My Warmshowers host had warmly recommended a few places in and around Goa. But then again, the 30+ hours train ride to get there and having to book the train days in advance in order to have a guaranteed seat have little appeal. Plus it's low-season and the weather forecast has rain predicted on most days for the Southern parts.

Eventually I decide for a "quick" 8 hour bus trip to the North instead. While I have no particular interest in yoga, Rishikesh (the so called "Yoga Capital of the World") is a mere 300 km away and offers other fun activities such as rafting, bungee jumping etc.

Through Whatsapp I learn that another cyclist is also heading there for a couple of days and we agree to meet up together in Rishikesh.

Interjection: “The” Whatsapp group

A few months into my trip, I had met many people on bicycles, but not that many long distance cyclists who were going for months or years on end. And it wasn’t until my encounter with the Brazilian couple in Cappadocia, that I learnt about the “Cycling East” Whatsapp group, comprising not less than 250 cycling enthusiasts on the roads between Europe and Asia.

The chat covers all kinds of topics: tips where to best extend your Iran visa, which scenic route to take, how to fix and maintain your bicycle or equipment, weather reports from Monsoon regions and of course: offers to meet up or ride together.

Due to the nature of the medium, discussions often remain superficial and are more often than not irrelevant to many of the readers, but at the very least do provide some entertainment and, maybe most importantly: the chance to meet up with other people in your vicinity that you wouldn’t be aware of otherwise.

(On top of that, a messenger app’s (like Whatsapp’s) bandwidth footprint is rather small and when you’re in an edge of the Pamirs so remote that even your phone will literally just say EDGE--if you’re lucky--it might be the only way to get some information: by asking someone to google it for you)

An 8 hour bus ride later...

But back to the real world. An abundance of busses depart for Rishikesh everyday. With too much choice, finding the “right” one isn’t all that easy and eventually I book a “sleeper” bus leaving around 10 pm from Ramakrishna Metro station “near exit 1”.

Sure enough there is no actual bus stop and when the bus arrives (15 minutes early), it just parks at the roadside. The interior is rather clean and the passengers are even given some free water and a snack. However my biggest concern is the “double” bed: it’s really, really small, maybe even less than 130 cm wide. How should 2 people fit inside there!? To make matters worse, the length of the booth (I’m all the way in the back of the bus) is also not up to par: an estimated 175 cm prevent me from stretching out completely.

Night bus to Rishikesh

I’m just hoping that tonight I might be the only person in the compartment, but when asked the bus driver shakes his head dismissively, taking all hopes for a good night rest from me.

Thankfully, he is WRONG: despite an additional 3 or 4 pick up stops on the road and more people entering the bus, nobody else comes share the booth with me. Maybe they knew one should not pick the last booth?

The roads are full of potholes and more than just occasional speed bumps, and I experience quite a few moments of zero gravity.

Either way i doze through most of the night and when we arrive at 6:30 the next day I have to admit: it could’ve been worse!

I haven’t seen so many tourists since [...]

The biggest surprise when entering the town is, how touristy it is. And abundance of hippies, yoga teachers, trekking enthusiasts and the likes of all ages are seen in the streets, which is something I’m not used to anymore: often enough I’ve been the only foreigner a hotel has seen in weeks, not to mention some of the remote villages.

The next surprise: Yoga can be quite strenuous. I attend the morning lessons at my hostel for a couple of times during my stay and it is clear that there are some muscles I almost forgot I had. It’s nice, but not nice enough to stay here for 3 months or so to become a yoga teacher.

The thing I enjoy by far the most about Rishikesh is: not being in Delhi. There’s still lots of trash, honking and air pollution, but It’s so much quieter and that alone is worth the trip. A few days in the hammock reading (no photos, I was busy reading), another Diwali celebration (no photos, it was too dark), an afternoon rafting (no photos, I was busy rafting), many meals in the inexpensive cafes in town (see photos below). I really could get used to that lifestyle.

But there is a catch. Multiple catches, actually: restaurants are all-vegetarian, and alcohol is officially not to be sold in town. A life without beef? I’ve already grown used to it in India. Without chicken? Oh well, just have to eat more of the green stuff then. But without beer!? Impossible!

After a week it’s time to go back. This time I fail to catch my night bus (I will never find out if it was cancelled or just left from a different station) and after one extra night I return to Delhi where Josh is already waiting to head off together. The plan is to get to Agra and later hitch a ride with float on the Ganges for a couple of days before continuing to: Nepal

Food of Rishikesh
Animals of Rishikesh
... and all the other money shots