Visiting the Baba under the Banyan tree

Just when you think you can’t possibly have anymore random experiences, India or more importantly the people within it deliver yet another moment that you weren’t expecting.

Yesterday I decided to explore the jungle area that Rohan (ballgate) had told me about behind sweet lake. I felt like a little adventure was unfolding but that is a normal sensation within this kind of terrain. Jungle or forest it evokes a sense of exploration that I love. Another example of a simple pleasure that nature supplies.

As I wandered amongst the trees, going barefoot, which only goes to enhance the experience, a nice connection to Mother Earth (sounds totally poncy but it is so true – try it!) I came across different layers of undergrowth and found different people dotted around and also walking. There was a definite smell in the air, the culmination of many people at different points enjoying smoking hash and making the most of the beautiful surroundings in their own way.

I slowly ascended not really knowing where I was headed, but I came across a couple that reminded me of the Baba under the Banyan tree that Rohan had told me about. I’d forgotten but he either lives or comes from Slough?! A world away from the tranquil surroundings of the forest. A Baba from Slough… That’s got to be up there on the list of bizarre finds.

So I found the spot and wow the Banyan tree was stunning.. The branches all intertwined and vast. Underneath was a small gathering of people in a circle with the Baba being a focal point. Not much happening other than more smoking, in fact that was all that was happening. That and people taking photos and also eating some fruit that was being handed out (that was the sum total of my participation!).

So I just hung out for a bit but not really much happening, I suspect a lot of people may have been going in the hope of some sage words but it was simply a quiet spot. Maybe the good stuff happens after sundown… After a while Rohan arrived and we chatted, he explained some interesting facts about the tree (that I’ve forgotten..) and some more pearls of wisdom. He reminded me of the mud bath he told me about and asked if I’d seen it, which I hadn’t so he kindly showed me the way. So basically it was a clay like substance that you add water to and create a paste and then simply add to your skin. I tested an arm and feet but Rohan thought it was a good idea for me to try my face. So after thinking hmmmm I don’t really want to… I did. Then to sit and let it dry.. After a while some American voices appeared in the distance. Rohan had mentioned about some funny American women he had met and it was them who were looking for him, so he could show them the very same thing. This is when the day turned into a combination of laughter, full on sarcasm and bouncing off each other. There was also a woman from the UK who had a fantastic dry humour. It was one of those spontaneous moments that for just hit the spot. In a continuing theme one of the American woman, had given Rohan the nickname ‘Balls’ which related to a previous experience related to strawberries! After some mud drying and rinsing in the stream it was decided it was cocktail hour and to the beach we proceeded. The hilarity continued over drinks and lots of great discussions. I left as the party was really starting in anticipation of an early start in the morning but it was all good because I had a great time and the walk back to the trailer park taking in the roar of the night time sea and watching the rest of Arambol just getting started.

Today the third course has started and there’s certainly a few more people. It’s a nice feeling having a good basis of understanding to be able to crack on with postures whilst there is an explanation for new students. It means I’m relying on my own instinct and learning rather than relying on the teachers demonstration, which helps to build more confidence and a solid foundation for when I’m solo.

Another pranic healing massage, which wasn’t as painful as the last one. I like the combination of localised work and also when my body is stretched into stretches I can’t yet achieve on my own. A nice reminder that maybe one day I will…or not.. Either way is ok (that’s what I tell myself).

On for some lunch at my favourite spot Lamuella for a gorgeous salad. It’s a busy spot so more often then not you share a table. Today I met Francois from Canadian who has organised his own Satsung. When he came Arambol he wanted to find a Satsung to attend but he couldn’t find one so he started his own. How great is that? Total problem solving and making the most of what could have been a opportunity to be annoyed or disappointed. That’s on Sunday night and because I enjoyed the conversation I’ll give it a go. All part of the squeezing the last little drop out of India.. There’s a loose plan to paragliding this afternoon (Mum It’s ok there’s a pilot). I’ve seen many people doing this and it looks gorgeous, only a short journey but enough to get a taste of freedom in the sky. If not I might go for another mud bath… It certainly made my face feel very soft, ten years younger you say?

