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Rishikesh

INDIA | Saturday, 5 May 2012 | Views [739]

I arrived in Rishikesh early in the morning via overnight bus from Delhi. The bus drops you off at the Ganges across the river from Swarg Ashram. I walked along the ghats to the footbridge to get to Swarg Ashram; this was no easy feat as I have accumulated an incredibly heavy burden of stuff. It was a beautiful walk though; Rishikesh is in a beautiful setting surrounded by mountains, nestled in the foothills along the swift-moving, sparkling Ganges. I finally made it to the Ashram I thought I'd be staying at only to find that it was full; then next one I tried was full as well. So I found a guesthouse, unloaded my stuff and went looking around. It was crowded, and by noon was very hot. There were a lot of pilgrims, sadhus, tourists - Indian and otherwise. And where there are tourists, there are vendors selling stuff; so the town is packed with shops, wagons and stalls which is nothing new - but mixed in with the merchandise, were signs offering yoga, meditation, auryvedic treatments, etc. - so this was refreshing as I'd come to Rishikesh with all that in mind. I walked around a lot, dangled my feet in the Ganges, and had some good food at one of the many cafes overlooking the river. The next day I was able to get a room at the Sant Sewa Ashram; I was lucky as there was one left with a balcony right on the Ganges. It turned into a personal retreat, actually, as I found the meditation and yoga on offer too commercial. Everything in Rishikesh started feeling very tourist driven, though the spirituality was definitely there, and the many Sadhus added to the atmosphere - the constantly blaring horns, the trash, the persistent and ever-present flies, the focus on souvenirs- did somewhat mar an otherwise magical place.

Rishikesh was not what I expected, or maybe I just didn't find what I was looking for there. I seemed to have this experience in common with the other travellers I talked to who were looking for something more authentic, a break from the usual commercialism.

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