I’m off! Leaving the comfort zone of Thailand and my new buddies at Bradman’s Bistro (perfect place for sports loving, Aussie food devotee wanderers that miss the traditional pub) for an unforgettable journey in India, solo. I’ve heard some female solo travellers state that India is either the best place to go alone or the worst.  I will advise at the end of my trip – assuming I allow it to end, sorry Ma. So far, I’ve had nothing but pleasant country and people dealings. 

Thai Airways flight to New Delhi. I’m glad this is only 4.5hrs because I’m wedged in this dickie middle exit seat, between two Indian, possibly deodorant wearing, business men. Thankfully both men were super helpful and thoughtful by putting my bags away and lending me an extra pillow to rest my arm on due to the lack of space in my seat. Food average, another rubbery frittata and baked beans. I wonder if there’s a methane barometer in the plane?

Delhi airport is REALLY easy to navigate. Even though I joined two separate, wrong, long queues before locating the shortest e-visa queue. Why didn’t I find the shortest queue first and work backwards from there? As I walked up  to the start of the non existent line three immigration specialists did their best to attract my attention by calling out to me and waving their arms so that I would visit their window. They were obviously bored.

I was in such a hurry to find my way out of international and locate my domestic flight that I neglected to attack the ATM and didn’t grab a SIM card. Rookie mistake, I should know better! Thankfully I had $150 AUD in my purse to exchange. I’ve heard that the ATM’s run out of cash in Rishikesh, so I had better spend wisely. All of a sudden I’m grateful for the lack of alcohol in Rishikesh..

Jet Airways flight to Dehra Dun (finally someone taught me how to say it correctly – Dehrra doon). I was at check-in about 4hrs early, but the kind man directing Jet Airways human traffic said I could check in now and go through the exclusive priority lane (all lanes were empty) if I filled in a customer service review form. Of course I said yes and gave him a glowing review. Thanks Adnan!

Two sides of the one ridge.. incredibly diverse.

Paid my way into a lounge for some Indian food and wifi. Just having somewhere comfortable to sit, with an ok array of food, wifi and charging stations is worth the $23.  Alcohol is not incl in the lounge price btw, not that I purchased any – I’m taking this abstinence seriously now. You can also pay for showers, sleeping pods, massages and just about any added extra you can think of here. Thank you Premium Plaza Lounge at Terminal 3 – Delhi Airport.

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Look at all those colours!

My pre-organised taxi driver had my name on a card, spelled correctly mind you, as I exited the airport. Not only does he drive me the 16+km to Rishikesh, he plays the knowledgeable tour guide around the place – these discussions were in between an almost constant beeping “Warning! I’m coming through” of his car horn trying to compete with every other driver and rider on both sides of the road. Lanes are merely rough guidelines apparently.

“Over there is the forest where tigers are. Also, elephants are walked through here every night.” Guess where I’ll be heading soon!?!? Then we stop in an area where it’s clear that cars can’t go any further. The narrow laneways really only fit humans, dogs, motorbikes, horses, cows, monkeys and donkeys. Then my driver signals to a young boy who comes, picks up my 15kg backpack (most of that weight is my pillow – perhaps another discussion) and my camera case then leads me through tiny lanes, down some stairs, across a big bridge (Lakshman Jhula) over the ‘Mother’ Ganges river, down the street, up another two narrow laneways to the Vinyasa Yoga Training centre. Poor bugger! I felt bad, but not quite bad enough to offer my weakling assistance. 

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Example of the narrow streets and a temple with loads of shoes.

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Lakshman Juhla Bridge over Mumsy Ganges River. How patriotically painted is that bridge rail?

I’m finally settled in to Gangotri – the accommodation supplied to us students by Vinyasa Yoga Training Centre (if you visit, don’t expect Westernised service – nobody is in a hurry here) and I’m ready to explore.. 

Today I feel like a rockstar (not THE Rockstar) because my morning exploration consisted of being asked regularly to join the travelling family photos. My calling has been answered after 20+ years of photo bombing or taking selfies with other peoples cameras – it pays to be persistent.

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One of my new families seem quite proud of me taking photos of the laneway.

After my delicious Middle Eastern breakfast from Little Buddha it’s time locate an ATM and SIM card. It took me nearly three hours to walk 2kms. Why, you ask? Well, so many shop keepers want to sit and chat with me plus all the requests to have my long lost Indian families include me in their photos takes time you know! I’m offered an interesting and accurate aura and body reading by Raj from Rajasthan in his shoe shop (he goes in the book of people whose names sound like their location or career – like Matt from Ballarat, Thomas from Thomastown and Jason the Stonemason), milky, sweet chai tea with Ahsp (this is what I deciphered from his note with his phone number) from Mumbai and to buy a pair of pants for a man who is dressed in faded and well worn Buddhist orange pants and top is casually reading, sitting on a concrete bench seat beside the road.

If you haven’t heard about India and their cows already…

Cows are sacred here so they roam freely and willy nilly, being dodged by the locals in cars, on motorbikes and meandering tourists. How wonderful it is to see EVERYBODY walk, drive or bike around our bovine friends whilst napping in the middle of a bridge or road – no matter what the chaos caused surrounding them may be. I saw one cow chase a lady across the crowded bridge so to free herself she dropped her small bag of puffed rice for the cow to devour whilst nasty cow mentally laughed at her lack of comfort. Cow 1, Lady 0.

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Iddy biddy baby cow.

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Lakshman Juhla bridge with cow photobomb – clearly my spirit animal.

You will definitely notice that cows have 4 stomachs here, it is dung-a-plenty – which needs to be skilfully navigated when walking about the packed, dusty streets and laneways. I wonder if I’ll be picturing these magnificent creatures walking around roasted with gravy and veg in a month’s time? Ooooh, note to self – don’t walk around town with my gorgeous Graine leather wallet.

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Baby shadow dawg followed me around. Cute love heart shaped nose.

If there is such a thing called nirvana for hippies and wannabe’s, Rishikesh is it! It’s cow stinky yet incense infused, bright, colourful, noisy and yet calming – every sense is assaulted. You can’t walk more than 5 paces before stumbling across some form of Ayurvedic medicine, massage, crystal or music therapy and of course yoga. I came for the yoga and some form of personal spiritual awareness campaign, but having only been here less than 24hrs I’m all too excited to sign up to study everything. I already feel at home here and have to pinch myself to confirm that I’m really doing this. It makes me smile with pure gratitude.

Like I’ve said before… it’s all about education of the mind, body and spirit.. and dodging cow pats.

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