About This Blog

Memories of my travels between 1972 and 1982

Monday, 22 November 2010

November 22nd: Dayuno in Eastern Ecuador

On November 22nd 1975 I was in Dayuno on the Nushino River in eastern Ecuador.

In Quito it had been suggested to me that, if I wanted to visit Amazonian Indians, I should look for a guide called Hector in Puerto Misahualli.  He took small groups to the Huaorani.  After a few days hanging out in Banos and doing some walks, I took the bus down to the jungle.  I met Austrians Andreas and Monika on the way down who were also looking for a guide.  Misahualli was tiny, but it did have a couple of hotels offering simple lodging and a shop.  We had a meal at Hector's place, discussing the trip, singing Ecuadorean songs, drinking mucho aguardiente, with Hector's brother Hugo playing guitar.

At breakfast next morning Hector had found a new arrival, Vietnam veteran Jeff, and suggested leaving immediately with Hugo as guide.  It turned out that Hugo hadn't done the journey before but that was not really much of an issue.  We bought what food we could, rice, sardines and chocolate, and some gifts, and went through the police check.  We took a motorised canoe, which had a leak and 15 passengers, and then the rain came down.  We got to Campana Cocha, a Quechua-speaking village where we were to leave our main rucksacks.  I carried what else I needed in an improvised pack made out of my plastic poncho and it was never comfortable.  We then set out past maize and banana fields.  We walked for the best part of six hours and at some speed because we had to get to our destination by nightfall, which meant passing over a watershed and carrying on as far as the next river.  There was not much to see, the huge trees, some red flowers and, high up, the clouds, but there were lots of sounds.  As it was getting dark we passed a group of Huaorani going the other way and immediately there we were on a cliff and the river Nushino was at our feet.  We were rowed across the river, which was only about 20 or 30 feet wide, and were welcomed under a bamboo shelter with a platform.  We were given yucca and fish, rice and noodle soup which contained monkey meat.  The senora ran the show and spoke a little Spanish.  Crocodile was another favourite for them to eat she said.

In the morning, after not much sleep, we were rowed along the river by two boys, and this was truly atmospheric, a narrow river, no engine, no radio, early morning mist over the water, many birds, different parrots and green kingfishers.  Two canoes passed us going the other way carrying mainly women.  Then on a bend shortly before Dayuno, our destination, was a Huaorani standing absolutely still on his canoe, his hairstyle characteristic, long at the front and short at the back, and he was fishing with a blowpipe.  After landing we put our things into a newly-built platform bamboo house, which was where we were to spend the night, and set out to look around. 

It immediately became clear that there was no-one who spoke Spanish there, as the Catholic priest who ran a small school was away.  However we were still made welcome.  There were several women and children there but only two men who had not gone away.  One of the women was a great mimic: she spent much of the time with us imitating what were saying, in Spanish, English and German, causing herself and everyone else endless laughter.  We gave cigarettes and sweets, were given good little bananas in return and then we were shown around.  The village was spread out around a beach on a curve of the river, with little fields of yucca, bananas and something which looked like small coconut palms at one end; they also kept chickens and a pig, attended by an egret.  There was a school and a latrine and large, open bamboo huts where people slept, often under mosquito nets.  They did not use money but bartered, even when they went to town. It seemed a happy place, with an easy pace of life, enlivened by bursts of activity.

We went into one of the large low huts where the people lived.  One of the older men was lying back on a hammock, watching us through the smoky air.  Looking around I could see they had a variety of artefacts made from gathered materials, some like the hammocks made of twisted vines, others for example using gourds.  Pride of place, however, went to the blowguns, quivers and bowls for the fibre used to hold the arrows in the guns.  I did however notice a good knife and we knew that they sometimes used guns and bullets for hunting nowadays.  We were shown how to handle the blowguns and how to tip the arrows with curare, and we had plenty of practice at shooting, to peals of laughter.  Andreas and Jeff both wanted blowguns and set about bartering.  I gave a man a tee-shirt which he immediately put on, and I gave a woman a mirror.  She went away and came back to give me an arrow-set, again to great amusement, and eventually I passed these on to Andreas as I could not carry them with me on my travels.

