Thursday sees Indian Interlude get down to the serious business of this destination. Those of you of a particular persuasion will know Rishikesh as the site of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s ashram, where The Beatles came to study Transcendental Meditation all those years ago. We have a map which provides a location, but no directions per se. We make tourist mistake number one, we stop to look at the map. A man, who could be a sadhu, or is maybe just dressed like one, comes up to us. His English is more limited than our Hindi, but for fifty rupees he will take us there. I have previously been told it will cost me fifty rupees to get the security man to unlock the gate when I get there – already we are over budget.
At the gate, the man with the key wants 200 rupees. I do my best on price, but he won’t be unlocking that gate for less than 200, so he gets it.
The ashram is being reclaimed by the jungle. And the elephants. And I can see what a perfect place for a spiritual retreat it would be, even today (if someone restored it).
Our self-appointed guide leads us through. We don’t need him, the trail is well worn, and paved in most parts. And the only words he speaks which I understand are some basic mantras when he points out the meditation huts, and “all of Rishikesh” whenever we ascend a building for the view.
I recognize the views certainly from those old film clips, and the meditation huts, however I think it’s a real shame the ashram is being left to nature. Many of the buildings are in good condition, all things considered.
Next stop, a karma-cleansing bathe in the Ganges. This part of IndianInterlude is still suffering low-grade gastric distress, sweats, elvated body temperature and fever; so a good few minutes in the seriously cold waters of the Ganges actually feels pretty good.
We spend the remainder of the day in the Swag Ashram area, contributing to the retirement funds of local traders. We are paying so much over the odds, that one stall holder must feel guilty and gives Indian Interlude two free post cards.
We finish mid-afternoon. Our hotel has a mini-spa and we have opted for separate treatments to end the day.