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Rendezvous with Rishikesh – the adventure capital of India

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Har ki pauri

Rendezvous with Rishikesh – the adventure capital of India

Located on the banks of the river Ganga, Rishikesh is considered to be the ultimate destination for religious people around India and overseas. It is mainly known for yoga, meditation and its sacred, historic temples. However, many don’t know that Rishikesh is not only a religious location, but also one of the biggest adventure destinations in India. It is also called the ‘Adventure Capital of India ‘.

I had volunteered for a trip planned by Streets of India and Zdventure India to bring in a bit of change in the usual monotony of life. The trip began on 10 February 2016 right from the moment I boarded the train from Mumbai to Delhi. All my companions on this journey were strangers to me.

Execution:

A priest in Haridwar

A priest in Haridwar

On 11 February, I met a bunch of 43 people who had come in from different places for one memorable trip. They were those I would be travelling with in and around Rishikesh. On 12 February, at 4.30 am, after a six hour bus journey from Delhi to Haridwar (approx 240 kms), we got out of the bus facing the cold breeze, enough to bring us back to reality from dreams. It took me a while to get used to the temperatures, till which time I enjoyed the scenic beauty of dimly lit lights just before sunrise.

Soon, after the Shahi Snan, we fanned out in smaller groups, looking around for candid shots and that’s when I photographed this image. Chased him for a while when I saw him walking towards this spot, got behind him, slightly zoomed in the 18-135mm lens attached to the borrowed Canon 500D and this was the result. One of my favourites from Har-Ki-Pauri, Haridwar.

Streets of Haridwar

Streets of Haridwar

After a stroll on the shore, near the temple and the beautiful symmetric bridges, we headed towards the streets looking around for local street food and the pandits (saints) who visit Haridwar on the occasion of Ardh Kumbh. It seemed like a carnival and I enjoyed sharing smiles with strangers and capturing them on film, while they gave me inquisitive looks.

Our second halt was Rishikesh, an hour’s ride from Haridwar (20 kms), where our home for the next two days was Zostel- India’s first chain of backpackers’ hostels that offered vibrant common rooms, hushed up reading spaces, comfortable dorms and privates, more than something you can ask for.

Laxman Jhula

Laxman Jhula

After unpacking, we left to explore the local market which was pleasing with all those little cafés, handicraft stores, ancient coin stalls, rafting banners and graffiti on the way. We chose a café with balcony seating which offered the calming view of the famed Laxman Jhula.

Returning to Zostel for some rest, I ended up spending my evening in the common room playing Jhenga and UNO which proved to be a wise decision as we ended up interacting and making our own rules for the game.

Day 2:

Today was the day for rafting in the white waters. Excited, all set for the water sport, we got into the Gypsy that would take us to the starting point. Sadly, cameras were not allowed but that didn’t affect our excitement much. We wore the safety gears, noted all the necessary instructions, got into the rafts all set to sail. Enrolled for the Level 5 rafting, the first 3 levels went off pretty well while chasing and teasing each other. After the third level, I started feeling the chills as we were all soaked in the river water and the breeze added to our chills. Our rafts slowed down a bit after the fourth level and we took a break for some hot snacks and tea. But since this was the first time experience for most of us and it had also started drizzling, we cut short the break and moved ahead to avoid sickness. But boy, the fifth level was epic; the raft I was on was about to turn around, but thanks to our guide and his instructions, we saved it. The overall experience was breathtaking.

Group
Next, we visited the Triveni Ghat to experience the Ganga Aarti. The experience here was surreal. The enthusiasm of the saints performing the pooja while it was drizzling, a few other locals and foreigners performing pooja, the tea seller helping us cope up with the weather. And last, but not the least, was a group picture right in front of the Prem mandir. Later, the organizers gave us a little surprise -they had called in for scooters for the next day.

Day 3:

Since we had scooters for the entire day, our first spot was the Patna falls. While trekking, we came across various streams flowing through the hills. The trek to the waterfall was a little difficult for me as I had higher chances of slipping, but the natural beauty, sound of the flowing water and the cool breeze helped in keeping up the energy high. We also came across a few donkeys moving down at considerable speed. They halted for a while and I ran above, maintaining a safe distance. I lost the shot where they were drinking water from one of the streams and got this while they continued their journey.

Patna Fall

Patna Fall

We then headed to the Beatles Ashram, also known as Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Ashram. The Beatles were one of the most popular music bands in 1960s throughout the world. They visited Rishikesh in 1968 to learn transcendental meditation at Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s Ashram.

The calmness felt here was different, away from chaos. We felt bereft of any emotion, and I hardly clicked any images here. The ride till here through the local streets, Ram jhulla and thin lanes was fun.

The next destination was a hike to the Kunjapuri Temple, about 20 kms drive from Rishikesh city, hidden in the mountains at an altitude of 1650 m. Reached the top of the hill which gave a scenic view of the city, witnessed the elevated sunset.

Back in the city, enjoyed dining at a café where they had music and dance voluntarily performed by visitors exploring the city for a few months. Also, since it was Valentine’s Day, the place was packed with both locals and foreigners in search of peace and new experiences.

This was the last day of the trip, but a start for a lot more trips ahead, hopefully.

 

Hetali Kothari

A budding Photographer and traveler based in Mumbai who also curates popular instagram accounts.

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