The journey back the next day was more relaxed in clearer weather.  At a river crossing we sat, drank and bathed for an hour.  Later we passed a group of Indians going the other way, running at great speed.  In Campana Coche we had pineapples, the best I have ever eaten, and a good meal.  We stayed at Alejandro's place, a comfortable house like most of those in the village, where everything was nicely laid out.

There is quite a lot of back story to the Huaorani.  For long they were called the Auca, still were when I was there, and it took me a while to realise they were one and the same.  Auca was a derogatory Quechua term and contributed to their image.  They were warlike and feared.  In the 50's a group of American missionaries from the Wycliffe Bible Translators, affiliated with SIL, the Summer Institute of Linguistics, were killed by them.  The sister of one of those killed returned and managed to convert a group of Huaorani.  Some groups receded to the deep forest to live without contact.  I believe that the Dayuno group were ones who were trying to live in a halfway house, with limited contact and a Catholic priest and a school, and welcomed the sort of controlled tourism I encountered.  However I believe the conflicts between missionaries and the converted and unconverted Huaorani continue.  They have protected land but this is an area many are keen to exploit for petrol.

Hugh Thomson, as recorded in his book The White Rock, stayed at Misahualli in 1982.  He too was looking for companions for a river trip; he found them and visited sites on the Napo.  Perhaps the inhabitants of Dayuno had cut themselves off by then.

Blowgun equipment like items I used:  Picture Tong-Jen, CC
Huaorani Man in 2008: picture by bbcworldservice, CC
Misahualli in 2006: Picture by Colonos, CC

Saturday, 20 November 2010

November 20th: Besakih in Bali

On November 20th 1981 I was in Besakih on Bali.

After walks in the vicinity of Gunung Agung in eastern Bali, I wanted to see more of the mountain and the way it is regarded on the island.  The principal temple of Bali is at Besakih, on the South-West slopes of the mountain.  Besakih is a complex of temples, dating back to the 14th Century.  From my journal:
Above Besakih:  My picture
At 5 am I opened the window of my cheap hotel and saw Agung up there completely clear in the blue sky and the dawn light.  By a little before six I'd made it to a warung for coffee before most of the locals had set up stall.  The temples were nearly deserted in the early morning, but I only lingered for a moment by the trees on the back wall of the main temple.  I couldn't resist walking up towards the volcano, up a green and bamboo-edged ravine until it got so narrow I had to find a trail up onto the fields above.  The local farmers tried to direct me towards the real Gunung Agung trail but I never found it.  As so often it didn't matter.  I went down to a deep ravine in which a trickle of water flowed down rocks and lava and wet black volcanic sand.  I sat for a few minutes in perfect peace at a sunny spot, my mind never quite still, feeling the energy of the holy spot.  I came to a dead end at a hundred foot cliff with a surprised screaming black bird.  So I retreated and climbed the other side through pine trees and tree-ferns and some birds and butterflies, a falcon and an eagle above, but getting no nearer Agung.  Looking back towards my spot and the little shrines, there was an 11 tiered (Shiva?) temple above, maybe by the real trail.  Finally I came back to civilisation via pretty paths and wild raspberries, to the relative activity of Besakih, as it was clouding over, for coffee, drinks and markisas, packing and leaving.
The previous afternoon I had gone into the temple complex soon after I arrived to have a look around.  The whole effect was impressive with the cloud-covered mountain ominous behind.   I looked at the intricate statuary and steps leading into the first temple, which seemed older than everything else.  One temple was preparing for a ceremony, and they had a live female duck trussed up among the offerings.  The commercialisation wasn't too bad.  Outside was a tourist town, but all the tourists were local from every part of the island, religious tourists.  I think I was the only foreigner to stay overnight.

Temple at Besakih:  My picture
Agung clear behind Besakih:  My picture

View Besakih in a larger map

Thursday, 18 November 2010

November 18th: Tirtagangga in Eastern Bali

On November 18th 1981 I was in Tirtagangga in eastern Bali.  I made an outing to the village of Tenganan, which was reputed to have customs that predate most village life on the island.

