So we decided to have a “guys” weekend.

No, not Vegas.

To Rishikesh!

Photo credit: Sreejit Poole
Photo credit: Sreejit Poole

It is as picturesque in person as countless books have led us to believe.

Photo credit: Sreejit Poole
Photo credit: Sreejit Poole
Photo credit: Sreejit Poole
Photo credit: Sreejit Poole

We immediately set out for the hills, hiking along the Ganges into the beautiful wilderness all around.

Photo credit: Sreejit Poole
Photo credit: Sreejit Poole

On our walk, we decided to relearn what we knew very well: Never look these monkeys in the eye.  We had about twenty of them running after us.  They stole our bananas.

Photo credit: Sreejit Poole
Photo credit: Sreejit Poole
Photo credit: Sreejit Poole
Photo credit: Sreejit Poole
Photo credit: Sreejit Poole
Photo credit: Sreejit Poole

It was getting late as we approached an ashram that had been recommended to us a few miles hike from the city. The area was beautiful, unfortunately the ashram was having a retreat and couldn’t accommodate us (for a reasonable rate).  It was too late to make it back to the city so we started looking for a nice cave to stay in.  I’m a natural city boy so was not actually too in to the whole cave idea but it was getting late so I was just going with the flow.

Photo credit: Sreejit Poole
Photo credit: Sreejit Poole
Photo credit: Sreejit Poole
Photo credit: Sreejit Poole

This family street vendor (they sleep on cots just inside of their store) took pity on us and opened back up to serve us chai and porotas.  Street food in Rishikesh is fantastic.

Photo credit: Sreejit Poole
Photo credit: Sreejit Poole
Photo credit: Sreejit Poole
Photo credit: Sreejit Poole

While we were there, we enquired about a small temple that we had passed on the way.  They told us that no one was in charge of it and it would be fine for us to sleep on the roof, but that we would certainly freeze… and we certainly did.

Photo credit: Sreejit Poole
Photo credit: Sreejit Poole

By 4am, we couldn’t take the cold any longer, so we got up and started heading back for town.  Fortunately, the kind vendors were just getting up as well and invited us in for chai.

Photo credit: Sreejit Poole
Photo credit: Sreejit Poole
Photo credit: Sreejit Poole
Photo credit: Sreejit Poole

Usually this bridge is full of people, motorcycles and cows dodging their way across, but we got back so early that it was in a peaceful state.

Photo credit: Sreejit Poole
Photo credit: Sreejit Poole

All of the rooms in town were still occupied from the night before, so we decided to hike up the opposite side of the Ganges to Vasishta’s cave.

Photo credit: Sreejit Poole
Photo credit: Sreejit Poole
Photo credit: Sreejit Poole
Photo credit: Sreejit Poole

Around the corner is the cave they call Jesus’ cave from the lost years.  We had a nice meditation there.

Photo credit: Sreejit Poole
Photo credit: Sreejit Poole
Photo credit: Sreejit Poole
Photo credit: Sreejit Poole

After we got back to town we went looking for rooms in the many ashrams there.  All were completely full and turned us away.  This was a shock to us because at Amma’s ashram in Amritapuri we would never turn anyone away.  We just put more and more people in a room.  We have a firm there-is-always-room policy.

Having lugged our packs around for nearly 48 hours we decided to take a break and get something to eat. Immediately everyone passed out on the table.

Photo credit: Sreejit Poole
Photo credit: Sreejit Poole

Finally we found board in a guest house and headed out for the Ganga Arati.  By then, I had already bathed twice in the Ganges and was feeling the devotional spirit.

Photo credit: Sreejit Poole
Photo credit: Sreejit Poole

Some pilgrims asked me to take their photographs.

Photo credit: Sreejit Poole
Photo credit: Sreejit Poole

The next morning I had the first hot shower that I’ve had in a year.  (Hey now. I shower everyday, but it is always with cold water) I then headed out for a nice walk alone.  I came by an alley full of Sadhus that were getting chai. Seeing all of them together like that made it look a bit like skid row only color coordinated, so I nicknamed it Sadhu Row.

Photo credit: Sreejit Poole
Photo credit: Sreejit Poole
Photo credit: Sreejit Poole
Photo credit: Sreejit Poole
Photo credit: Sreejit Poole
Photo credit: Sreejit Poole

I then headed down to the Ganges to offer my prayers, but having had that great hot shower, I wasn’t about to go for a dip in the freezing waters.  I decided to just salute the river and sprinkle some water over my head from the shore. What happened next I decided to immortalize in 140 characters:

Stood before Ganga thinking, “make me a better person.” As I bent towards the water, my mobile nearly fell in. Nice try Lord, nice try.
(though I no longer have the twitter account)

I continued on with my phone and my distractions.

