For me, the trip to Rishikesh was about conquering fear. It was also a tour of many firsts that threw me out of my comfort zone, made me row over rapids, and turned me into a more confident trekker. The November sun and a happy nip in the air were at the core of every experience that came my way, be it the first ray of sun on the mountains or the fond memories we created around flying embers of a bonfire. We straddled two different lives during our stay: one in the midst of towering mountains, gurgling waterfalls, and recluse beauty and the other among the teeming crowd, heartwarming cafes, and soothing devotional songs.
This is how we chose to spend the weekend in the Yoga Capital of the World.
Stayed in a Camp – That's the first right choice we made after looking around for luxury resorts and mid-range hotels in Rishikesh. They all promised comfort but none of them could promise us the thrill of waking up to the call of Himalayan Bulbul and falling asleep to the sound of waterfalls. I quite liked the no-frills set up that gave us a break from everything we are used to. The feeling of being cut off from noise and clutter first struck me when I saw the ochre mountaintop on a glorious morning. You can't have a better start to a day.
Dedicated Time for Trekking – Every walk you take, feels like trekking. Steep climbs, pebble-strewn trails, and wobbly wooden bridges across the streams: you have to meet all of them during your trekking expeditions. The crisp mountain air and the expectation of coming across a beautiful spectacle keep you going. The best trekking experience in Rishikesh, albeit an easy one, happened to us on the night of our arrival. As four-wheelers don't go beyond a certain point, it was upon us to trek a 1-km-long patch to our camp. With starlit sky above us and determination within, we hopped, reached out to footholds, and walked our way to the camp.
Rode a Camper – It was a stroke of luck that we decided to hire a car to Rishikesh rather than counting on local transport. We didn't know it would be a Mahindra camper. When I think back, I feel so good about the choice we made. It was a bumpy 2-km ride through rocky terrains followed by a 17-km-long stretch of winding road that takes you to the town. Although the driver encouraged us to sit in the front, we obeyed our instincts and occupied the cargo space at the back. As the camper scampered off, I let the cold wind smack my face. While the sharp turns were exciting, the view from the top was unbelievably good. That's the time when we actually wanted to shoot a video.
Went for Water Rafting – Since we were putting up at Shivpuri, we had to raft a good 11 km down to Lakshman Jhula (an iron suspension bridge). With mercury hovering around 57°F and a warm sun on our back, we trod along the rocky banks of the river and boarded the raft. Helmets were worn, life-jackets were tightened, and at the first command we paddled our way to glory. Rafting along the green waters with mountains on both sides was a precious feeling. The rapids came and went. They jolted our rafts (and our confidence) for some fleeting moments before we regained control and sailed through the turbulence. You must get down from the raft and float for few minutes to feel how therapeutic the water is. Just a piece of advice: follow the instructions belted out by the captain and avoid screaming or panicking when the raft crosses rapids.
Jumped from the Cliff – Now that may sound too ambitious, but trust me, when you have sparkling emerald water beneath you, you would gladly risk a free fall. Honestly, the idea of jumping from a height of 30 ft was tad unnerving, but when I saw my friends mustering courage and diving straight into the water, what gripped me was a feeling of being cleansed – cleansed of inhibitions. There was a motley crowd who got addicted to this thrill and their enthusiasm refused to wane even after the third jump.
Dined at the Cafes – On our first evening, we chose to hit the Zorba Cafe for some unknown reasons. It's one place where you would love to sink down in the sofa, enjoy herbal tea, and make the most of free Wi-Fi. When it comes to food, what impressed my friends the most is the Shakshuka. They devoured, what is called Israel's favorite breakfast, in minutes. It had generous portions of salad, hummus, fries, and pita. I relished the chocolate and mixed fruit pancakes. They were prepared with love.
Next day, we visited the Little Buddha Cafe, a seemingly more popular neighbor of Zorba. The view of the river before the sundown was appealing. If we discount the late turnaround time and bland momos, what got us hooked on to the place is its relaxed setting. You can actually lie down and slip into a quilt while reading books or sipping your caffeine. The Alibaba Cafe, located bang opposite the Little Buddha, has wonderful graffiti gracing its interiors. Two glasses of milk-heavy coffee cost us INR 80.
Shop from Lakshman Jhula – From linen pajamas to Kashmiri shawls and weed grinder to beaded necklace, every item sold on the streets had an element of novelty in them, or at least it seemed so. Like any other flea market in India, buyers, here, exercise their right to bargain. We came back with heavier rucksacks and vivid memories.Published On: Thursday, November 19th, 2015