The Water-Palace:  My picture
Eastern Bali is dominated by Gunung Agung, the volcano which is a major focal point of religious sentiment on the island.  Out on foot you are always aware that the mountain is there.  In the wet season, as it was when I was there, it may be shrouded in thick cloud, but when the clouds pull back the moment seems magical.  As you walk around you encounter lava flows at unexpected places.  I stayed at Tirtagangga, the water palace of a twentieth century ruler from nearby Karangsem.  Built only in 1946 the water-palace seemed a bit kitsch to me, but it made a pleasant place for a swim.  There was also a decent cheap hotel, which attracted interesting visitors and was therefore a good place to hang out for a few days.  You could have your evening meal on the terrace and watch a lovely sunset amongst the clouds, with frogs beginning to croak in the dying light. It was also, like most places I went inland in Bali, a great place for trips out.

Writing a book in Tenganan:  My picture
On this day I went with a friend.  We took a bemo to Amlapura, a nothing sort of town, but the Rajah's Palace had some good statues and a little pavilion on a pool (he also built the water-palace) and a few Chinese features. We took a bemo to the turning to Tenganan, began to walk along the road, but a bemo came by and we took it, and it started to rain just as we arrived.  The village was very interesting, the lay-out reminded me of Nias, houses close together with a wide area between with communal or meeting-houses in the middle. There was also a second row of houses and maybe a third.  The compounds sometimes seemed like little versions of Bali houses, but the temples much smaller and less significant.  All around were huge slopes making it perfectly defended by a valley.  We stopped and talked with a maker of lantok (bark) books, very fine, about the story of Arjuna fighting one of his brothers, and he chanted a bit of the writing, in old Javanese.  He also played a sort of gamelan and told us he was a puppeteer, a dalang, one of 265 on Bali.

We walked back down the road into more normal Bali, past a place where a bough of a banyan had crashed through the roof of a house; the people there understandably had long faces, something unusual on the island.  On either side of the valley were low unforested hills, terraced right up, but only for the grazing of cattle with little houses or byres near the top.  At Bugbug we looked for food but only found a good "es" (ice mixed with anything), basically a jackfruit sundae, excellent.

Another day I walked up behind the water-palace and the temple through lanes to a wide trail-road to Budakeling, a large village with lots of temples and even a festival, but no Buddhist signs which I had expected from my Indonesian Handbook.  Some people there file their teeth, but not as spectacular as I'd seen in Africa.  Then I followed on up a hill behind to another village called Komala and enjoyed a long sit out of light rain where there was a shelter and a long talk with a gentleman from Karangasem.  On beyond were rice-fields, more temples, a swathe of coconut palms and the slopes of Agong going up into the clouds; and a great feeling of peace.  On the way back the rain really set in at Budakeling; I sat over tea in a warung, and came back by bemo.

More locally I walked and found some women weaving the sashes they wear in temples for festivals, really fine and tightly woven of a silky substance, which they make by a complicated process I didn't fully understand.  Then I walked on paths and lanes, through shady fields with thatch houses and beautiful deer-like cows in little thatched byres, and over a little ridge to a lava river where there was a warung with beans and peanuts.

The Indonesian Handbook was banned in Indonesia.

Lower slopes of Gunung Agung:  My picture

Lava River under Gunung Agong:  My picture

Tenganan:  My picture

Tenganan:  My picture

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Monday, 15 November 2010

November 15th: Ellora Caves

On 15th November 1978 I was at the Ellora Cave Temples in Western India.  I took a bus to get there from the town of Aurangabad.

Kailasanatha Temple in 2006: Picture by Amre Ghiba, CC
I sat for a long time at the amazing Kailasanatha temple, which is in seven wonders territory.  All the Ellora caves are rock-cut temples dating from the fifth to tenth centuries AD, in Buddhist, Hindu and Jain styles, and many offer multi-storied spaces.  But the Kailasanatha manages to transcend this by having all the outside rock and earth removed, making the temple a two-storied building, the best part of 100 feet high, which is all sculpted out of one rock.  The whole temple is decorated with statues and reliefs, many of which have remains of the coloured paints which covered them originally. The scale and the whole concept is staggering.  The other temples had plenty of interest and some areas were not visited by the tourist groups and so were better suited for sitting and looking.  I particularly enjoyed the Jain temple called the Indra Sabha, with its beautiful upstairs sanctuary, fine paintings, intricate statues and the best columns of the whole site.

Coming away, I sat under the shade of the big trees and drank two large glasses of cane juice flavoured with lemon and ginger, watching the world go by.  I remember especially one farmer in a scarlet turban with a large family and a big smile who passed slowly on his bullock-cart with shade arched over the top.  I took a three wheeler back to Aurangabad, passing through quaint Khuldabad, with many Muslim tombs and shrines and old walls and an ancient gate to enter by with wooden doors; and then Daulatabad, with its fort on the hill and a big minaret with an especially large lower ring.

