Juan comes to India – Our sojourn in the Himalaya

As the final chapter dawned on my journey here in Asia, my friend and spiritual brother Juan came all the way from Norway and joined me as we set off to find Moksha in the Himalaya. In his own words, Juan tells about what he experienced here in Northern India.

It was so available and accessible (spiritual references). Whether you found a big temple, small temple, or you just got up high in the mountains, there was always something to remind me of my place in this Universe.

Juan Arancho, Rishikesh 2023

We had talked about meeting up and walking the places in the Himalaya where the famous Indian Sages have set foot. Juan has not only been my friend, but he has supported, questioned and pushed me to discover new aspects of myself. With him, I have been lucky to expose the more venerable side of myself. This is hard for me as I am attached to the image of being uncompromising and unshakeable. Where this comes from is hard to say but it has been etched into my very core as a person. Juan has quite simply taught me to become softer and recognize that getting in touch with some past trauma is not as daunting as I once thought.

So when Juan mentioned that he wanted to come and join me up in the Himalaya, I was ecstatic! I had visions of us climbing snow capped peaks, discovering temples both known and hidden, meditating in the thin mountain air and coming face to face with both the local people as well as the Sadhu’s who frequent here doing their spiritual pilgrimages. Our trip would take us from Rishikesh on the Ganges and through the northern towns of Uttarakhand and up to the border of Tibet. We hoped to discover the harmony that pervades the well known Himalayan caves where Sadhu’s and devotee’s regularly visit. There we wanted to meditate and maybe have visions of past lives or get rid of some trauma that we hadn’t yet shaken off. To put it simply, our/my goals were pretty freakin lofty!

We would see the rivers of The Ganges, Alakananda, Mandakhini and Dhaulinganga as well as visit the highest Shiva Temple, Tungnath in the Himalaya and the northern most temple Badrinath located close to the Chinese (Tibetan) border.

I had earlier had the pleasure of using the services of local taxi driver Mithlesh. This soft spoken and polite man would be a great addition I thought. However, this meant that he would be leaving his six-month old son and wife at home to be away with us foreigners for six days. Not an easy predicament for a family focused man as Mithlesh.

So I asked Juan to start off by describing Mithlesh and how his presence affected our trip.

Juan and Mithlesh. Two fantastic Human Beings who enhanced this trip despite the many challenges we faced along the way.

Mithlesh – Our Revered Taxi Driver (Guru)

Juan: Mithlesh is the one Indian to whom I have gotten to know properly. He’s a very soft guy and in a sense, very much like me. He’s introverted and doesn’t waste his words. He also doesn’t like to say no. In the beginning, he had a very respectful, but professional tone with us. He made a few jokes and suggestions on where we should go. But as the day’s passed and the bond between us started to be established, I suddenly realized, wow – of all the taxi drivers, this guy was like a blessing who enhanced our experience.

Mithlesh doing water ritual for us by the Ganga

I’m so happy that he made this trip with us. His driving was so careful and he kept talking about his six month old son where he said,

“I will be coming home to him, so I have to be careful.”

This made me feel safe during the duration of the trip. He was also so gentle. I think that this is the best word to describe him – Gentle.

Ritchie: Mithlesh went above and beyond his duties as driver. He trekked with us. He organized food. He was our interpreter when we asked locals about various points of interest or directions. Just by witnessing his calm demeanor and how his disposition never changed, even though he was juggling both our trip and other drivers back in Rishikesh, his manner was testimony for me to think that I had indeed found myself in the presence of a Holy man. Not only did Mithlesh become family, but through his way of being, he showed Juan and I how we could best serve others. Without any sense of self-importance, Mithlesh demonstrated how we could be balanced and caring despite dealing with the challenges of the everyday.

How did this trip affect your perspective?

Juan: The first thing you notice here is the difficulty of the roads. I thought the roads in my country (Colombia) were challenging! Then you see Sadhu’s walking barefoot on the hot bitumen full of stones whilst I’m looking at them from the comfort of the car. Then you start to climb up to these small remote places that are quite high up. I loved how the temperature changed the further we climbed up. This also reminded me of home too. There are so many contrasts here. You see the poverty and need for infrastructure and you look at how the kids on the side of the road aren’t at school, but are breaking rocks with very simple tools. This gave me perspective.

