13.10.2010 - 14.10.2010 31 °C
Last night in Little Buddha cafe we met Julian from the French alps, Arash from Iran and 18 year old Alfie from deepest darkest Norfolk. We made a plan. At 3pm today we would journey to the secret waterfall of Rishikesh.
It's in Rishikesh I've learnt that the men sat with stacks of coins are not an ostentatious display of wealth but a pragmatic solution to the endemic problem that no shopkeeper, taxi pr bus driver is able to maintain a suitable supply of small change. These guys provide it for a small commission.
After collecting a new friend Danny from Sweden - because he was sat where we were meeting - we hit the road around 4pm. With 2 hours to sunset, expecting adventure, I took the Swiss army knife in case I needed to cut off my own arm as in the movie '127 hours'.
Conflicting directions had us looking for chai tents, abandoned chai tents, streams and temples as clues for the turn-off.
We took our chance on a dirt path. Large black-and-yellow spiders hanging menacingly over the path were warded off with The Stick of Vengeance and after 15 minutes we happened upon a cave. Through the cave was a waterfall! Me and Alfie plunged in, a relief after the walk in the heat.
We returned for chai masala at the Paradise cafe. Turns out I didn't need to cut off my arm.
Those signs you get in Irish pubs saying 'there are no strangers here, only friends you haven't met yet': they're never true there but we've made so many friends here both local and foreign. I have a personal barber for all my shaving needs, we have our favourite restaurant, we know our way about and we've even acquired a pet dog that follows us home and sleeps outside our door.
So tomorrow we pack up our troubles in an old kit bag and travel with Alfie back to Hardiwar for a night, then a bus north to Manali.
We've spent our final night in Rishikesh by candlelight on the roof terrace of Danny's guest house, smoking a little and narrating the life stories of the local ants.
A fresh, warm breeze; solitary lights flicker high up the mountains; we cross the rickety bridge from Laxman Jhula for the final time.
Danny once sold a virtual gun for $19,000 actual dollars in the online game Entropia.