The drive to Rishikesh is a welcome relief after the hot Rajasthan desert. Once we were past the two dead bloated cows on the side of the road and the stoned anorexic Indian man striding stark naked (apart from a pair of gloves) down the middle of the highway, the lush green trees and paddocks make for a pleasant change.
The city of Rishikesh is similar to any other Indian city, except perhaps for a few more temples and shrines and certainly a lot more ashrams and yoga centres. Across a large swing bridge which is evidently used for pedestrians, motorbikes, livestock and as a hangout for cranky monkeys is High bank. Nestled among the trees and away from the hustle and bustle, High bank is a small cluster of guesthouses, cafes and yoga studios.
Because it is off season we find ourselves a great hotel complete with hot water, cable tv and a Hatha/Iyenga Yoga studio next door for just $4/night. We spend our week in Rishikesh taking early morning Yoga followed by breakfast, reading, watching movies, another evening session of yoga followed by dinner and more reading. Our Indian yoga teacher is brilliant and due to the small class sizes he is able to attend to each student, gently manipulating our bodies into correct postures for maximum benefit. After each class we emerge even more relaxed, centred and flexible than the last one.
On one occassion we decide to venture from our High bank sanctuary to take a look around Rishikesh city. In the thick humid heat we walk to the ashram made famous by th Beatles in 1960. We arrive only to find it closed off to tourists but from our view it appears to be almost completely knocked down, surrounded by rubbish and rubble. The Ganges gushes through the middle of Rishikesh and because we are reasonably high up there is little rubbish in it, so we both dip our feet into its ice cold waters, not for a moment believing that it is washing our so-called 'sins' away.
Our intention was to spend our last two weeks in India in Rishikesh but as usual we get itchy feet and book a last minute overnight bus to Daramsala, home of the Dalai Lama.