Note to regular readers: You may wish to go back to the post ‘Getting in your way’ because IndianInterlude has now managed to upload the photos for that post.
Rishikesh is styled as the ‘Yoga Capital of the World’ and the Swag Ashram area is decidedly ‘new age’. The area is predominantly pedestrian, as cars and rickshaws cannot cross the suspension bridge. The number of non-Indians is noticeable, however most seem to be here for the long haul.
The thing absent from Rishikesh is cycle rickshaws by the way.
Also, Indian tea spoons are very large.
Rishikesh also offers white water rafting, trekking, elephant safaris, and somewhere nearby, a one kilometer long flying fox.
IndianInterlude finds it a really nice town, perhaps because it is not over run with people like our previous stops.
On Friday afternoon we head upstream to Lakshman jhula, the second suspension bridge across the river. This area is bordering on the serene, by comparison. There are fewer people again, less New Age, more higher plane I suspect. The non-Indians are in force here, and based on appearances again it is those who are in for the long haul, not day trippers such as IndianInterlude.
This is also the first place we notice any Tibetan presence. There are a couple of stalls selling Tibetan crafts, and there might even be a discreet ‘Free Tibet’ sign. We offer our support via a retail relationship.
This also the first time we see a rubbish bin.
Some explanation for some earlier photos. The hotel discourages feeding the monkeys and baboons, however the breakfast staff appeared not to have received that memo, and monkeys sit immediately outside our breakfast window.
On Friday night we leave Rishikesh by car for Haridwar, to take the overnight train to Amritsar. Haridwar seems bigger, and with many more western style hotels, than Rishikesh. The floor of the railway station entry hall is strewn with bodies, happily they are all alive, and under the most colorful array of blankets ever seen. Our departure assistance person says people will sleep at the station to catch late night or early morning trains.
We have a porter assist us with our bags. IndianInterlude admits that it is using every last gram of its airline luggage allowance, and our porter balances both suitcases on his head and leads the way. The porter seems to have a better idea of which platform to head for than our departure person. We have been advised to chain and lock our bags under our seat for the evening journey, and that we should be assisted with this. Our man does not think this is necessary, and in any case I cannot see anywhere on the platform which is obviously selling cable locks. We go without, as does, as far as I can tell, everyone else on the train.
The trip itself is uneventful. We are traveling in an air conditioned carriage in a six berth bay, three tiers of bunks on either side. We are sharing with two Spanish women, and one Indian of each gender, but they are not together. She gets off at some station at about two in the morning. When we get on the train it is full of chatter, however the Haridwar stop seems to signal bed time, as seats are turned into bunks, and blankets, pillows and sheets are unrolled. The carriage falls silent by about 11:30pm.
The train arrives early in Amritsar, maybe 15 minutes or so. Our driver fails to show again! Another phone call to Sindhu explains that we are waiting on the platform, and have not been met. She investigates and soon enough our driver appears, saying he was at the exit gate. For what it’s worth, our travelling instructions are to be met on the platform, and I’m sticking to them.
We have been met in a way. Two burly gentlemen are only too happy to carry our bags and take us to a hotel, if only I would agree. I explain more than once that I have a driver and a hotel, he is late, and I need to ring him. For the full half hour we are on the platform these two sit and wait, and one even bids for the business when our driver arrives.
There is a change to our itinerary for this weekend, which we are happy to accommodate. We have checked into out hotel, and had much needed showers and breakfast. The day, until 3:30pm is ours, when we head for the Pakistan border.
Here we plan to:
A) Cross the border and assist our Muslim brothers and sisters to defeat the Taliban and bring democracy and freedom to the people.
B) Cross the border and join the mujahideen to end US cultural imperialism.
C) Watch an exciting and colorful ceremony closing the border crossing for the day.