My other half (note: I didn’t say “better” or “worse”) has been bitten by the travel bug for quite some time now. It all started in 2004 when we took our first real vacation in Goa…but then that’s another story… .
It’s difficult to coordinate your vacations when you’re busy professionals. So, at the start of the year you look at the holiday list and mark the ‘long weekends’ promising yourselves that you’ll take full advantage of those at least. Short ‘n sweet getaways are just what the doc ordered!
The biggest advantage of living and working in Delhi and the NCR (National Capital Region) is that there’re a host of weekend getaways within a few hours’ drive. You could take off in your own car or catch a flight, bus, or train to the destination of your choice. For the desert lovers, there’s Rajasthan to the south-west, for the mountain lovers – the hills and mountains of Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Uttaranchal beckon. There’s enough to keep you busy through the year and more!
Well, one such weekend loomed ahead of us with a Monday thrown in for good measure…but the problem was that only one of us had this holiday bonanza. It meant that the other would have to “report sick”. A minor hurdle really. So on April 11 ’08 (a Friday), 10 p.m. Mintu decided that we were going on a trip. But where? Some minutes of net-search later we zeroed in on Rishikesh. A phone call was hastily made to “Ganga Beach Resort” and bookings were done! As simple as that.
Saturday afternoon, 2.30 p.m. saw us taking the Meerut-Haridwar highway. At 4 p.m. we were still at the Delhi border! But thankfully, after crossing the border, it was surprisingly better. Especially the Modi Nagar stretch which can be an absolute nightmarish experience with bullock-carts laden heavily with sugarcane making their leisurely way to the sugar mills. And why we have to have a busy highway right through the town beats me.
We made a brief halt at a pretty resort called ‘Big Bite’ on the Meerut bypass. To my delight and my other half’s dismay there was a bed linen factory showroom right next to the restaurant. The food was so-so but having skipped lunch, anything was welcome at that hour. The toilets were clean which was a boon.
There was quite a bit of highway traffic that day—possibly because everyone was escaping from Delhi like us. Also, work on the highway made the going slow. From Roorkee, we turned towards Haridwar. It must’ve been around 8.45 p.m. when we crossed the bridge near the Shiv Murti and saw the twinkling lights on the ghats of Har-ki-pauri (Brahma Kund) reflected on the swift-flowing waters. That was our first sight of the dark gushing waters of the Ganga. It was a surreal experience.
About 30-35 mins later we entered the town of Rishikesh. We couldn’t make out much in the dark so a few phone calls to our contact person at the resort had to be made and we dutifully followed his directions only to be stopped in our tracks by a baraat (wedding procession). So okay you’re getting married and can’t contain your excitement, but must you hold up the traffic so callously? Finally, we espied the board we’d been looking for. The road through the gates leading to the resort was a narrow one winding its way downhill. We came to a stop near a cluster of buildings and made our way to the reception area. There was a cool, gentle wind blowing from the river and in the moonlight we could see the silhouette of hills on the other side.
We were ushered into a room on the third floor. The resort has no lifts (elevators). One has to walk up brightly decorated steps to one’s room or cottage. The room was clean and quite spacious but for the rate charged, could have been better. The view, though, was excellent. The green waters of the Ganga making its onward journey to the plains against the backdrop of hills was a treat for city-sore eyes.
A word of warning though. If you’re looking forward to sinking your teeth into juicy non-veg stuff accompanied by a glass of liquor, well then, you may as well take a u-turn and go back home for that entire area is a dry one. But what you get in terms of scenic beauty and spiritual bliss is unbeatable.
Morning saw us drinking in the sights and smells of the place from the verandah as the rays of the sun spread gently through the valley. They touched the water, the vegetation and the early morning bathers on the ghat on the opposite bank.
The resort is, as we discovered in the morning, planned on a slope leading down to the river bank. There are rooms in the main building as well as separate cottages.
A buffet breakfast awaited us and then we were off with our camera exploring the place. A winding path through the cottages, spa, and swimming pool, led down to the river bank. There’s a well-kept garden surprising you with bursts of colour at different levels as you go down the path.
The resort offers (like most hotels in that area) meditation, yoga, and ayurvedic massages for those who want to take it easy. For the more adventurous, there’s river rafting, rapelling, rock climbing, and other such outdoor activities.
For these activities, you are taken to Shivpuri at a distance of about 24 km, where all the action is. Even though we’d heard of it from friends who’d been there for camping before, it didn’t prepare us for the fascinating sight from the road above of rows and rows of camps down in the valley. It seemed as if there was a fair down there with brightly coloured tents on the river beaches.
We crossed the bridge at Shivpuri and enquired about rafting trips. We were told that all trips for the day were fully booked but that we could still take a chance. It seemed as if all of Delhi had decided to descend on Shivpuri that weekend! Well, down we went on the rough, muddy track to the river where batches of people were waiting for their turn and taking instructions. We tried our luck but in vain.
So we shelved the experience for another day and decided to spend some time frolicking in the water instead. We watched as rafters zoomed past us shrieking and shouting and generally having a good time on their way to Rishikesh where they would disembark.
On our way back later, we met groups of rafters going back to Shivpuri in SUVs with their rafts secured safely on the roofs.
Since rafting wasn’t possible we decided to drive up to Devprayag without any fixed agenda. If we liked it there, we thought we’d stay the night there somewhere.
Higher and higher we climbed, passing camps on beaches on the way dotting the valley below.
At a place called Teen Dhara, we decided to stop at a local dhaba and savour the local fare on offer. All I’ll say is … we should have stuck to wafers and coke instead! So much for local fare.
On we went towards Devprayag but by this time we noticed that the petrol meter was not looking too encouraging. And we hadn’t passed a single petrol station since we left Rishikesh. We were told that we’d find one in Devprayag but when we did come to it finally, the attendant nonchalantly informed us that it was not functioning and we could try our luck at Srinagar (not to be confused with the capital of J&K) which was 35 km away!
Not wanting to push our luck any further, we decided to stop at Devprayag (which is situated at the confluence of the rivers Bhagirathi and Alakananda) for a while and admire the merging waters. The colour of the waters of the two rivers is pretty distinct—one green and the other, a muddy brown.
A short while later, it was back on the road again towards Rishikesh in search of petrol. That done, and still undecided about whether to drive back to Delhi or stay another night in the area, it was the road again.
A Ginger hotel just short of the Haridwar bypass decided it for us. Having heard praises about the chain from a friend, we thought we’d give it a try too. Well, more about it in the next entry.