I am now at the Swami Rama Sadhka Grama ashram in the foothills of the Himalayas. It is beautiful and peaceful. I can see why westerners have been coming to Rishikesh since the Beatles came about 50 years ago. Our journey here from Amritsar was anything but peaceful. I'm sure everyone at home has heard about the devastating floods in Pakistan. This has been the longest and wettest monsoon season in many years for India. So the plan was to take the train to Hardiwar then a bus from there to Rishikesh. The train would not go to Hardiwar because of flooding so we were dropped off in some other city that I still do not know the name of. The vibe in this city was very different from Amritsar. We immediately caught the attention of the locals. One pick-pocket-er followed us for the entire hour that we were outside the train station. We had to stand and wait to figure out transportation and crowds started swarming. It was really frightening because the people we so hostile. One lady that was sending her children to beg from us just would not leave. They were mocking us when we said no. It felt like the crowd was just waiting for us to do something wrong so they could pounce. It was defiantly a test of patience. The worst part was watching the cart horses struggle with loads of 15 people. The ponies were about 13 hands high and some walked on tip toes because they were so overloaded and lame. It was really terrible. Most of the cows in India are sleek and fat but not the horses.
So we finally piled into overpriced taxis for the 3 hour drive to Rishikesh. We were squished and hot. It is so muggy here. The rain has made to many potholes in the road that it was really an uncomfortable drive. At one point on the highway our driver did not want to go over a pothole so he just swerved to the other side of the road and weaved his way through oncoming traffic for a while. It was quite the experience. We made it to the ashram for dinner. I have to talk about the food. It is all so fresh and delicious here. We get warm milk! It is the first place we've had milk in the past weeks. We find ourselves talking about food everyday, often more than once. The only downside to mealtimes is that we must eat in silence. We are all in different cabins and eat in silence so I really miss socializing with the group. We all feel disconnected. So yesterday we took a break from the intense yoga and meditation classes and went into Rishikesh. It was a rather touristy area but the markets were fabulous and the prices were good. Sometimes I realize that it is rather silly of me to be haggling over 50 cents off an item but we get caught up in the moment and really do not like the feeling of being ripped off. Over all I think Rishikesh has been good for me. I'm hoping to take some of the habits and disapline home with me.