Earlier in the week I had taken the train from New Delhi to Jalgaon where, for the only time in my life, I stayed in the Railway Retiring Rooms, with heavy old-fashioned furniture and clean sheets, sharing with three businessmen.   I took the bus to the Buddhist cave temples at Ajanta, a journey through banana and cotton fields, and some familiar plateau scenery, grey earth and little inhabited.  I wasn't really in the best mood for Ajanta, suffering from fever and a bad stomach. The caves with the big paintings were full of visitors, which made me claustrophobic with too much pushing and shoving to get in.  At the same time, other caves still had original pictures and no one went near.  I remember especially the view beside the far caves above the gardens, although Hindi pop music was blaring.  When there was a downpour, the valley colours were beautiful afterwards, the air full of bird song and I felt in the tropics. 

I had been to both Ajanta and Ellora before in 1972, camping outside both sites in the Land-Rover.  Ajanta had still been well-visited then, but not crowded.  I'd preferred the Buddhist caves at Ajanta and the Buddhist caves at Ellora to the Hindu ones, though I did recognise the scale of the Kailasanatha even if I didn't really get it.

There are panoramic photos of some of the Ellora temples here, including the Kailasanatha (Cave 16 lower and upper), and the Indra Sabha (Cave 32).  Similar pictures for Ajanta are here.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

November 9th: Amritsar

On November 9th 1972 I was in Amritsar in the Indian Punjab, after driving across the border from Pakistan.

When we left the UK, we didn't even know whether the Indian border had reopened after the recent war with Pakistan.  We met someone in Athens who had driven from India, so after then we knew that the border was open but only on Thursdays.  We had also seen groups of refugees who we believed to be Bengalis.  We knew that it would take a long time to get across, and therefore the only thing was to allow a whole day for crossing and not be anxious.  We were off from Lahore at 6.30 and to the border at Wagah around opening time at 8.  It took three hours to clear the Pakistan side and four hours later we had finished on the Indian side.  The queues were not long: it was more that there was no urgency to get things moving, something we were fairly used to by then. 

Baba Atal:  Picture by Jasleen Kaur, CC
We took two Australian hitch-hikers to the Tourist Bungalow where we were able to camp, and later went for a meal with them.  The next day we took a rickshaw to the Golden Temple where we sat and observed the music and food ceremony from the balcony.  Two Sikhs kindly showed us around the rest of the building and courtyard and then took us up the adjoining tower of Baba Atal.   Afterwards we wandered, gingerly, through the lanes of the old town and found rice and chickpeas with salted lemon juice for lunch.  In the evening we went out again on foot and ran into a wedding procession with a band and a horse.  We met the groom and stopped to drink tea with his relatives at his insistence, but they were a bit dull.

This was my first full day in India and was as good as I had hoped.  The weather all that autumn was perfect, sunny and hot in the day and fresher at night but not cool.  India fascinated as much for the richness of its scents as for its sights.  I felt like there was nowhere at the time I would rather be.  As we drove out of town next morning a boy entirely painted in blue ran from the road into a house and this gave a feeling of mystery - I had no idea what this vision was about.

I was back in Amritsar the following April, and again in 1978.

Patrimonium Mundi:  Panoramas of The Golden Temple.

