Solo Symphony: Echoes from Haridwar to Rishikesh

After a long time I’m writing a non-technical blog, a blog about my experiences and learnings in life. Let’s get started!

My trip to Haridwar and Rishikesh from March 5 to March 7 was not intended to be a solo one, me and my mother were supposed to board our train from from Rewari at 0115 hours on March 5 but due to some reasons my mother had to cancel.
I thought of not going on the trip myself, the reason being that the trip was supposed to be for my mother only and I was going only so that she can go. Anyways I decided to go on my first solo trip and boarded the train.


I booked seats in the train 19609 which runs from Udaipur (UDZ) to Rishikesh (YNRK). I booked the seats in the AC 3E (3 Economy) section not knowing that it is different from the 3A tier. Only after my friend Pratik made me realise that this is not the case and berths in this section are little short in both width and height so it might be uncomfortable and guess what this was indeed the case. My seat was a side lower berth and it was even narrower but as the journey was for only 7 or so hours I managed. On the positive side the washroom was better than the AC 3A tier.
All in all, I don’t recommend booking side births in the AC 3E section for long journeys.
After reaching Haridwar, I contacted the representative at Anand Niwas Dharamshala

where I booked my stay by calling a few days earlier. I got to know about this place by simply searching the internet for ‘Dharamshalas in Haridwar’ and the images suggested that the rooms are Ganga facing. He told me to get a rikshaw and pay Rs. 30-60 to get to the place but I couldn’t find any so ended up paying a battery rikshaw Rs.100 who dropped me way before the actual place on a bridge. I had to walk a good 700 metres I suppose before I reached the place but I got to see the market and got the actual vibe of the city of Haridwar. I was told after reaching the dharamshala that they don’t give rooms to bachelors but made an exception in my case.
I thought that the feel of a river just outside the room was something that booking a hotel with the price of Rs. 5k-9k/day could provide but at Anand Niwas I got it for just Rs 700 a night.

I didn’t expect much out of the room considering the price as well. I didn’t have to stay the night but the washroom was clean. If you are ok with spending the night in a dharamshala then you can stay the night but that was not the case for me.

After freshening up I went out to get to the Har kee pauri ghat which was very near to my place (didn’t had to take a single turn to reach there). If I had to picture the congestion on the road I would say that if another person would have been with me he/she wouldn’t have been able to walk beside me only either in my front or my back.
Before entering the ghat I ate breakfast at the very famous Mohan Jee Puri wale. I was surprised to see a place so popular with such a small establishment with no tables, no place to wait, nothing. There were only 5 items in the menu I suppose with 4 being sweets and the other was a plate of puri sabzi at the cost of Rs. 100. The oil in which the puris were getting fried looked good and not dark so that was a good sign overall the place looked hygienic.
I was lucky that the crowd was not too much and I got the food in no time. The taste was good but not extraordinary. I guess, it’s the location that can be attributed to its popularity.

I went to the ghat, took the holy dip in the divine river of Ganga which didn’t take much time. I got to admit that as I was alone I was wary of my bag getting stolen during the time I was in the river so got out quickly. The ghat is quite big and the river, let’s just say not clean.

I was pained to see how polluted the river was. It’s so ironic that people knowingly or unknowingly consider it as both holy and a dumping place.

After that I decided to go to the Mansa devi temple which is at a walking distance from the ghat. The temple is situated on a small peak so you can either take the rocky stairs or the ropeway whose tickets cost Rs. 139/person if I remember correctly. I took the latter and really enjoyed the ropeway as it was my first experience with the same.
The temple was crowded and noisy with a lot of congestion. Personally, the best thing was the ropeway.

After coming down I had lunch at a north indian restaurant called Hoshiyarpuri which was in the path of my return to the dharamshala. I ordered a thali which cost Rs. 320. The food was good, the prices were reasonable. I returned to the dharamshala and sat outside my room in the soothing winds with my feet in the cold water. Felt great!

Around 4:30 pm I went back to the Har kee pauri ghat to experience the Ganga aarti and I was surprised not by the crowd but by the VIP culture there. Turns out that if you even have to sit at the place where the priest will be performing the ceremony you have to make a donation, people who want to do the aarti need to make a heavier donation!

Donation requests were getting made before the aarti, during the aarti as well after it ended.
Even the guy at the shoe locker wasn’t willing to return anyone’s footwear without paying him.
If you are a big devotee and want to get a good experience of the Ganga Aarti at the Har kee pauri ghat you better have some contacts or the donation money ready plus some change to get your shoes back after the aarti.
It was almost 8 pm and I had to leave for Rishikesh. I took my bags from the dharamshala, thanked them and quickly went to the place where the e-rikshaw dropped me in the morning. I was told that I’ll get a shared transport to Rishikesh at Rs. 80-100 from there but when I enquired at the auto stand the drivers duped me to believe that at this time I won’t get any public transport to reach to Rishikesh and I will be stranded alone if I don’t book a private taxi, it was getting late and cold and there my naivety kicked in and I ended up booking one from the same place which costed me 7 times more than I was told.
During the trip, the driver of the taxi admitted that I was duped and if I had walked a 200 metres more I would have gotten a shared auto or something at Rs. 50-60. I was not angry but felt dumb and consoled myself by believing that I learned a lesson.
He dropped me at the Ram Jhula. The famous chotiwala restaurant was also located near it.


