Tuesday, 31 January 2012
Too Much Monkey Business: Around Rishikesh
Rishikesh isn't quite the sleepy village by the river I'd been led to expect. It's a decent-sized city, and as Goths go to Bradford or Leeds, so do New Age travellers come to Rishikesh. It's like Glastonbury, but with monkeys. I was reminded of the old saying about districts of Newcastle - Scotswood has a pub on every corner, and Heaton has a church. Well, Rishikesh has a Yoga Education Centre on every corner.
I suppose I'm still trying to come to terms with the place, and grasping at analogies to make it familiar. Also, people keep asking each other why we're here, and for once the answer isn't obvious. I'm not passing through Rishikesh on the way to somewhere else; Rishikesh was our destination. And I'm not an enlightenment-seeker and I haven't come to go white water rafting or to do a bungee jump. I just came cos I heard it was a beautiful place. Wandering around the town, amongst all the noise and adverts and bustle, this wasn't the most obvious aspect of the place.
We took our bikes out of town and into the Shivalik Mountains, and I realised that Rishikesh is more like Fort William or Inverness than anything else. You come here as a base to explore the area, as the hills around it are beautiful but the place itself is a bit of a shit tip. Come to Rishikesh, then leave straightaway to escape the hordes of monkeys, angry monks and persistent map sellers.
The roads outside town are fabulous and quiet, at least by comparison. We followed a road which curved around the Ganges gorge, then zig-zagged away up a side valley and into the mountains. We did have to brave Monkey Corner where a guy was feeding the monkeys out of his car window - it's alright for him, he could just roll his window up. I thought we might have to fight off hungry road monkeys. Jonathan made a passing comment that the monkeys resembled the creature which gives everyone ebola in the movie Outbreak, which didn't reassure me.
I don't think we made it to the village Kandi which was marked on my map, but we had a day in the mountains, in a landscape different from anything I've seen before. Huge green hills and overhanging trees. The milky waters of the Ganges. Come to Rishikesh, but don't go to Rishikesh.
Anyway, I need to go. One of the monkeys has ran off with my bag of rubbish in its teeth.
Rishikesh photos on Flickr