Monday, 8 November 2010

November 8th: Rumbek

On November 8th 1980 I was in Rumbek.  It was a Saturday.  The previous day an Intermediate School boy had been injured by the northern shopkeeper he worked for, in an argument over his weekly wage of about £1.  The town had been closed down, but everything seemed to have blown over.  I took a walk out of town on the road to Pachong, looking for some peace in nature, as I often did.  The road could be quite busy with people walking or sometimes cycling between town and the main Dinka Agar villages.  I wrote this in my notebook and finished it when I got back home.
Patas Monkey:  Picture by Mila Zinkova, CC
An inspiration took me out this morning to find the best piece of bush I've yet walked in.  There are still people about, a lady out getting wood and some boys with cows, and the space between the road and the hard to penetrate long grass is small.  But there are stacks of birds here, swallows that might have come from England, some lovely large trees and I've even seen a monkey, a Patas Monkey, the first I've seen here.  And despite the noises of voices by the roadside and what sounds like gunfire from Rumbek in the distance I have some peace and privacy here and a little alone in the African bush.
And gunfire it was.  As I walked away from the nice shady mound where I'd been sitting I soon found the road, where some girls ran half scared, half giggling away into the bush, "what happens when a white man comes out of the forest," as a passerby on a bike said.  Coming back, I passed groups of Dinka sitting or standing under shade-trees talking animatedly and a schoolboy made a machine-gun sign to me.  I passed a truck loaded with armed police hurtling along the road.
The details of the incident were never completely clear of course.  This is what I wrote the next day.
It seems that, after the schoolboy died, another Arab stabbed another Intermediate School boy in the chest; then a mob surrounded a house with 3 Arabs including the culprit within, and the police couldn't control things; eventually the house was burned and the 3 Arabs speared by Dinka townsmen.  Then there was a degree of chaos with shots being fired off, from different weapons in different quarters (this was what I heard from the forest).  Two shops were burnt out and some looting done.  Police and Arabs were the ones with guns.  All the Arabs were rounded up in the Police Station where they stayed.  First it was said six died, now it seems more like 4 with 2 critically ill.  Last night was quiet, supposed to be curfew from 5pm to 9am, but people were out earlier this morning.  A police lorry went round telling everyone to stay at home, and the electricity was on all day yesterday, but not this morning.  Radio Juba only said that Monday was to be a public holiday for Islamic New Year.
On the Tuesday morning the school was closed while a search was undertaken, and rumours were circulating that the school would be closed until after Christmas.  This was certainly false as the school did open on Wednesday as did the souk.  However the classes were much emptier and some students started going to Wau to take part in sports.  During the following weeks the school struggled on and by the end of the month the school was closed for Christmas.  Some things were definitely getting worse.  I had a stream of students coming to the door to complain about other teachers and their poor teaching.  Teachers were spending more and more time drinking suku-suku, the local sugar-based spirit.  The rainy season was finally blowing out and the once green land was turning brown.  Women no longer brought little pieces of fruit to sell in town. 

Southern Sudan was trying to be a democratic region at the time.  There had been elections two years before which had been largely respected: there were Southerners in ministerial jobs and they had a degree of authority in their departments.  The process was backed up by a radio station in Juba that broadcast political news in English.  They were aiming at a model like Kenya's.  There had been some problems about the Southern President, who at this time was Abel Alier, and he had taken over power in dubious circumstances.  He had visited the school earlier in the year, but had stayed the night in the prison as that was where he felt safe.  All this democracy of course was against the reality that the North held the real power.  In Khartoum the elections had had no significance, and there nothing was ever officially announced until after the event, usually a long time after the event.

Friday, 5 November 2010

November 5th: Ubud

On November 5th 1981 I was in Ubud on the island of Bali.

Most tourists were on the beach on Bali and so Ubud was a quiet place to visit overnight. I stayed at Canderi's, which was comfortable and had excellent food, and there were usually a few other visitors. Ubud was busiest early in the morning when the market was active, but was sleepy for much of the heat of the day. I had a few walks to neighbouring villages on the dense network of lanes, and realised I needed to go further away from the town and the "hello, mister" kids.

Lane near Ubud:  My picture
Temple near Ubud:  My picture

This day I was up early for coffee at the usual stall. I took directions for Pejeng from Canderi, had my breakfast and was off at 7.15. I had second thoughts when the path was flooded immediately after Peliatan, but found that there were stepping stones across and persevered. At the ancient cave temple of Gua Godjah there were tourists around; the bathing places were no longer used, but there was a demon frieze around the entrance, and inside there were little cells and images on either side lit by paraffin lamps, a Ganesh and three lingams. I decided to detour to Yeh Pulu through the suburbs of Bedulu, pleasant enough with shady lanes and little temples, to an ancient bathing place still in use beside the paddies.  Finally I reached the frieze of Yeh Pulu, with pictures of, among other things, a tiger fight, a woman pulling a cow's tail, a Ganesh. It was quiet and unusual, especially the setting. There was a woman who came and swept a few leaves; she spoke some Bahasa Indonesia, the "two hundred" maybe her only English. I found a bemo to Gunung Kaui, which is an impressive place despite the tourist trappings. You climb down to the river, and the rock tombs are along the sides of the gorge, some made into temples, and all set in the greenest paddy-fields. I walked along the terraces to one side where there were some holes in the rock, dripping water, and sat for a little. I turned north to see the vista towards the mountains, and found there was a path to Pujung so I could come back a different way, and walk a bit more. The country now seemed different, the people less used to foreigners.

