If you read part 1, you’ll know that we started our journey discovering India in Amritsar. We kept on the spiritual path and travelled down to Haridwar, we took the train as it was already booked for us by a local family friend. This part of the journey must have been the most testing for us. It turned out that the train we booked called “3 tier AC sleeper” class got cancelled. We had to think quick and went with the local’s advice who we travelled with and he ended up booking a train which we thought was going to be similar.
Our train arrived, we boarded, and it was like we were transported into a different world, the train was very packed with one bed being shared by 3 people. As we made our way to our seats, there were people sleeping on the floor all cramped together with babies crying. There was some space under the lower bunk bed to store luggage, we unloaded the bags and chained them up below. This train was for the locals in India who couldn’t afford the luxury of other forms of transport. It was all very overwhelming and unexpected, but before we could think any more the train started moving. This train was only supposed to take a couple of hours to reach to our destination, however due to the bad weather conditions we got stuck on the train for a very long time. We were all so tired and delirious throughout this journey we don’t really know how long the train took. But let me tell you it was a very very long time. The journey was projected to take an extra 4 hours on top of the estimated time of arrival. We would advise only to use these types of trains if you are extremely desperate and on a real budget. The train we ended up on was called “3 tier 2nd class sleeper no AC”.
After what felt like an eternity on a train with people sleeping on the floors, mice running across the floors and toilets with poor sanitation, we reached the holy Haridwar. To finally feel that fresh air felt like a blessing in disguise.
We arrived in the morning, and we took a cycle tuk-tuk down to our hotel. The area of Haridwar has a perimeter where no motorised rickshaws are permitted. This an excellent policy and it reduces the pollution, traffic and is great for the environment. The riders on the cycle tuk-tuks work very hard, be sure to tip them extra. We passed some amazing views which felt like peace to the soul from what we called a nightmare journey from Hell to Heaven on Earth. It truly is amazing how India can make you feel a certain way 1 minute and another way a few minutes later. But as mentioned in our previous blog this was India, fast pace and ever changing.
We arrived at the hotel (Hotel Teerth) and after some rest and a shower (which was definitely needed) we went for a walk. Some traditions of being near the River Ganges is to bathe yourself in the water and also collect some to take back to your home. Hindus believe the River Ganges is very spiritual and represents the Goddess Ganga-Ma. We didn’t do this, but we spent some time near the river. It was cold and windy, this made us feel a sense of presence with the Goddess Ganga-Ma. We felt connected with the universe.
We walked around the bazaar and we saw little shops and saw some amazing little religious ornaments and souvenirs. We wanted to buy some blankets and when visiting a small trader, he was very polite and gave us a fair discount on the items. He even said that if we needed anything else, even if he didn’t sell it, he would do his best to show us around. There was no pressure to buy anything and we felt very safe. We won’t forget his kindness.
Every evening near the River Ganges a prayer takes place where they sing a religious song and light several candles with incense sticks. This ceremony takes places for people who want to make wishes, send away ashes of late beloved ones, or even just light a candle for wishing well for family and friends. This is highly recommended and worth a visit if you want to experience the religious ceremony.
Although this is meant to be a religious ceremony, there are priests all over the area who try and ask for money, so they can perform the ceremony with you. Do not get drawn into this as we did! They asked us to donate a large sum of money and when we gave them money, they said that it wasn’t enough. We stood our ground and said if this is an act of God that we should not have to give so much. This ruined the spiritual experience for us as they pressured us into giving more money that really didn’t need to be given. If you can, avoid the madness and get a flower from a nearby seller which will have a candle in and conduct your own little prayers or ceremony. You see even though we got caught up in the madness we still managed to experience a wonderful sense of peace as the River Ganges truly does speak to your soul.
We also had some amazing vegetarian food which felt so fresh and homely. We went to 2 main restaurants at our time here, one place called “J.G.B. Purple Dhaba”, they served us clean fresh thalis, which included daals and vegetables curry’s including rotis and naan. The other amazing restaurant was called Hoshiyar Puri and they have been serving the community for generations, so you are in safe hands.
As part of the trip we wanted to give back to the community around the area, we donated some money to a food stall to feed 100 religious men, they all lined up for food. There are so many people living in poor conditions who devote their life to God and to give them some food just meant we were able to give back a little bit to some amazing people who truly deserve it.