Settling into Arambol

I’ve been here over a week already and slowly I am getting to know what’s what in Arambol. I’ve barely scratched the surface I’m sure but I at least feel like I’m getting settled. Do I love Arambol? No.. But I do recognise you take what you need from somewhere like this and leave the rest. It’s easy to find fault but it’s more rewarding to find the good. It’s a very busy place and the volume of motorbikes and scooters is by far the biggest hazard, given the roads are only very small. So you have to have your wits about you! Moped dodging yoga – it’s a way if life.. The place itself offers an easy way of life with more yoga and various activities than anywhere I’ve experienced. I have also discovered an amazing restaurant that does incredible salads.. My oh my… There are also so many places to get juices, one place here has such an extensive menu that it includes radish juice??!

Being in Arambol also gives me a solid base for my remaining time so I can focus on utilising the last couple of weeks studying and practising. I can settle into a simple routine, which makes this much more realistic. Vallee and I have started a daily practice together, which has proved inspiring and given us both a bit of spark. We were falling into the “we’ll do it tomorrow” trap, which of course never comes. So we made a resolve to get on with it and just do. Today we had a lovely session just playing really. We were lucky to be able to use Vallee’s teachers Shala a short distance away that has a few props, including handing ropes, so for the first 15mins or so we hung upside down! That then evolved into shavasana and then an impromptu meditation. Then on to some play… A couple of my ‘fear’ inducing poses. The crow and headstand.. Vallee had some valuable learning to pass on and it really helped. There was a significant difference, the relaxed atmosphere and new blood and energy surging around my body from the invigorating inversion where a winning combo!

Since I’ve been here I’ve met 8 people I know! Vallee of course, the silent Baba from Rishikesh, two Aussie girls from the ashram in Gokarna, three people from my Vipassana course (including the couple I also met in Fort Kochi!) and then a couple of days  ago I met an Italian woman called Parvati from Sivananda. It’s kind of weird seeing everyone out of context to how I met them but nice to catch up with them all.

The first course at the Himalayan Iyengar Centre went really well and totally broke down the asanas that we learnt, which has been insightful. It’s caused me to really consider my approach and realise how important it is to really feel what I’m doing from within. Using instructions to make minor movements or adjustments that make a dramatic effect on the alignment of your body. Tadasana being a prime example. The act of engaging different parts of how the foot is placed on the ground makes such a huge difference to the position of the rest of the body, without any other ‘local’ movement. I’ve learnt elements of this before but learning it and more extensively at this point is perfect timing.

I’ve signed up to the next course, which starts tomorrow at the earlier time of 7am, so I’ll have to forgo the early morning run but I’ll get over it!

So what else has Arambol revealed.. That sunset time on the beach definitely creates the most smiles, it’s by far my favourite time of day. All everyone’s woes seems to disappear with the setting sun and people come alive, there seems to be no end to all the different activities taking place! Some examples: acro yoga, various people meditating, groups of drummers, small groups singing and playing instruments, dancing, flying huge kites, some people kite surfing (if that’s the actual name..) There was a man on stilts walking into the sea the other day! So quite an eclectic mix…

I practiced with Vallee’s teacher Bittu for a couple of days that she has been working with. As always is great to experience a new teachers technique and knowledge.

I’ve also started some yoga therapy with Bittu, I was interested as there are still a few areas of my body, where I’m holding tensions that as I’ve learnt are common to many. My shoulders are one that continue to be a trouble spot and he described them as concrete. He works on blocked energy points called nadi’s that restrict the flow of prana (vital energy) around the body, creating tension and discomfort in certain places. It sounds a bit out there granted but the work he does, combining applying pressure on specific points around the body and contorting you into various shapes certainly feels invigorating afterwards. I couldn’t sleep after the first session because there was so much energy buzzing around my body!

As I approach my final couple of weeks the biggest challenge is trying to stay present and not look to my plans when I return home, a tricky balance of staying present and experiencing every last drop of India and being mindful of the next step. Although that is clearly a contradictory statement and I just need to be here. The rest will work itself out…right?