Crossing the Ram Jhula was my first experience in Rishikesh and I was surprised that almost 50% of the people I could see were from other countries. They say the bridge shakes when the wind blows but as I was walking on it I couldn’t feel whether it was actually shaking or just my legs were tired but the dim orange lighting and the cool winds gave a pleasant vibe.

As I was gonna stay alone so I booked a Hostel/Dormitory called GoStops. If you don’t know about the concept of a Hostel it’s 6-8 multiple bunk beds in a single room which decreases the overall cost of stay. It cost me around 1500 for 2 nights. Frankly, I was quite wary of the security and cleanliness considering the whole sharing arrangement but as I reached the property all my scepticism faded away. The manager was kind enough to send a guy to pick me up after I crossed the Ram Jhula as the hostel was still 2 kms away.

The property was way cleaner than I expected and almost felt like a good small hotel. The rooms could only be opened via the mobile app, there were 3 bunk beds in my room (bedding capacity for 6 people) with each bed having its own drapes. The linen, pillow, blanket, washroom everything was very clean. The locker for luggage had ample space and best of all the mattress was comfortable

Note: There are two GoStops hostel in Rishikesh one is near Laxman in which I stayed and another in Tapovan. The demographical difference is that to reach the one where I stayed you would have to cross the Ram Jhula were as for the Tapovan you don’t. Also the hostel is situated at a height above the ground. So everytime you would need to either climb or come down an almost 45 degree slop.

After putting my luggage I went out for dinner in a cafe called Freedom Cafe which is spoken very highly of and was located just in front of the hostel. The cafe indeed lived up to the expectation both with the view and the food. I had chinese food and it was the best chinese i ever had. I decided to go wild and ordered some Falafel which I deeply wanted to try but never got a chance, the waiter even warned that it would be bland but nevertheless I still ordered it and well it was indeed bland and tasteless.
Talking about the prices, it was my first ever visit to an actual cafe I guess and I expected the rates to be on the higher side and they were indeed but again as I didn’t visited one before I don’t know what’s supposed to be the ideal prices. But surprisingly I felt that the Chinese menu was very reasonably priced. I ordered a chinese ChopSuey and it cost just Rs. 200 also other chinese dishes were in the same range. The size of the potion was so big that I couldn’t finish it. The Falafel was around Rs. 300 i guess. I spent over 2 hours in the cafe eating my food, watching over the Ganga river and talking with an Italian guy in his 50s named Krishna.

Yes! Krishna. He narrated his philosophy of life and how Yoga and the Bhagavad Gita changed his life. The conversation was very edifying. Freedom cafe will cost you around Rs. 300-400 for a meal but the food and experience in my opinion is worth it! I was very tired and had a good sleep, the next morning on March 6 I decided to go for white water rafting. Rishikesh is filled with places to learn Yoga and agents to book adventure sporting activities. My hostel roommates who were Doctors by profession and were from Belgaum gave me the contact number of a guy and suggested that I go for the 16 kms route. The guy told me that it would cost Rs. 500. I asked my friend who had done rafting earlier said that it cost him Rs. 1000 for the same route so basically the rates vary from time to time. My roommates also told me that Thrill Factory is the most famous and trusted one in Rishikesh and every shop prints there pamphlets under the same name but funnily no one knows no one knows which one is the real one. It’s just like the Matu Ram Jalebis in Gohana and Chotiwala restaurants in Haridwar and Rishikesh.
The guy I called picked me up from my Hostel itself, as I was alone I had to wait for other people to book the raft. Luckily, some tourists from Gujrat signed up quickly. The rafting starts from a place called Shivpuri and the rafting company takes you there. You are given detailed instructions because it is an adventurous sport.

The rafting experience: It was thrilling to say the least! The water was cold but it was a sunny day so I didn’t feel that much chilly. The rapids/waves where the river bends are the highlights of the whole experience where you actually feel the rush and adrenaline in your veins.

