took a rickshaw to this small Ashram and found a tall, white bearded man sitting on a bed. This man was 118 years old, can you believe that? He looked about 80! He told us stories, shared his wisdom and sang to us for a few hours in Hindi. Some of it was translated, but much of it didn’t need to be. It was heart felt and somehow we understood, it was powerful and beautiful. We were served lunch and continued to listen to this man, another Swami and Radha sing. Radha has a heavenly voice as well. She does mantra healings and leads satsangs. We felt privileged to have been given the opportunity to connect with her and be embraced as family by everyone she introduced us to.
It was time!!! The girls were ready for some Indian Punjabi suits. We went in Rishikesh to look at fabrics and some ready made Punjabis. It was an interesting experience choosing from the hundreds of fabrics in each store. Off course we exhausted every store looking for the right one. One of the traditions, when you sit and are shown these fabrics, is that Chai (tea) is offered to you. Well, let’s say, we had our fair share…lol.
One restaurant we recommend (which is suggested by lonely planet) is called a Little Buddha Cafe. It has been our kitchen away from home. Of course we love our dal, rice and chapati made daily by our lovely cook, but we still enjoy the occasional deviation from Indian food, especially when we are in need to balance our food intake. This place, which also features rooftop dining and view of the Ganga River, has Italian, Indian, Israeli, and Mexican food. Their pizzas are delicious, in fact better than some I we’ve had in Australia. They also have a range of breakfast options which is great. Did you know that meat is not allowed in Rishikesh at all, even alcohol? Little Buddha Cafe is Vegetarian and a great place to hang out. Oh, their lemon mint drinks are soooo refreshing…just love them.
We decided early on, that while in Rishikesh we couldn’t pass up an opportunity to go rafting in our Mother Ganga. We arranged it for the Friday 4th May with a lovely guy named Mukesh, from Wild River Runners, who had been leading rafters for 10years. He was our guide and made the experience a great one. We did the16 km ride and this included about 9 rapids, 2 of which were graded as a 3+, enough to push you outside your comfort zone. It was exhilarating and for some of us terrifying!
Then in the calm spots we were free to jump out and float. This was an absolutely beautiful experience. With our life jacket on, all we had to do is relax and absorb Mother Ganga. It is purely indescribable the feeling you get just floating down the this river. At one point we stopped at a beach for some snacks, took some photos, then continued a bit longer before jumping out again and swimming to our stop. It is definitely recommended to those interested in a bit of adventure, however I’d suggest maybe taking a 25km run for the more adventurous.
Two days later, after recovering a bit from our rafting experience, we decided to head up to Vashisht Gufa, which has a couple caves, about 35 minutes north from Topavan. It is said that Christ, Himself meditated in one, or both of these caves over looking the Ganga. Generally you can catch a bus here, but we were unable to flag them down, so we caught a car with some other people up there. We walked down a pathway that led to an Ashram, and the opening of the cave. Since this is a holy cave it is gated so that its use is monitored. We entered the small, dark cave and sat down to meditate. Since it was a holy day, we were offered lunch by the ashram; a delicious curry, sweets and bread. They also gifted us with 10 rupees that we keep to bring us prosperity.
Then we headed to the second cave called Arundhati cave. A cave less frequented by tourists and the one Jesus sat inside. It was more open and faced the Ganga River. We meditated there uninterrupted before heading down to the water for a plunge. We were told by a friend here at our ashram that the mud at the Ganga is wonderful to put on, so Alexandria, loving mud, began covering herself in it. We all began using it as an exfoliator for our skin and joked that this was the new anti-aging: Ganga Mud.
There is much to explore here and many gems to experience and witness. They come in many forms, so stay open to ‘anything is possible’. A great way to experience India and life in general.
Until the next post…Live the life you want!
Lot of Love
Faris and Family