Home Lifestyle COLUMN: My trip to India – Part III

COLUMN: My trip to India – Part III

After leaving Chennai, the last part of my trip was a road trip through the northwest corner of India and through parts of the Himalayan mountain range. I flew from Chennai to New Delhi. For this part of the trip, I booked a tour with a small company. I told them the areas that I’d like to visit and they booked all the hotels and neat stops to visit, and they supplied me with a driver. He picked me up from the New Delhi airport. The first stop was to Rishikesh. This was a mistake of sorts.

On the map, Rishikesh is only 150 miles away from New Delhi. I thought that this would be about a two-hour drive. It was more like six hours. You aren’t getting anywhere very fast on Indian roads, partly because of traffic and partly because there is no highway system. India’s highway system is not like America’s. Really, it’s non-existent. But apart from the drive being so long, it was OK. I saw a lot of the Indian countryside. At one point I asked my driver to stop so that I could get something to eat. I’m sure that I was the only white person within several hundred miles, so when I walked into the restaurant everyone was looking at me. On this part of the trip, that was a recurring theme. The areas were very remote, mountain towns.

We got to Rishikesh late at night, maybe 9 p.m. My driver took me to a neat bridge across the river. I couldn’t see much of the landscape at night, but the bridge and buildings were beautifully lit up with lights. The next morning, after I had some more masala tea (did I mention that I love this tea?), we went back over the bridge. The bridge was Ram Jhula and is very famous. This time I could actually see the landscape and the river. The river was none other than the Ganges. It was very bluish-green. It was winter when I went, so the river was very cold. I should know, I touched it. Even so, there were a few people who went into it. It is a holy river to them. 

View of the Ganges River from the Ram Jhula bridge.

After leaving Rishikesh, we traveled further and further up parts of the Himalayan mountain range. The views were spectacular. The views always continued to amaze and never disappointed. The Himalayas are very different from the Appalachian or Rocky Mountain ranges in the U.S. For one, our roads are built with more safety in mind. I never felt that my life was in danger or that I was going to fall off, but most of the roads are built on the contours of the mountains and there are very few, if any, guardrails. The roads are extremely windy. In the U.S., the roads are often built around or through the valleys of the mountains when they can, and the roads are much wider. In India, at some points, the cars have to work together to get around. It was a very neat experience. I would do it again.

The next stop after Rishikesh was a sightseeing stop at the Tehri Dam. This was a hydroelectric dam built off of the Ganges River. The water was even more blue here. Here, a few people (and yes, a few cows) come to relax and spend time with their friends and family. It is a very beautiful spot to hang out. There were even jet skis or short boat tours you could rent. I rented a jet ski, though I didn’t want to fall in the cold water so I only went very fast on the straightaways. How many people can say that they’ve jet skied on the Ganges?

View of the Tehri Dam Reservoir.

After leaving Tehri, the next stop was Kanatal. I would stay there for the night. My hotel was literally on the cliff face of the mountain. A funny note was inside my hotel room. I had a sliding glass door on one side of my room, and the note said to keep the sliding glass door locked because the monkeys know how to open the doors. Outside of my hotel was one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen. It felt like I was above the clouds, because, well I was above the clouds.

Kanatal sunset.

Across the street from my hotel was an entrance to a park. On this side there was snow and ice. It made walking around difficult. I didn’t bring any snow shoes. But it was beautiful in a different way. It’s strange how the different sides of a mountain can have drastically different climates. This was like a winter wonderland. From inside the tall evergreens, I could see the snowcapped Himalayan Mountains. This looked like the Himalayas that we see in textbooks. They were long, tall, and jagged.

Snowcapped Himalayas viewed from Kanatal.

After leaving Kanatal the next morning, we made a stop to see a temple. Only problem was, I didn’t see any temple. My driver pointed up to the peak of the mountain. The temple was way up at the top, the Surkanda Devi temple. It looked so small from down there. Anyway, he said that I was free to climb up. I did. It took me about 45 minutes to get all the way up. The path was very windy, steep, and some parts were icy. I probably climbed 600 feet up. Like I said, I didn’t have any snow shoes, and at some parts I had to grab whatever ground, rocks or poles there were to drag myself across the ice. The thin air made it tough, but it was worth it. The view was amazing at 9,000 feet. 

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Before heading to the last town, we made two other sightseeing stops. We stopped at a small eco park. It cost maybe 10 rupees to enter. Again, I was the only white person in who knows how far. It was funny though. Several people randomly came up to me, sometimes without asking, to take pictures with me or video chat with their families. I didn’t mind. Someone finally recognized my stardom. I met a guy about my age there. We walked around for a bit. When we got back, the monkeys stole the snacks out of his backpack. After that, my driver took me to one of the most beautiful waterfalls that I’ve ever seen at Kempty Falls.

Kempty Falls waterfall

My last stop was Mussoorie. It was a moderately sized mountain town. Many of the homes were built into the side of the mountain. My driver took me to a place called Mussoorie Jheel. There were rides and shops set up kind of like a carnival. There was a zipline which I took to the bottom. I was scared at first because I didn’t know how safe it was compared to our ziplines, but I’m writing this so I guess you can tell. After coming back up, I had roasted corn on the cob. After roasting it, they squeeze a lime and put some chili powder on it. It was so good.

After Mussoorie, my driver drove me back to the airport and I flew back to Charlotte. It took about 20 hours to get back, and the flight was exhausting. But my trip to India was fantastic. It’s a very big country, so there is a lot that I haven’t seen. But that just means that I have an excuse to go back sometime.

(This is part two of three. Read part one here and read part two here.)

Alex Auman is a Richmond Country native. He currently lives in Charlotte, North Carolina. He writes about politics, ideas and current events.

 

 

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