India please be good to us

Date: 15/06/2007 | Author: Dave

"Ladies and Gentlemen, the local time in Delhi is 9:30 p.m. and the temperature is 44 degrees Celsius." So glad to be on this Jet Airways flight. They really helped us out.
We settle into the 'Master Paying Guest House' quite late and have a 7am train to catch in the morning. The idea is to head to Rishikesh early and escape the Delhi heat. We already know that it is no cooler in Rishikesh but it is at the start of the Himalayan foothills so we are headed in the right direction. Don't get me wrong, I am a fan of the heat but dirty, dusty, smelly humid heat is not my cup of tea. Speaking of tea, we have chosen to spend time in the holy town of Rishikesh. Yoga and dipping a toe in the Ganges, yes, alcohol a definite no. Booze is not available and that can only be good for us. Anyway I am getting ahead of myself.
Back at Delhi train station and I am being 'helped' to the ticket confirmation office. We haven't managed to print out our e-ticket and the 'helpful man sitting across the desk from me under the almost official looking 'Govt Tourist Office' sign is repeatedly connecting with an automated message on his speaker phone. "Computer down" he says. In-between phone calls he is giving me quotes on cars to Rishikesh and beyond. US$1300 for one month. Very small car. Time is ticking by and that bloody computer is still down. I grab my stuff and run for it. "We will have to take our chances" I say as I run out the door and back to my family. There are no flies on me. I have allowed us 15 minutes to get to our train, totally unaware that platform 12 is a 12 minute sprint from where the girls are standing with all our bags.
That car sure would have come in handy if I had been delayed much longer.
This was not too stressful and we settled into a comfortable train journey to Haridwar. Haridwar train station was boiling hot and our car was not there to pick us up, even one hour later. It took that long to arrange a car. This area is full of pilgrims at the moment.
So started five days that made us feel like calling off the rest of our trip and going home.
Getting to our hotel in Rishikesh was a physical and mental endurance test. We dragged our bags for a kilometre through the crowds and cows after having to leave our taxi on the wrong side of the river. I left Gabby and the girls while I pressed on with two bags up about 60 steep steps to where I could finally get a rickshaw to our accommodation. Peasants Cottage did not have our booking but luckily a room was available. We stayed there in the High Bank area of Rishikesh for three nights, venturing down into the town or wandering along the ghats watching the pilgrims bathe in the Ganges and joining in the arti at sunset. As Ella sent her burning offering (puja) down this most holy of rivers she took a wrong step in this brown water and disappeared up to her neck.
It was over 40 degrees when we arrived in Rishikesh but some monsoon rains took the temperature way down.
High Bank is a backpacker enclave. Our neighbour at Peasants Cottage, Ashlie, recommended a place further up the Ganges called the Glasshouse. Peasants Cottage booked two nights there for us but as we were leaving the next day mentioned that the booking was only 99% confirmed. Our bags were already in the car so 99% sounded good odds at that point.
It is easy to guess what happened next. An hour and a half later we arrived back at Peasants Cottage. Gabby is still holding the bag of sick (flo's) as we demand the return of 1000 rupees for the taxi and our old room back for the night. The boss here, Rajeev, has been booking everything for us this side of Delhi and has been responsible for 99% of our grief so far. No one even hints at an apology and Rajeev, cleverly, never introduces himself.
We organise our own car to take us to Manali. It is a 9hr drive to Shimla, a high hill station that must have seen better days. Our hotel, 'Little Inn', is in the process of being brought up to international standards by a very patient Kiwi. He has a long way to go and we were royally overcharged for our room. A disappointment but all our fault. Our driver has stayed with us and early the next morning speeds off down the windy mountain roads toward Manali. Florence seems to have received the mantle of car-sick daughter from Ella, who now handles car journeys very well. There is nothing like the sound of someone being sick in your car to slow you down a bit around those tight curves.
After seven hours in the car we arrive at our destination for the next five days, 'Nature Notes' on the River Beas, just 25km short of Manali. We have high expectations as this is the place we have chosen to spend Florence's 7th birthday in 4 days time.

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