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India - Haridwar, Rishikes -> Manali

A masive statue of Shiva in Haridwar
Taking a slow train from the Varanasi, I have arrived to the Haridwar. The journey took 23 hours, but that is nothing in India. You will get use to different measures of time-travel. 7 a.m. - good time - I like to arrive at this time to a new place. It gives me an opportunity not to search for a place to stay immediately (if I have just my small bag :) and also this time in the morning "touts" seems to be still sleeping. I love to see a new place to slowly wake up and get to its daily routine.

Not being sure to stay for the night in Haridwar I went around to explore the place. River Ganga was the best to start with, of course. After spending longer time on one of the bridges and admiring the surrounding I run into a "Naga Baba" - a holly men (sadhu) I met few days ago in Varanasi and spend a pleasant 2 hours chatting with. I knew, he is travelling around and would be going this direction, but the timing was excellent. He was happy to see me too and I got invited to sit down with him and three other Babas. The life on the river bank was slowly starting to buzz and soon I felt like a priviledged guest sitting down with the Babas and sipping the tea they offered. One of the "chellos" brought it for them and sat aside. Also some local guys tried to sitdown next to me, but were shushed away by the Babas. You have to be invited to do so, otherwise they can get very insisting for you to leave. Later I learned some foreigners spent some time with them just to get some "smoke" and paid for it quite a bit ;) I sat with them for an hour or so, we talked a bit, several "chillims" (filled with ganja) passed around and few more Babas came.

Sahdus - Babas smoking weed from "chilham" on the bank of Ganges in Haridwar

Then I departed to continue my exploration of the Haridwar itself. Nice place, but a bit big and by the midday it got so crowded! Not really by the foreigners, but mainly by an Indian tourist who this time a year travel up to the mountains to escape the heat. They visit all the north places, like Dharmasala, Shimla, Manali and also holy places like Haridwar, Rishikes, Gangotri, ... Many of them are visiting families living in the north, so you can find many Indian tourist virtually almost anywhere. By then I knew, I will go straight to Rishikes and stay there.

RISHIKES - Definitely an easy going place. Surrounded by the hills with reasonebly clean river Ganga in its heart and offering anything the traveller might need for a longer stay. Well, might be there are too many tourist there, especially Indian, because of the summer migration to the mountains. Otherwise, it is a holly place where you can find reatreat in meditation, yoga or many oter activities like rafting, jeep safari, trecking. Some people do find lots to smoke quite enough to leave here their happy life. It is also a gateway for going up to the mountain centers such as Gangotri, ...

Sleeping :) - gime shout, if you need something

Some Babas relaxing on the river bank
Of course I was not much surprised to ran into the Naga Baba later in the afternoon. He mentioned to stay in Rishikes for a week or so and Haridwar was just visit on the way. His name is "Manbadi Naga Baba" (Naga means snake). He is 42 years old and devoted his life to ceasing the "Karma" and becoming the sadhu for 29 years. Usually he stays a half year in the ashram and half year he travels around the India. He also visited the Nepal in the past. Thanks to his quite good English was our communication very easy as my Hindi is not going anywhere. I spent in Rishikes several days, relaxing and enjoying a bit cooler weather. I managed to read a lot (Piano Tuner, The city of Joy, Life of Marpa the translator (buddhist mythology), ...), meet with Babas - especially the Naga Baba, take some pictures and of course eat a lots of good food. Also I was extremely lucky to become a "ginea pig" for my friend's practise of Aurevedic Massage.

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More articles on India here: - "India - Manali, Vashist, Brighu Lake ..."

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