The beauty in long term travel is that it's easy to be carried by the wind in any direction. On occasion, that wind might be blowing so strong that you feel it calling you. We had heard of the small town of Devaprayag long before we had made the journey to Rishikesh, India -- where we planned on spending our last couple of weeks in India. Devaprayag, meaning "Godly Confluence" in Sanskrit, sits at the base of some of the most sacred Himalayan peaks, which in itself is mesmerizing. It is most famous, however, for its sacred confluence of rivers. It is in this town where the Alaknanda River and the Bagirathi River come together to create the holy Ganga (Ganges) River. The Ganga River calls people from all over the world to come bathe in these holy waters.
We landed in Rishikesh late at night and were not quite sure of our surroundings yet. The next morning, we woke up and drew the curtains back to see Rishikesh in all its glory. The layers upon layers of mountains were beaming with a golden morning haze. A cool breeze blew through our room. Nature's beauty shook our bones like nothing we'd seen thus far in India.
A few mornings later, we decided to venture on to Devaprayag, despite the long distance and rumors of horrible roads. We were to meet a man who would rent us a scooter for the day at 9:00 AM. Punctuality is not India's strong suit, so naturally we were left waiting around until 9:45 AM for him. As the paperwork was being filled out, Bre turned to me and said, "aren't you going to take it for a little test drive so you can get used to it?" I thought about it briefly, but decided that was unnecessary -- I mean I grew up driving ATV's, the occasional dirt bike, and tractors. Plus as long as I knew where the horn was (the first question I asked the man renting the scooter to us) I would have no troubles on these crazy Indian roads.
After a little swerve, we were on our merry way! I have to admit driving a scooter is harder than expected. The bikes are rear heavy, making starting and stopping tricky. Also, their turning radius is also very poor. The minute we left the city limits, the vegetation increased and the smell of fresh jungle greeted our noses. We quickly started ascending a mountain on a very windy road full of hairpin curves. There was no guard rail and we were sharing the road with large trucks, buses, other motorbikes, cars, and animals. This made for some very thoughtful and careful driving.
Let me pause and try to paint a picture of India traffic for anyone who has never been. As far as I can tell, when you're behind the wheel, there are no rules. Our discoveries are as follows: use any side of the road you feel necessary and to always swerve in and out of car traffic (either side is okay), honk your horn at other motor vehicles, also honk your horn at any animal (cow, monkey, goat, stray dog), honk your horn at any inanimate objects, honk your horn if you're happy and you know it, turn signals are a huge waste of time, and if a giant truck or bus is coming directly at you, don't fret -- there is plenty of room to off-road even if there is no guard rail beside a huge drop off.
The 74 kilometer trip took us roughly 3 hours, but the beauty of the Himalayan mountains was breathtaking and we enjoyed every minute of the drive.
Once we reached the town of Devaprayag, we realized the buildings were nestled into the side of a mountain that leads down to the rivers. We were really having trouble figuring out how to get down to the town -- since the road only ran above it. We pulled over to figure it out, and an Indian man that spoke no English could see the confusion on our faces. He summoned us to his hotel parking lot to leave our scooter. He then, speaking one of their many local languages and using gestures, pointed to the zig zag downhill path that would leave us to our destination: the confluence point. Hundreds of winding stairs later, we finally found ourselves at the confluence site. There is a temple here with people praying, receiving blessings, and bathing in the holy, fast moving water. Some even take huge jugs of the water home for later use. It's beautiful the way the Ganga River always draws Indians back to its presence. The water both restores and releases. I knew there were thousands of people who had stood where we were at that moment. Their traces were long gone with the rushing waters, but thier spirits had all accumulated making it a highly spiritual place.
One at a time, Bre and I both shared our moment with the river and took a few moments to meditate and reflect. The present moment was overwhelming to us, with no thoughts about the past, the future, any errands we needed to do, or what day it was. We hiked back up the millions of stairs and began our trek back to Rishikesh. In all, we had a long day on a motorbike and some sore bums, but we felt some sense of restoration for the remainder of our days in India.