So we’re in Rishikesh in India’s north at the base of the Himalayas. It’s a beautiful town right on the Ganges which is actually clean here. The place is brimming with Yoga and meditation ashrams and is the place The Beatles came to chill out in the 60’s and wrote most of the White Album.
We have booked in for a week long Yoga retreat 5km upstream in an isolated ashram with the Ganges on one side and beautiful forest and mountains on the other. But it doesn’t start for 5 days so we decide to go on a road trip.
The trusty steed we choose is a Royal Enfield 350cc single cylinder motorbike. The Indians started making this British bike in the 50’s for the army. The British company closed down in 1970 but the Indians have kept making the bike almost the same as the original one ever since.
To make it a bit more adventurous we decided not to get a map and left the lonely planet guide behind. We have no destination in mind, just a limit of four days.
To get out of Rishikesh we have to cross the 1.5m wide pedestrian suspension bridge. It is a bit of a challenge but we get past the masses of people who stop on the bridge to take photos of the temple and the monkeys and cows who decide its a nice place to hang out for the day. I discover that the bike is loaded with a very loud air horn. Nice!
We decide to follow the Ganges up stream into the mountains. The road wraps around the mountains like a silver ribbon with a steep drop to the bright green river below. We regularly observe signs that say “drive cautiously landslides”
We stop at a little roadside tea house in the middle of nowhere for some chai. We have to wake up the Chai Wallah to get our tea. We start up conversation with a man wearing tattered old robes. He speaks very good English like a westerner and we find out he is a lawyer from Delhi who decided to walk away from everything and is on his quest to find ‘the ultimate’ within himself as he puts it. So he has been living on the shore of the Ganges below the tea shack in the middle of nowhere for two years. He enjoyed having an intelligent conversation as he says he doesn’t get many chances to our here.
When we get to Devaprayag where the two rivers meet we decide it is our destination for the day.
Saturday morning we eat breakfast with the locals and because nobody in the town really speaks English we go to the police station and ask them where can we go that is nice. The cops are very nice and helpful and we decide to head down a road without much traffic.
The road to Chamba is bliss. It’s only a single lane road twisting and turning around the mountains but there’s no traffic, no fumes, no dust! We notice that we keep going up and up. The forest starts to get greener and thicker.
As we pass through the little towns the expression on most peoples faces seems to be ‘why the hell are white people riding through our town?’ and all the kids smile and wave as Jill waves back.
We get to a town at the top of a mountain where the road switches to the other side of the mountain and starts to go down and down and down. With the bike in neutral we fly down zipping back and forth down the zig zag road. This is one of the best rides of my life! And Jill on the back is loving it too.
We have dinner watching the cricket with the locals in Chamba the perfect end to the perfect day.
Sunday we both have the runs. So we get on the bike and try to get to Mussorie as quick as we can. This road is a steep uphill and it starts to get colder and colder. Our hands and faces start to get numb and then it starts to rain. We have to pull over as it buckets down for a bit.
When it stops we head off again. The sun comes out and as we start to head downhill again it begins to warm up. The road turns into another fantastic squiggle of fun and before we know it we’re in Mussorie. A picturesque town built on the top of a mountain. We check into a cheap but nice hotel and watch movies in bed and order room service for the rest of the day.
Monday we head off to Kempty falls, a waterfall that has been turned into a water park. They have built swimming pools all down the mountain.
Then we make the final leg back to Rishikesh. After a very steep descent we head into the states capital city Dehra Dun. Trying to stay upright in the crazy traffic we stop at every split in the road to ask which way to Rishikesh and everybody happily points in the right direction.
On the open highway it seems weird to
drive in a straight line. I soon realize that my lane is not really my lane. Cars driving in the opposite direction will overtake whenever they feel like it so my lane is about one foot of the furthest left side of the road.
We get back to Rishikesh collect our bags and collapse on our bed. Exhausted but elated from our awesome Indian road trip.