Tuesday, October 09, 2007

102 In Rishikesh

We made it down to the big pile of dirt that was the Hardwar bus depot and asked around for the Rishikesh bus. Everyone kept pointing in a vague direction, the confusion only being cleared up 15 minutes later when a bus stationed itself there. We and a bunch of other westerners crammed ourselves on it and we started the hour drive up the river.

For being 'a major place of pilgramage' Hardwar, besides being even more atrociously ugly and dirty than normal, was rather disquieting. For as we reached the outskirts there were water theme parks (Indian style) with giant gaudy plastic representations of Hindu dieties in front.

When we got to Rishikesh (an ancient place of hermitage where the Ganges really comes out of the mountains) it got to be even more of a carnival. First of all, the town and the river were both a lot bigger than I remembered from being here in 1970. Crossing a long narrow passenger suspension bridge occupied by beggars and desperate monkeys, we came upon a true bizarre/bazaar, and area that the Lonely Planet claimed had the 'best vibes in town'. 'Ashrams' were uniformly weirdly painted courtyards with little plastic deities surrounded by cages. A couple of restaurants had men in loincloths in front grotesquely painted to look like creatures I've never seen depicted in Hindu mythology. I went looking for hotels and after 45 minutes hadn't found one, which is very strange anywhere in India, let alone a place with umpteen thousand westerners.

We hired a porter to wheel all our luggage a kilometer to where a few hotels were, and I chose one of them. By now it was around 7 pm, and as our stuff was carried up to our room I realized that my body was about to collapse again.

I laid down and my third fever of the trip started up. When I awoke Friday morning it was 102, and there it stayed all day. Now when it gets that high you really can't concentrate on much besides breathing successfully, and of course Maureen was out trying to find medicines and cures. As the afternoon continued and it wasn't going down I was kind of worried, since if it jumps up to 104 or so that can get kind of serious at this age.

But at 6:10 all of a sudden it broke, and within an hour was almost back to normal. All I had to do now was to lie in bed, and by 4 pm Saturday I had enough energy to go for a short walk.

Rishikesh on second look had less than it had seemed.

Sunday morning somebody pointed out that ruins of the Maharishi ashram where the Beatles had stayed in 1967 were only a ten minute walk away. Since one of the main reasons (who knows why) Mo had wanted to come to India was to see that, we had to check it out.

Sure enough, the ruins were easy to find, and a 50 rupee bribe to the watchman let us in. Maureen was so happy in the quiet sylvan retreat that she had to sing her favorite Beatles song: Happiness Is A Warm Gun. For my part, I contemplated the irony that now the Beatles were gone from the forest and yet the Monkeys remained.


At 1:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Even my friends' grandkids like the Beatles, which says I don't know what, but it fascinates me. Can believe that's Mo's favorite song, though. The Blog has started to take on an Into India feel a la John Krakauer's Into the Wild, which would make you guys the Supertramp characters.

Stay healthy, have fun!


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