I crossed a river, went through a village and passed a man carrying two baskets of carved wooden deer or cows. There were high paddies and views of distant hills mainly obscured by clouds. Approaching Pujung I came across many women carrying offerings on glass-jewelled headrests and placing them in bamboo altars in the rice-fields. In Pujung there was a very large, old and beautiful temple where a festival was in full swing; there was a gamelan and a man up in the corner was beating some of the wooden hanging-drums I had seen everywhere, everyone wearing their best. I sat down outside, but people told me to go in and I did for a few minutes although I felt like an intruder, until a white-dressed priest politely signalled me to go. The sight was still arresting, a man dancing with a mask, and lots of smoke and people bearing the offerings, the music really loud. I walked a little along the road to Ubud and soon found a passing bemo, which took me down past shops with huge carved garudas; carving was the speciality of the area, and maybe this was one reason the temple was so fine.

Gua Gajah:  My picture

Paddy-fields on Bali:  My picture

Gunung Kawi:  My picture
Near Ubud Market:  My Picture

View Besakih in a larger map

Thursday, 4 November 2010

November 4th: Tierradentro in Southern Colombia

 On November 4th 1975 I was at Tierradentro in Southern Colombia. 

The archaeological site at Tierradentro was spread out around the valley and on the hills.  I stayed in the village of San Andres de Pisimbala, where there was a small hotel and a nearby restaurant, a pleasant walk along the valley from the church and market.  I had a good room for a cheap hotel, nicely furnished and views over the river and the humming-birds.

After some walks to nearer sites, this was the day I climbed up to El Aguacate which was on the top of the open ridge behind the hotel which dominated the valley.  The journey up was about an hour and a half and slippery, but at the top you could walk right along the ridge.  The view the other side towards Inza was what made it for me; and as I looked down on this side, nearby there was a stream with rich, steamy, vegetation and a smell I now always associate with this moment.  The tombs small and not protected: one had paintings of insects, but there was not much else.  Without the archaeological site it would have been much more difficult for a foreigner to walk around these hills.  I went back down a different way into a little valley with thick woods, past Indian houses and fields.  There were bamboo and thatch shelters, and fields of maize, bananas and sugar-cane, and some red-stalked vegetables growing.  At the top I wrote:

Have climbed a few hundred metres above the valley onto the ridge overlooking Inza, the church, a central square, and quite a number of new looking houses, a few scattered communities along the hillside or further into the valley. The tombs line the ridge but are only the excuse to come and see the view, which is spectacular. It's very peaceful despite the noise of a bus I can see winding along the road, and a couple of places where I can see they're mending the road. Someone is burning a patch of hillside behind me, and I can hear trills and twitters of martins and lark-type birds, an occasional whoosh as a white-collared swift flies very close.
The next day I went to the market in the village about 6.40, early but not early enough, but there was still a little activity: the man selling meat, three women selling bread, a couple of men selling shirts and pots, sullen-faced, and a man with everything from wool to religious pictures.  There were quite a lot of Indians, speaking their language, in various clothes, some of it homespun, and they were often barefoot.  At 7 o'clock men arrived to work on rebuilding the church and the butcher closed up.  I had breakfast at a restaurant and walked part of the way back with an Indian lady going to sell little hand-made bags.

Tierradentro Market (2009), Picture by Daniel, CC
Tierradentro Tomb (2007):  Picture by Inyucho, CC

Tierradentro View (2007;  Picture by Erazzo B, CC

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Wednesday, 3 November 2010

November 3rd: Rishikesh

On November 3rd 1978 I was in Rishikesh.  Rishikesh is a pilgrimage town in Northern India, situated at the spot the Ganges comes out of the hills into the plain, and famous for its ashrams.  The Ganges flows here through wide sandy banks and walking along the river below the ghat at Laxman Jhula was straightforward.

