There are more stars in the sand than in the sky along the Ganges/Ganga. We have put our travel bags in the tent, and met our rafting guide. Now, we gaze at the sparkling ground that leads us down to the river bank. A campfire rises into the soft wind as we lay on our backs and listen to the crackling of the wood and the steady current of emerald-green water nearby. Dinner, in the mountains of India. We talk with our fellow campers, and hearing that we are all singers, a young couple from Delhi ask for a song … we bargain for a song in Hindi, an exchange which leads to the mutual singing of India’s national anthem. “Jana-gana-mana-adhinayaka, jaya he” … entwines our voices with the river’s silvery melody, floating up to the nearly full moon.
In the morning we’ll begin our day with a two mile hike up to a waterfall. After we climb back down for a curry and curd breakfast, we’ll head off for our first white-water rafting experience. We have a wonderful Tibetan guide who reassures us that we won’t drown.
The trail up the mountain is littered with trash of all kinds. Water bottles and chip bags lead us along like Hansel and Gretel’s breadcrumbs. Trash is a big problem for most of India. I saw this addressed many times in the Indian papers, one article expressing concern for the sacred cows that eat the plastic bags along with the other trash. This, of course, has a toxic effect on their health and seeps into the milk they produce. Another example of multinational food giants coming into a country which is still reeling from the quickly changing world business culture with few restraints and prolific “convenience” packaging. Ah, for the days when you ate your curry off a leaf and drank chai from a clay cup that you left to decompose by the side of the road.
Despite the western garbage, we lift our eyes to enjoy the hike, the waterfall, the cool mist and small pool before climbing back down to a hearty curried breakfast.
Later, the Ganges is clean and cold and in a milder section Jonah jumps in to body-surf the currents … we all eventually join him in his icy plunge before climbing back in the boat and ending our ride on the Ghat steps of Rishikesh, drenched but not drowned.