So after our decadent day off we woke up refreshed and ready to walk around Rishikesh. We originally were totally disappointed with the city due to our exhausted and problem filled arrival, high expectations set up by a woman we met in Dharamasala who drew us a map and told us where we should go (setting the stage for disappointment by telling us how quiet and quaint it is), and of course the fact like every other city we’ve been to so far, it is crowded, noisy, dirty, smog-filled, smelly and full of unseemly tuk-tuk drivers. I’m not knocking India because I absolutely love it but it is frankly very overwhelming and after 2 weeks of an adventurous emotional roller coaster we wanted to feel clean and recharge our batteries. So after our day of sloth-dom we made an outline of what we wanted to see and headed out.
Rishikesh is the name for a larger grouping of towns (that’s not exactly right but neighborhoods don’t describe it properly either) on the Ganges which here is called the Ganga. Thankfully our disappointment dissipated when we realized we were staying on the wrong side of the river. So we went for a walk on the ghats and took a ferry to the other side. There are lovely bridges we used later in the day but we wanted the ferryboat experience and we were not disappointed.
So we were waiting on the boat with a smattering of Indian tourists, pilgrims and what we call rasta religious folks (called such with no derogatory intention or feeling–we just don’t know what else to call them), when a group of four transvestites got on the boat. It was fabulous. Back when we were in Kashmir, Rita (the Australian woman who recommended the houseboats and celebrated Eid with us at Bashir’s) told us about one of the brothers weddings which are typically 3 day affairs and apparently transvestites are a part of the activities where they come and get all of the men to dance and pay them–which is how they make money going from wedding to wedding.
Note: I am using the term transvestite because that is the terminology I have heard here. I do not know if they are drag queens or gay men or transgendered or what–all I know is that they were born male and dressing like women). I am only reiterating terminology I heard when referring to these folks in a non derogatory way. My intent is not to be insulting but actually celebratory because I saw my family here–which usually doesn’t happen due to the nature of tourist travel and the unfortunate problems inherent with being LGBT anywhere.
Anyhow, we smiled and waved but were far enough away on the boat where conversation couldn’t happen so I took a photo and that was that but it was both a good omen for our day and an overall highlight of the trip for me.
So we walked around on the other side of the river all day and had a fabulous time. It was a lot like Dharamasala except; instead of Buddhist monks in red there were Hindu pilgrims in orange, instead of a grateful dead concert–the international tourists all looked like new age yoga instructors going to a Ravi Shankar concert, unless they too were dressed like the pilgrims (which kind of bugged us a bit but I’ll come to a discussion about cultural appropriation later).
Moreso than Dharamasala the smell of weed was everywhere. Rishikesh is a dry, strict vegetarian city but everyone apparently smokes pot everywhere all of the time, which frankly was a nice change from garbage, cow crap and cigarette smoke.
Our wanderings were fun we saw temples and shops and people meditating, doing yoga and smoking pot on the beach and monkeys and cows and dogs and people.
Kris had her plan read by some dude and it was hilariously off on both past current and future. The guy couldn’t even pick up on contextual clues he was so wrong but it was fun nonetheless. The temples are amazing but you can’t photograph them inside so I have no photos but I do have photos of monkeys! I love wild monkeys. Adore them. They are cute and cuddly and will rip your face off and steal your camera of you’re not careful.
Some fun images of monkeys.
Overall our faith was restored in Rishikesh and India. I cannot wait until safari tomorrow!!!!!!!! Despite bringing 5 sd cards (1 4gb and 4 2gb) and buying 1 16gb I’m running out of photo storage space and will need to buy more and we haven’t even made it to the Taj Mahal or Varnassi yet!