On the last Sunday before classes ended, Jacinta and I decided to head to town. Down the hill we walked; the Himalayas to the left of us and the neighborhood children laughing behind us. It was a quite Sunday in Laxman Jula. Normally, crossing the bridge would be a feat in itself– cows meandering slowly, motorcycles honking constantly, monkeys trying to steal your things, and crowds of Indians posing for pictures– but today we walked across with ease.
Little shops filled with beautiful clothing, stands exploding with mala bead necklaces, and restaurants producing chapati after chapati lined the dirt road as we stopped here and there. Settling in at The Little Buddha Cafe, I couldn’t take my eyes off the beautiful view. From the balcony of the cafe, the view was picturesque: the hanging bridge divided the towering mountains from the rushing waters of the Ganga River.To the right of the bridge a beautiful orange temple sat on the edge of the shore and to the left two sets of cement stairs leading to Topovan.
After chilling out for an hour or two, Jacinta and I headed to the Beatles Ashram. On the way there, this guy on a motorcycle asked us where we were headed. We told him and he said the ashram had been closed for a while. Jacinta had already been there before and knew how to get in so we told the guy thanks, but we’re still going. We walked on for a bit before he pulled up next to us, “Okay, I’ll take you guys there.” Jacinta and I hopped onto his motorcycle and off we went. To my surprise, the three of us on a motorcycle were able to make it up the hilly, rock-filled path leading to the ashram. We hopped the broken wall protecting the ashram and the guy we were with told us he had actually rented the place from the government and will be renovating the abandoned ashram. It had been over 10 years since the Yogi who had openmed the ashram left for Holland. The guy had been to the ashram often as a child and loved it there. Luckily for us, he knew a lot about the place and gave us a nice tour; he explained the history and showed us the meditation pods, where the yogi lived, and the big hall filled with murals.
Afterwards, he took us to his favorite temple– Shiva’s temple– located way up on top of a small mountain. He pumped the gas as the three of us barely made it up the near vertical path. Taking off our shoes, we walked up the 5 flights of stairs to the top of the first half of the temple. Overlooking all of Rishikesh, we were surrounded by mountains as a nice breeze cooled down the hot day. The guy told us that just a little ways away, you could see elephants and tigers early in the mornings! We continued to walk up the temple to the very top where he drank some of the holy water and ate some of the candy-like offerings. A monkey began ringing the bells of the temples and was chased away as he followed us down the stairs. We were so lucky to meet this guy (I feel bad, but I don’t remember his name)! After a full day of showing us around, he was kind enough to take us all the way back to our school– a walk which would have taken us around 2 hours.