I enjoyed being anywhere in Rishikesh along the river, but my favourite spots were near the beach by the main town.  I recorded a couple of pieces in my notebook:
Sitting on fine ash-grey Ganga sand, shielding my head from the midday sun.  All along the little beach, people are washing quietly, unhurried, unconcerned, reverently, Brahmins, sadhus, families, single people, washing themselves, their clothes, their children, their pots and pans.  Noise of the water passing over rapids a little downstream, people and crows.  Nothing else.  A row of little wooden stalls along a part of the beach.  Three old men hanging their white dhotis out to dry.  On the bank on the other side is a stony beach, deserted except for a couple of mud huts and a boat at one end.  Behind the beach a Shiva temple washed blue and an ashram.  Back on this side I can see a three and a half story white building with central stairs coming down to the beach and arched doors and windows, white colour almost completely lost.  An ochre ashram up on the bank.   On the road to town, a cluster of shady spots under trees, a row of garland stalls.  Sadhus sitting around, lying around, playing cards, a couple of little Shiva temples, a chai shop, a restaurant, a man getting a shave, religious-looking people heading for the beach, a bead stand, cosmetics, dolls and idols, festival decorations.  An Ayurvedic medicine shop. 
Under the big banyan by the beach.  Quiet and peaceful here.  Sadhus collect on the concrete platform in the shade behind me; one is a palmist/astrologer with his books laid out beside him and a little metal case with Hindi and English written on it; other orange-robed people look at his books or watch what little else is going on.  Below me a group of poor and beggars are sitting around having breakfast, watery dhal and subji and dampened chapattis, 6 women, one of them in orange, a man in orange, another man and a boy with one of the women.  A man selling change, sadhus robed.  Others with sticks and crutches take up positions on pieces of sacking where there's shade from the tree or a post.  Under the tree a woman cooks by a duni with a Shiva trident.  Her little area is cordoned off.  She talks to another woman sitting on the stairs beside a woman with short grey hair.  The woman cooking is a colourful character, with a multicoloured bandanna around her long matted hair, a long white embroidered shift, shawl and bangles and all.  She's quite young, maybe 30, I can't tell.  A group of ordinary men beside me talking.  A Shiva shrine built into the tree itself with a red swastika flag above it and a little one at the side.  An assortment of lingams and bulls and pictures painted on the concrete walls.  Another shrine with garlands around the idol on the far side.  A sadhu with friendly intelligent face stops to look at me write and sits beside me.  Two ordinary men smoke a chillum.  A young sadhu with his hair in a top-knot, a middle-aged one with ochre dreadlocks looking like the cobras in Shiva's hair.  An older sadhu, head in turban and an umbrella for shade.  A sudden galloping cow.  An old man with grey hair and beard lying on sacking under the tree with his Shiva cloth around him.
There were other places as well.  I stayed between the town and the ashram area of Laxman Jhula, and you could walk along a wilder piece of beach here amongst the gravel and sandpipers.  Even here on a grassy mound between the bank and the water was a little Shiva shrine.  In the evening it was lovely to walk back along the road from town and smell the night-scented plants.  Laxman Jhula was then reached by a little ferry and you could have a good meal in a more sober religious area "strictly no onions and garlic", in view of famous ashrams.

One day I walked further up towards the hills along the pilgrimage path.  The old part of Laxman Jhula was interesting, old and crumbling, old India much more than Rishikesh or the area across the ferry.  I stopped for a puri lunch snack near the Pilgrim Rest Place and the famous bridge across the river. Later I sat for a while in the grass between trees, and on a bench beside The Sacred Way, watching the endless stream of passing pilgrims, many poor and elderly, hobbling along with bare feet, perhaps from all corners of India.  I had not realised how many passed this way walking to pilgrimage places higher up the valley:  the middle-class family groups, beggars and sadhus, sitting on the grass or on the benches which lined the path, maybe a little personal shrine set out in front of them, a bowl of some sort to shake, or cymbals to clash, or just some holy song to sing or mantras to chant.  Finally I crossed the bridge, saw the old temple where I was offered prasad and was asked for paise, climbed the hill on the road past the Leper Rehabilitation Settlement, where there were lots of beggars, came back down the cliff and returned to my lodging  by the usual river route.

Sadhu at Rishikesh (2006): Picture by FullyFunctnlPhil, CC

Sadhu Feeding Langur (2009): Picture by Cristina Vaquer, CC

River Ganges (2007):  Picture by McKay Savage, CC