I think coming to this country, and despite it in some ways being a third world country, I was looking at it from a spiritual perspective and being open to the the positive. I thought about this as we drove through the various towns and landscapes, I don’t know if I look at my own country (Colombia) or even Norway where I live, with this same perspective. It’s very easy to be angry with the country you are born into, or the country which you live in, where it’s so easy to see all the downsides. I thought:

Hey! I don’t have to be just in India to feel this feeling of closeness or omnipresence around me. I should apply this perspective at home too!

But I also enjoyed the devotion of the people here. It was a meeting that wasn’t at all strict, but rather very inclusive. I saw mothers and fathers explaining things to their children in the Temples in a very calm and loving way. This I really loved being witness to. People were happy. It’s kind of like for us, taking our kids to a Puppet Show. I didn’t think that religion was supposed to be like this. So relaxed. I realized that this was a way of life. Not forced.

So it is my hope to apply this philosophy to my everyday life back home.

But a lot of it had to do with me coming to this country and expecting good things. And that’s maybe what I got from you. The acceptance and openness from the locals when we came to visit the small towns and Temples was humbling.

Ritchie: To witness Juan embrace the pulse of India was something to behold. It’s not just about eating spicy food and having references to Hinduism, Buddhism or Islam. It’s about accepting the challenges of the road and that things don’t always go to plan. And when they don’t, you can then open yourself to the magic of life giving you something far beyond anything you had considered previously. I was very proud with how Juan took this philosophy to heart.

The Mountains and her People

Juan: What I think of first is really how welcoming both the Mountains and her people are. I come from Bogata, which is high, so I’m use to this. But then I thought that maybe the altitude and weather is going to hit me physically, but this never happened and it felt welcoming to be there. The locals were also welcoming and it made me feel special. Sometimes I felt that they were interested in me because I was white, and I felt like an imposter who doesn’t deserve this attention.

But the views were amazing. We have the Andes with their sharp peaks, but here, the Mountains are huge and you really feel small in their presence. I was actually a little afraid. They just tower over you. I had a lot of respect for them. So as we climbed, it was breathtaking, but the higher we got, the differing perspectives as one climbed higher, really gave me something new. Then when you point out things like Kailash and Tibet, I felt like I was very close to a source. You can describe it and show pictures, but you have to come and see it with your own eyes. I guess by being here physically, you can maybe comprehend what I’m talking about.

Ritchie: Making enquiries into this trip, I was told that the temples and places I wanted to visit were closed and not open to the public. What to do. That’s when Mithlesh made calls and found alternatives to temples we could visit and where we could do hikes to be amongst the vista of the Himalayan peaks. Despite not being allowed to visit the Chinese/Tibetan border, we had grandeur views of the Mountains at the border. We got really lucky with the weather. We hiked up through Rhododendron forrests in bloom and with snow very much present at the altitudes we were hiking at. But perhaps the best part, was finding small temples that had no one attending to them. Here we could sit on their steps, sit in Padmasana and close our eyes and have our own meditation session. Different places gave us different energies as well as our own mood and energy levels adding to the experience.

Juan’s Meditation Experience:

Juan: As I began to relax, I started to find my own form for doing a ritual whenever I visited a Temple. Instead of looking at others and feeling self conscious, I began to close my eyes and remember my own Mantra’s and breathing techniques that I have picked up along the way over the years. This is what I thought the people were coming there to do. Visit themselves.

Then I had this really weird experience in this one Temple that we hiked up to from the main Badrinath roadway. The temple was off in the distance. I couldn’t even see it from the road, but I trusted your eyesight, and after having an amazing dip in the Alakananda river, we set off in search of this place. We set off and it was quite a trek. The Valley we walked up towered high above us. We had to walk over lots of boulders which made me feel quite tired. Then we discovered a small abandoned village before the temple that had nobody living there. It was a little eerie there. But when we got to the temple, we were alone with both it and the elements. Without the presence of others, I felt like I could really sit down and go deep.