I was glad that I chose the 16 kms route because in the end I was satisfied and didn’t want to go further. Also, the instructor goes with you on the boat who basically guides the boat and shoots the video and takes images. He asked for Rs. 2500 for the same but in the end settled for Rs. 2000. So my share was Rs. 250 (2000 divided among 8 people).
Fortunately I took spare clothes with me so I didn’t have to walk back to the hostel with wet clothes. The whole rafting experience cost me Rs. 770 which seemed very reasonable for such an activity.
At noon I decided to grab lunch at another famous cafe called The Little Buddha cafe which was just beside my Hostel and was spoken very highly of. When I entered the place was crowded mainly with foreigners who were all smoking, the layout felt congested so I decided to give it a pass and went back to the Freedom cafe. Again great food and got a great seat.

Now was the time to explore Rishikesh on foot. The aim was to reach the Triveni Ghat and Swarg Ashram and Parmarth Niketan were in the way itself. To be honest there is nothing noteworthy at both the places and Swarg Ashram is basically a ghat just like many other ghats in Haridwar and Rishikesh and it was definitely not clean. The gates of Parmarth Niketan ghat had not opened yet when I reached there at 4 pm but it definitely looked well maintained and clean.

Parmarth Niketan

Swarg Ashram

Triveni Ghat Entrance

I reached Triveni ghat by crossing the Janki Bridge which was filled with two wheelers crossing on both sides. Also had to take an auto after that. Triveni ghat is smaller than Har kee pauri and hence was cleaner also. At Har kee pauri the Ganga flows through the ghat so basically there are stairs at both the horizontal ends of the river whereas Triveni ghat is situated besides the Ganga and you get a magnificent view of the mountains and forest from it.

Like Har kee pauri the Ganga aarti is also performed here but unlike there the management was better though places were reserved for people who took a ticket for doing aarti but there were no explicit asking for donations and it actually felt like some serious religious ceremony was going on.
As I already had walked a lot that day so I decided to take an auto which dropped me to the Ram Jhula for Rs. 50. After crossing it I walked back to my hostel. I was too tired to search for places to eat and was determined not to eat ‘naan and paneer’ so ordered a pasta from the freedom cafe and it didn’t disappoint. I still couldn’t finish the whole portion.

View from Hostel's terrace

My return train was scheduled at 1455 hours from the Rishikesh station on March 7 so I still had half a day left in Rishikesh. On March 7 I stepped down early morning (7 am) to get some breakfast and I met a guy named Prasanna who was a solo traveller in real sense as he had already visited most of the India and though was from Chennai but had been living in Australia for past 8 years and to my surprise was staying in my dorm. He offered to go and find a place for breakfast together and as the weather was really good we walked a long way to try and find something different but couldn’t find anything that was open so had to settle for a cafe which was near the hostel called the Laxman Jhula cafe. It was not fancy like the cafes I visited earlier, more like a small shop with a small counter outside. Ordered some Parathas as nothing more was available.
Somehow we decided to go for Zipline, we found a shop near the cafe who booked the activity and to my surprise though the price of doing the Zipline was 4 times that of rafting but people are supposed to go to Shivpuri themselves (the place where he would book our Zipline appointment). Me and Prassana decided to book a cab which would take and drop us back at Rs. 1400 (700 each) from there itself.
We did the 850 metres Zipline which cost us Rs. 2300 each (2000 for the Zipline and 300 for the Go pro video which is optional). The name of the instructor was Milan and he was from the city of Narnaul (50 kms from Rewari) and said that his in-law's house is in Rewari itself. He was a really nice guy.
The Zipline looked really terrifying at first, but they make you do a small drill on the ground floor which raises your confidence. Once you are on the actual Zipline, that is some experience, adrenaline just rushes and after a few seconds you start to enjoy the winds and the view while sliding at a good speed.

My train was at 3 pm and it was just 11 am so we decided to go to a place called Vashisth Ashram which was just 5 kms further from the Zipline place. The place is really a hidden gem and had almost no crowd. It is almost like a beach but with a river rather than an ocean. Spent good 2 hours there with the feet in cold water and just roaming around, highly recommended!

And as it was already past 1 pm we decided to head back, I had lunch in the Hostel cafeteria itself which was really good. Realising the rush and traffic due to Shivratri I took a personal two wheeler taxi to the railway station. The guy took Rs. 400 but considering the rush It was the right decision. I reached the Rishikesh railway station (YNRK) at 2:30 pm and got to say I didn’t see a railway station more cleaner and scenic than that. Kudos to the government and people managing it!

I was lucky that the weather was conducive and the crowd was not at its peak. Therefore, the best time to visit Haridwar and Rishikesh is indeed in early March. I realised that solo trips are not only a challenge because you don’t have any companions with you but you also have to spend extra at many points but still you learn a lot, you grow a lot.

Well, that was it! My first solo trip and big thanks to friend Pratik who helped me a great deal.

Some Contact numbers:
Anand Niwas: 9319790890 (Prateek)
Zipline: 8930254466 (Milan)
Rafting: 8929942009 (Thrill Factory)
Freedom Cafe: 9897130438