Photo credit: Sreejit Poole
Photo credit: Sreejit Poole
Photo credit: Sreejit Poole
Photo credit: Sreejit Poole

Two more dips in the Ganga and finally we had to leave.  It was a great trip.

Photo credit: Sreejit Poole
Photo credit: Sreejit Poole

Going into the Ganges is kind of like going to confession.  You feel cleansed afterwards.  But then, after spending a little more time in the world you feel like you need another bath.  Our last dip was after dark, just before we were going to leave.  We were very solemn and I decided that this time I would take a small vow that I could take with me as my connection with the Ganga.  I took the vow not to curse anymore as I am quite proficient in the art.

The vow was easy to keep but had  other unexpected affects on me.  When you curse it keeps you in a hardened space.  By stopping, I stepped back into a softer, more meditative place, but since everyone around me hadn’t changed their language I became more affected by what I was hearing.  Suddenly, whereas before I was not at all bothered by hearing any words, now it was like little bombs going off around me.  Of course, I just let them be.  I am very satisfied with my decision, though.  Just one small step on the road to becoming a better person.

Thank you Ganga.  Thank you Rishikesh.

 

What was the last place you visited that had a lasting affect on the person that you are today?

 

22 Comments

    1. What a beautiful story, and images.

      Becoming a better person is intresting too

      My last place of profound effect was this river, alongside a large cliff, with nesting white cockatoos. Usually im drawn to ocean, the energy here was Definitly different. It was also my first vipassana retreat. Life changing.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Gonna try this again… this is a wonderful summary of your travels. Love the water and bridge pics, monkeys… bus ride (tho the man sitting behind you looks rather irritated), but my favorite is your friend meditating in the cave. Great capture! My most impactful and absolute favorite trip was to Israel two years ago. I felt so deeply connected to God’s presence there and was baptized in the Jordan during the 2-week pilgrimage. I hope to return this November with my son, but the upcoming costs of college and his desire for a vehicle when he leaves me may very well put that dream to rest for a long while. I’ll be praying about it. 🙂

    Like

  2. Oh yes, I forgot my previous comment on the cursing issue… great manner of self-improvement. I struggle with that one, but you are so right; when you stop, you suddenly develop an audible offense to others who do. Funny how words influence the spirit…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This was really quite interesting. I have become squeamish (downright SCARED) about traveling abroad. Did you have no worries of terrorism? (Is that a foolish question?) Do you travel a lot? Quite impressive journey. I’m so jealous of your experience, except of course, not the cold shower or freezing atop the roof. The great photos did allow me a look-see into your experience.and I thank you so for taking me there.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Sexy and REAL men, sexy and REAL pictures overall here. Amazing. I felt the ebb and flow of emotion going through this…beautiful overall. I want to see more of this, even though you bring it in various forms :). ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I am SO glad you wrote about your experience. I loved reading every part of this and the pictures added so much. I felt like I was living through the experience with you.

    I sure wouldn’t have wanted those monkeys running after me. I’m glad you found a way to make a vow that was both meaningful and attainable.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Wow I don’t even know where to begin with this, so much info. Amazing post. Firstly on a fickle note I love chai and would love to try authentic chai I am sure the stuff I buy here isn’t anything like in India! What was it like in the cave that must have been quite awesome I think. I can’t believe you got turned away so much that’s very sad. You had me laugh out loud with the phone nearly falling in the water very funny indeed. You poor guys passing out at the table I really felt for you and wow a hot shower, first in a year. I wonder how exactly that felt for you? Now that would be quite a poem 🙂 x

    Like

    1. I read your post twice, second time out loud to my husband who had many questions lol. He has anger issues and swears terribly. We all hate it. It really upsets us. We even have a swear jar for him but even though he promised to pay in to it he gets too angry too. I accentuated the reading to him about the swearing. It’s interesting you saying you remain in a hard place I think he swears as a form of defence and your right its perhaps more vulnerable not to or softer in your case. Having your thoughts come out verbally at least means you say what you think which is honest x

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I really enjoyed your narrative and your photos. Kinda makes me want to travel more. At the top of my head I would have said meeting Amma was my awesome experience but when I held vigil with my mother when she died.. The dream that alerted me to be there. Two that was my last experience. I wish my mom would have met Amma. But she knows her now 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thank you for sharing your view of the world. The river pictures made me feel less patient for day trips to the rivers near us.

    I’m glad you can get away like this, and that you have friends who you enjoy, and who enjoy it with you.

    Liked by 1 person

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