Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday – Rishikesh. Tuesday is spent mostly at Laxman Jhula, and mostly near the post office as our final parcels are packed and posted. Wednesday morning has Kerry enjoying a massage at the hotel, whilst Ian revisits the ashram of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and reduces his karma in the Ganges.
Gaining entrance at the ashram brings a fresh challenge. The front gate is locked, yet there is no gatekeeper. Signs declare the area restricted and promise a 5,000 rupee fine to transgressors. I meet a Russian couple who have been delivered by taxi to the front gate, and we discuss options. The obvious involve barbed wire.
I recall on the previous visit being told of another way in, with no gate, so I set off to find that. Along the way I stop to ask a man where the gatekeeper is, or when he will arrive. I am told simply “no”, and have the restricted entry sign pointed out. I do my best to say that the yoga festival people will visit, and ask when this is; “this afternoon, 11:30, 12:30, 5:30.” I wonder that the yoga week organisers have come to a cosy arrangement with the Forest Department to restrict access for the week.
A walk along the beach of the river, a steep climb up the hillside, sometimes aided by steps, and I find another restricted entry sign, and more barbed wire, however, this I can get around and under. In.
Reader, the last two years have been good for forest growth if the ashram is any indicator. It is much more overgrown than before. Plenty of opportunity to explore and enjoy the views. There are no signs of current human habitation although elephants still seem to be regulars.
Kerry sticks to the hotel for the afternoon, whilst Ian goes over the bridge to Swargashram to complete online check-in for the flights home, and to witness the evening Ganga Aarthi. During this whole time, three separate thunderstorms dump plenty of rain. I spend one in a ‘restaurant’ eating dinner, the second spoils the fire ceremony at the beginning of the aarthi through which I stand under an obliging shopkeeper’s verandah, and the third comes towards the end of the aarthi and I find shelter with plenty of others beneath two small shrines.
Thursday morning is a short and final cash splash as visitors cannot take currency into or out of India.
The marathon trip home commences with a car journey at 1:30pm on Thursday to the airport at Dehradun for our flight to Delhi. A few hours waiting time has us off to Singapore, and then to Adelaide, scheduled touchdown sometime after 6:00pm on Friday evening. And so ends Indian Interlude II.