Rishikesh is beautiful. The city is divide by the Ganga River and two connecting bridges, called Laxman Jhula and Ram Jhula. They are currently building another bridge in front of Ved Niketan (our ashram). So perhaps our calm area might not be so calm in another year or so.
We rented a “scooty” (scooter in India) and collected our friends from the ashram to go up the mountainside to a waterfall and the Shiva temple. At first, we were going to rent two scooties, because I wasn’t too comfortable riding on the back, especially since I’ve gotten two prominent scars from previous motorcycle rides. However, that morning I was stopped by three tourists – all on one scooty – asking for directions. I thought, well, why the heck not.
So I told Tiago that we could just go all three on the bike and voila! Cheap, slightly uncomfortable, pretty unsafe, but a whole lot of fun. And there we went, riding a scooty up the mountains in India. I’m grateful that Tiago is a great driver and fairly safe, because driving in India is crazy (see video below).
Off we went up the road to the waterfall. However, on the way, the police stopped us. Of course, we knew all the traffic laws and dos and don’ts of driving in India (not). There were a few bikes that got stopped, all white tourists. I was chatting with an Israeli, who was also stopped, and he told me that they had to pay 500 rupees to the police officer who pocketed the cash. The penalty was merely not having an international driver’s license. Fine, ok, our bad, but for frame of reference, 500 rupees is roughly $8USD; the scooty cost us 350 rupees, and breakfast was less than 100 rupees. Needless to say, we were getting ripped off.
The whole ordeal took roughly half an hour to get all of us through. Our friends had to pay 350 rupees, and, somewhat miraculously, we paid a big, fat zero. We’re still not sure if it was because we were extremely polite and apologetic or because the guy we rented the bike from had some connections. Either way, it pays off to just give cops an ego boost and thank them for doing their jobs. Politics and scams aside, at the end of the day, it is their job and a little appreciation toward them evidently kept 500 rupees in our pockets.
And on the bright side, we added two Israelis to our crew.
We made it to the waterfall safe and sound. It was small but beautiful. I have a pretty strong obsession with waterfalls so the sight of any and all really send me soaring into bliss. Against customs of Indian modesty, we jumped in our bikinis and splashed around. We even made friends with some of the Indians who were visiting the area from Haridwar (a neighboring village, where the nearest train station is).
After a short hike back to the bikes, we had some chai at the little shop in front of the entry point and said goodbye to our Israeli friends who had to go back to Rishikesh. Soon after, we were back on the bikes to find the temple. The ride up to the temple brings a few interesting adjectives to mind: never-ending, beautiful, and a bit scary. There were lots of monkeys too. Everyone we asked where the temple was had always said 2 km away, regardless of how far away it actually was.
The temple was cool and we gave small donations of flowers, incense, and rupees, in exchange for a few blessings and pictures. We, of course, had no idea what we were doing, but we respectfully tried. It was fun to learn as best as we could how the people here pray to the various gods, especially Shiva.
Again after awhile, Indians bombarded us, wanting to take pictures. So another round of photos later, and we were zipping down the beautiful road all the way back to Rishikesh, moderately paranoid about the levels of gasoline in our beloved scooty.
All in all, the day was a really successful adventure. We didn’t even mind the bruised bums from all the bumps in the rode. Now, I have to make sure the Brazilian doesn’t rent scooties everywhere we go.