Then I had one of the strongest spiritual experiences in my life. I was shown things in such a clear way that I began to wonder if at all I was fantasizing about what was going on. I was shown things that I could forgive and forget. I felt like now can I release this from me. I’m sure it was past lives. Then I opened my eyes and I couldn’t remember any details from what I had just witnessed. It was like, ok, this is done! Let it go!

I had come to this country that I thought struggles, but I saw it through the eyes of spirituality. I think India taught me to focus on the positives that surround me. Being with you has taught me this.
I feel more a part of everything.
I’m super thankful!

Juan Arancho, April 7th 2023

Author’s note:

Ritchie’s last reflection’s:

Juan came for seven days and I wished for him to taste the power of the Himalayan Nature, be accustomed to the Hindu rituals, eat spicy Indian food with his hands, bathe in the icy waters of the Alakananda river and go hiking at altitude every day. In addition, we were on the move every day and he also struggled with his allergies and lack of sleep. Most people would have had a mini breakdown at some stage, but not Juan. He took it all on the chin and in addition connected to the Spirit of India. A feat that leaves most travelers overwhelmed and exhausted.

We came back to Rishikesh, the place where it had all started for me with my Ashram experience. We bathed in the Ganga. Walked up to the Mini Baba caves and meditated in 35 degree heat. I showed him my favorite street dog. We ate the the Shambala cafe. We got up early to watch the sunrise and chant Kirtan. We saw the Ganga Aarti ceremony together with thousands of others. We sat at my favorite cafe, Muktan, and talked politics and religion both between us and with others. We squeezed out every last drop of being present in each other’s company before the reality of going literally separate way’s took place.

Almost exactly one year ago, Juan had asked me if I had ever cried before. I remember that I thought it was a strange question before answering that I very rarely do. Now you’ll be pleased to hear that with with each tap of this keyboard, tears flow from me freely. I am proud to finally be in touch with my vulnerability and Juan has always seen this need in me.

I sit here in this Delhi hotel room and feel incredibly grateful. Grateful for the situations that have arisen on this trip and for the people that I have encountered along the way. All have held up a mirror for me to observe my own actions. Thank you!

I now go back to the land of my forefathers. My goal is to start up a place where people who feel the need to heal can come. How, what, where and when, I do not know, but I have thrown out my intention and my time in Nepal, Sri Lanka and India has taught me to connect with this and explore my motivation. I feel scared and have no idea if this will manifest, but then, I hadn’t planned this trip three years ago and the Universe provided me with a treasure trove of experiences that I now need to let go and make new one’s in New Zealand.

There I will reconnect with my family. My roots and Myself ….

Ritchie Dehli April 11th 2023

Philip was and continues to be inspiration for me as I navigate my way by trying to connect to my authentic self. He is one of the most loving souls that I have ever met. His guidance and humor was something that was with me throughout the entire trip. I dedicate much of what I have experienced to his children, wife, family and the multitudes that were lucky to be graced by his love.

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6 Responses

  1. What a journey you have taken Ritchie… im so proud of and happy for you.

    I wish more of us dared to take such a challenge to face our history and also current lives, and be as open as you have been for revelations that change us to the better.

    Maybe its not about daring… maybe it is about being wise enough to value ourselves to prioritise ourselves…

    It was such a great feeling to see you and Juan together too… im so happy that you guys got to experienced all this and probably a lot more in the week you were together.
    Cant wait to meet Juan and give him a hug, and get the hug im sure you sendt with him to me 🙂

    One more chapter in your great journey is coming to a close now and the next is beginning. I believe its going to be one of even more insight and growth as you open your loving heart and peaceful embrace to many who yet not know you and and the peace you can inspire into their lives.
    They are very lucky.

    I wish you good fortune my beautiful friend. Keep being the wonderful you 🙂 Big hug and lots of love.

    1. Levent! Thank you for your time and support as a friend both before, during and in the aftermath of what has been. I feel truly honored to have you in my life. Blessings my brother!

  2. I am missing this great time ,I spent with two great person ,actually I felt familiar during whole trip ,when I see this vlog or photo my heart wants to go back this moment what a memorable sir 🙏😊sir thanks specially ritchi sir .who gave me chance to explore himalayas beauty and new experiences also.

    1. Mitlesh ji! You were not only our driver but through your actions, you showed us the real practice of being Spiritual. I look forward to seeing you again soon my brother!


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