chasing sunrise and waterfalls in rishikesh

Sunday is our day off from yoga. Monday through Saturday we begin asana classes at 6am and end with music classes around 7pm. This Sunday*, we had an optional field trip to Kunjapuri temple, on the top of a mountain with beautiful views. We woke at 3:30am to leave at 4 to catch the sunrise. It was gorgeous. We did Surya Namaskar (sun salutation) in the clouds as the pink sun rose from behind the mountains. We drank delicious, brewed just for us chai tea (my first caffeine in almost 4 weeks!). When we returned home, they had made crepes for breakfast, a treat always, but especially when you have the same porridge and papaya for breakfast every other morning.

After breakfast, 6 of us had decided to find Patna waterfall, and asked for the best directions from a local. She told us to cross Ram Jhula bridge, take a tuk tuk east for a couple kilometers, and then walk about one more kilometer to the waterfall. Simple enough. This was the first of many many times a local would give us totally inaccurate information/directions. It was now about 10am. We decided to take a 10 rupee boat ride across the river instead of walking across the bridge, just for fun. We got in our tuk tuk and were off. At the edge of Rishikesh city limit, the driver stopped, told us to walk about 1 kilometer, and then we’d find the waterfall. We walked and walked, finally asking someone for directions, and he told us to walk about 1 kilometer and we’d find the waterfall.

We did finally find it. Sort of. We found a sign for “Neer Waterfall,” 50 rupees for foreigners. Ok, wrong waterfall, but we’ll take it. The ticket guy told us to walk for about 10 minutes. We walked for about 15, found a snack stand and asked again. Walk for about 10 minutes to get to the waterfall. Ok, keep walking. At this point we are hiking up and ask someone coming down how much further. 3 kilometers. 3 kilometers?! Far stretch from the original 1 our tuk tuk driver had told us. But after about 5 more minutes of walking we were at the waterfall. Every single direction so far has been wrong. But the waterfall was beautiful, and so worth the hike.

We decided that we’d walk to Patna waterfall next. We asked another snack stand guy for directions, and he said to walk about 2 kilometers to a bridge, cross the bridge and we’d be at the waterfall. Easy enough, so we set off walking. Everyone we asked had the same few answers. 2 kilometers, 10 minutes, or 2 minutes. None of these were ever accurate, but each time we decided we had come this far, we’d finish off the day right – at Patna! We wandered by ashrams, local residences, cows, monkeys, snack stands. We asked everyone, and it became a joke that the waterfall would always be “2 minutes that way” (or 2 kilometers). Eventually we did find the bridge. Then we got matching directions from a couple of sources. We knew we were close. When we had walked the last kilometer or so (we were sure) a local told us 3-4 more kilometers! He was messing with us. We found Patna waterfall. And it was amazing too.

We reached the second waterfall at about 4pm. 12 hours from the start of our day, and about 6 from when we began walking. According to my iPhone we walked a little over 10 miles! We took a tourist jeep back to town, because we were exhausted, and at this point we could say we really used all possible modes of transportation in Rishikesh.

It was really an amazing day, though, we all agreed. Our favorite in Rishikesh so far. The day was long and filled with beautiful sights and great people. Our pod of 6 was perfect, we got to know each other more personally. We were all positive, even after the 100th person told us only 2 more kilometers. We rewarded ourselves with an amazing family style Indian dinner at Chatiwala, a well known Indian restaurant in Swargashram (actually two, we went to the second). And the best banana lassi (and most deserved) so far.

After struggling with feeling a bit stagnant here, following the same rigid schedule day after day. After all of the noise of Rishikesh, the barking, the yelling, the constant blaring of horns. It was such a necessary escape into nature. Walking, splashing. Covered in dirt and sweat. Today was an amazing day.

(*I wrote this post about 2 weeks ago)

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