As you know (read my previous post titled “Rishikesh & Ananda-Getting There”), we got to Ananda at 11:30 pm on 12/31/2009. After a quick check-in, we let the staff transport our bags and headed to the restaurant with our travel buddies to join the New Year Celebration. Truthfully, we were too exhausted for any festivity; but too hungry to pass on the food.
Only hotel’s golf cars are allowed beyond the front building. So we boarded one and let the cool, crisp mountain air slap some color back to our faces. Needless to say, we probably looked our worst- ever. I was dressed in my old and beloved travel fleece and a pair of very tired jeans with almost no makeup. Not a pretty picture! Thanks to low lighting and high alcohol consumption, nobody seemed to mind our looks. We ransacked the buffet, swallowed a couple of drinks, socialized a bit and sprinted to our rooms for much needed rest.
I woke up early the next morning with a huge smile on my face: I had died and gone to heaven!
Sunrises are beautiful anywhere; but the sunrise in the Himalayas is truly majestic…
Ananda at the Himalayas is a famous Destination Spa. Once the residence of Maharaja of Tehri-Garhwal, it is perched on a cliff overlooking the valley below. The grounds are vast, meticulous and beautiful. The perfectly crisp and clean air was pleasantly warm during day and cooler at night and early morning. There are many onsite activities including spa indulgences, golf, meditation and yoga classes; as well as outside ventures like water rafting and trekking.
In the morning, we chose to relax, walk the gorgeous grounds and enjoy the spa. After a divine vegetarian lunch; we headed out for the countryside and a visit to Kunjapuri Devi Temple.
Our fantastic driver, Yash, accompanied us up the 160 or so steps to the temple. He had bought a typical gift package at the village consisting of a coconut and some sweets. This was offered to the priest at Kunjapuri Temple in exchange for red dots on our foreheads and red prayer bands tied to our wrists. It is tied to right wrist for men and to left wrist for women. The band must be left undisturbed until it unravels. We still have ours on.
The temple offers 360 degree views over the valley and snow capped mountains.
Afterward, we drove down to the valley and the religious town of Rishikesh, known as the world capital of yoga. We arrived there just over an hour prior to sunset to attend the famous Aarti (Arti, Aarthi) ceremony. It is Performed each evening at sundown by the holy Ganga river at the Parmarth Niketan Ashram. We truly enjoyed this spiritual worshiping of Ganga. Diyas – flower bowls with a wick lamp and an incense- are sold around the town and are floated down the Ganga during Aarti.
After Aarti, we had a nice walk through the colorful bazaar and lively streets of Rishikesh.
When it was time to head down from all this beauty, our flight back to Delhi got cancelled – again. So, we took the dreaded road again. This time Yash was our driver and we actually enjoyed the drive and scenery (the whole 8 hours of it). It was the harvest time for sugar canes and mustard seeds were in full bloom.
Take a look…
We got to Delhi around 6 pm and met our new driver, Rakesh. After saying goodbye to Yash, we continued our journey south to Agra.
Next Stop> Agra, the City of Taj Mahal
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