Thursday, 2 May 2013


Welcome to Lakshman Jula, Rishikesh. A cow drinking from a tap on the side of the road. Hindu God Vishnu. The canyon swing platform to the right of the picture. Cool lights at The Little Buddha Cafe. Me sitting under a 'hat'. A candlelit dinner. A cute cup of chai. A cute diary cum journal. And writing in my journal. Over a cup of chai. My travel buddy writing in his journal. The guesthouse dog - he shared my toast in the morning. Cows, disregarding the rules. Bananas. At the back of a (very bumpy) local bus to Haridwar - even the locals were laughing at us.

We headed south from McLeod Ganj to the small town of Rishikesh, located in the foothills of the Himalayas. It's known amongst backpackers as the yoga capital of the world and is a notoriously chilled out town. We were there for the adventure sports.

To get to Rishikesh we first had to get to Derradun. We got there. At a ridiculous hour in the morning, and had to sit at a cold, deserted bus station for a couple of hours until the first bus to Rishikesh. The bus from Derradun to Rishikesh was meant to take ninety minutes. We were there in thirty. My travel buddy and I were deliriously tired and the whole thirty manic minutes was a struggle between staying awake, and staying on the seat. Even though you're tired, on a bus that's driving way too fast down a road that (you're hoping) is going to your destination, you can't help but laugh. I did, and it felt good. At that moment it was the funniest thing in the world and nothing else mattered.

 After finding a place to say - The Bandari Swiss Cottage on the Highbank - we headed into town for breakfast. The German Bakery had an amazing view of Lakshman Jula and the bridge that links both sides of the town - I'd recommend it if you're ever in Rishikesh. It was this morning that monkeys went from cute to evil. We'd grabbed a chocolate croissant (R35!) to go after breakfast and were heading across the bridge to check out of the other side of town when a monkey jumped down from the bridge and tried steal the croissant! I was walking in front so all I head was the rustling of a paper bag and my travel buddy scream. Luckily my travel buddy managed to keep hold of it, and quickly shoved it in his jacket. After this I never ate or drank in public without first having a quick look around me for monkeys or asking my travel buddy to keep his eye on any lurking nearby.

Rishikesh was also the place I did something that I never ever thought I would do, and am still in awe that I did it. A canyon swing. Jumpin Heights is a twenty minute bus ride from Rishikesh, and I remember feeling oddly calm on the bus ride there. Once, you're there, and you've gone through all of the safety procedures and signed your life away, you have to walk down the road to the jump platform. You can't see it at first, but as you round a corner a yellow platform almost 300 feet above the riverbed looms from the cliff. It's bright yellow, you can't miss it. At this point I wasn't even thinking. I was beyond thinking. I was babbling away nervously to my travel buddy and this continued until we got to the jump platform. I jumped first. I can't remember why but I think it had something to do with the fact that if my travel buddy jumped first, I wouldn't have anyone at the top to talk me into it. I like to think it was because I was brave enough to go first. I don't remember a word the jump master said to me as they harnessed me in. More nervous babble. Then you're taken to the end of the platform (and you can see though to the riverbed 283 feet below) and sat down in a chair overlooking the canyon. Another jump master attaches a rope to your harness while another one checks what they do. In the video (I didn't get it and am regretting that now!) I have a super serious look on my face and nod alot. They them unhook the rope from the platform and you feel a massive pull on the front of your harness. There's no backing out now and at this point I'm numb. I'm not even thinking. The jump master leads you to the edge of the platform where your toes hang over the edge. All you can see at this point is the riverbed below and it looks like it's a long way down. The jumpmaster asks me if I'm ready and tells me that he'll say one, two, three, swing, and on swing, I'll jump. I look over at Toby (one of the guys who brought Jumpin Heights to India) and ask if I'm going to be okay. He nods. One, two, three, SWING. And I'm falling. And falling. It's the hardest feeling to describe. It's a couple of seconds of falling with all of those g forces pushing on you. I couldn't even scream. I couldn't do anything. Then the rope catches you and pulls you into a swing. And I catch my breath and scream. You can hear it echoing through the canyon in the video. Suddenly my heart has stopped beating a million miles an hour and I'm thinking again. I'm swinging in the middle of a beautiful canyon in India and I'm having the time of my life. There are two guys waiting to unhook me at the bottom of the river and once I have two feet on the ground one of them pulls a badge from his pocket and hands it to me. I have something for you, he says. I've got guts!, is what the badge says, and I proudly pin it to my jacket. I can't stop smiling as I sit on a giant rock in the riverbed and watch my travel buddy get harnessed in and jump. He's lowered down and is unhooked and looks at me and says 'I didn't think you'd jump'. I didn't either. We then have to trek up the side of the mountain to the Jumpin Heights base, where we watch the videos of our stunts. I cry from laughter at myself, screaming, hair whipping around my face on the flying fox, and we laugh at how we look just before we jump off the platform.

I also did a bunch of other (really awesome) stuff in Rishikesh. Like: went white water rafting in the Ganges, flew down Asia's longest flying fox, ate at The Little Buddha Cafe every day, walked around an ashram, got trapped in our hotel room by monkeys, and hitched a ride on a local guys motorbike.

If you're ever in Rishikesh head to The Bandari Swiss Cottage and ask for Deepak. He's an awesome local who can help you with absolutely anything and will speed past you on his motorbike, skid to a stop and say 'hello sir' and let you hop on the back for a lift back to the hotel.


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