As it turned out, yoga and meditation classes start Monday, not Saturday as we had thought, leaving us a weekend to explore and orient to our surroundings … domestic duties done, rooms freshly scrubbed and smelling rather medicinal ….. still trying to air my room out after dropping a glass bottle of dettol all over the marble floor … stinky but you could preform surgery on it, as Madeline noted!) …. we set off to see what the world looked like behind the walls of the ashram.
‘Downtown’ Rishikesh, is a pleasant half hour stroll away …. I can’t say enough how refreshing it is to be away from the crowds of Delhi! … I think perhaps the total population of the Rishikesh area is slightly under twenty thousand …. A veritable village here in India! It is primarily a pilgrimage spot for Indians with the Ganga so accessible here but there are a good handful of European and North American spiritual seekers and the backpack trekkers thrown into the mix but we are a definite minority ….. the only time crowds are rather heavy, is during the evening ganga aarti musical celebration ceremony, when it appears everyone in Rishikesh shows up ….. it is a serene, happy, peaceful, friendly crowd …… a beautiful spiritual vibe permeates the air.
Madeline was digging through her Lonely Planet to locate ‘Little Buddha’, a breakfast stop for us, when a young man stopped us with a “oh ladies, throw that book away … the best spots are never found in guide books” ……. We made our first new friend! ….. Eric introduced himself, a Swede married to a Thai, living in Thailand and on a spiritual quest of sorts here in India. We walked along together looking for a breakfast cafe …. not much looked as promising as Little Buddha, so despite Eric’s hesitancy, that is where we went. His American travel mate, Mark joined us …… the food, coffees, fresh mango smoothies, ambiance (roof top overlooking the Ganga) were superb, contrary to his intro comment 🙂 I snapped a picture of Eric researching a few things in Madeline’s Lonely Planet later in the morning …. too funny …. Madeline is going to mail him the book after she gets home :). Nice to make new friends on our first day …. such a great morning sharing travel and life stories with lots of laughter and good cheer all around. The guys were off on a ten day trek to various temples, high in the Himalayas, ending at one special temple that sits at 12,000 feet …. a spiritual trek of sorts for both of them …… we wished them well on their journey and continued our exploration of the town.
We both picked up a few supplies (wet wipes, tissues and water!) …… checked out the various trinkets available and slowly meandered back to the ashram, stopping once again at the Buddha cafe for an early dinner! ….. it may yet turn into our favorite dining spot in Rishikesh! …. walking back involved dodging cows and their stinky pies, motor bikes, taxis, loads of backpackers, pilgrims, dozens of sadhus begging along the way …. some may actually be on genuine spiritual journeys, but the orange robes have apparently been used as a disguise by fugitives from the law since medieval times …. still, every now and again we make a little donation, hoping we gave to an honest sadhu …. but it really doesn’t matter if they are or not to me ….. just kind of cool to share ….. who knows the true circumstances of anyone’s lives ….. I am not here to judge …… and so ends another great day in India!