 

The Sivananda Way. Part 2

The next big event was of course New Years Eve, not one I normally celebrate in any way but this was to be different…

Again one to remember and still right there on the surreal end of the spectrum. It started with some musical entertainment which was mainly singing and it certainly got the crowds up and dancing, which created a great atmosphere and it was lovely to observe people letting lose. Another taste of the herbal coffee to awaken the senses and then down to the lake… Mysterious.. We were met by a bonfire (yet to be lit) and some banging Indian dance tunes… Not at all what I expected from an Ashram NYE celebration but this is India, the land of contrasts after all.. Some sparklers and fireworks were added into the mix, there’s something about setting off fireworks that brings out the over excited child in an Indian. This is fun of course but add in a total disregard for any safety and a small area to work within you have a toxic mix. So one had to be on the guard for any explosions nearby. It was mostly amusing but interlaced with moments of fear! There was one man in particular that was a bit unhinged or had potentially indulged in something a bit stronger than herbal coffee. At one point he was dancing whilst waving a string of fire crackers around his head! He was also partial to setting off fireworks in his hand.. I can report he finished the evening with all limbs in tact.

The bonfire was set alight and burned at pace given that it was made of coconut leaves and coconut husks. There were some hidden firecrackers within the mix which also helped make it a visual delight. After some more dancing and dodging of fireworks it was back to the main hall for some peace chanting to bring us back to a more ‘Satvic’ state. This in a lot of ways was my highlight, it felt really powerful after the energy charge of the dancing and fireworks.

To finish off the evening there was a massive cake! Everyone was very excited about this and it was demolished in minutes. A nice little sugar rush before bed!

The other main event from my time at the ashram was without a doubt a lecture and performance from a woman called Parvarthy. Baul an experience as I often find with moments in India that is very hard to put into words. She talked about Bhakti yoga (devotional yoga) through the Baul tradition, performance of songs that speak of love and devotion and ‘oneness’.

She performed with two instruments: Ektara (a simple string instrument, with a hypnotic sound) and duggie (drum). She played these both at the same time whilst singing! Impressive stuff.. He spoken voice was so delicate and soft but the power behind her singing voice came from somewhere quite different. I found it
quite overwhelming but in a very electrifying sense. This was only the afternoon lecture and performance, that in itself was a experience. I loved hearing her talking, done so from a great depth of knowledge but delivered with touches of humour. The evening we were fortunate to enjoy a performance of singing, playing the two instruments and then also dancing. A whole lot going on at once!! Her presence was certainly very intense felt like she was the ‘real deal’.

 

There are many other experience and moments to share but in a vain attempt to cut down the length of the post here is an overview of some other memorable points:

Visit to the Elephant sanctuary and watching them being bathed – an elephant loves a bit if pampering

Swims in the lake.. Ahhh the beautiful lake. The swims were a nice respite from the yoga and a nice chance to stretch in a different way.

An Ayurvedic massage from a local man with incredible energy. One of the best I’ve ever experienced and quite intense! Afterwards he took me on his motorbike to a bakery so I could buy a plum cake for someone’s birthday. Indian kindness – priceless.

Kerala is abundant in resources. Rubber trees for one. Channels are created in trunk of the tree, the rubber is collected into a pot, which is then made into sheet of rubber and then sold to manufactures to make flip flops, etc. Everywhere you travel there are mats drying on roadside.

Abundance of different bananas: red, mini, normal – who knew there were so many.

Kerala has the friendliest people ever, so many smiles!

The little escape when we were allowed out of the Ashram to the chai/coffee shop a short distance that made omelettes, for some much needed protein.

Book club!! I’ve always wanted to go to a book club and my wish was finally granted. A lovely woman Heather was the organiser and the book of choice was a collection of essays written by Swami Sivananda. They certainly produced some lively debates!

So to conclude.. It was a memorable experience staying at the ashram and I met a huge array of personalities on the way and was given the opportunity to learn and experience many parts of the traditional Kerala culture.

The next leg Vipassana….

I think I’ve fallen in love..

With Iyengar yoga!

My oh my.. What a revelation the past few days have been. There are a combination of reasons for this firstly I love that the practice gives me permission to a totally anal and that it’s complete acceptable to:

Have a mat that’s always straight (rather than wonky).

Line up the outside edge of my feet using the very straight edge of my mat.

Take time to enjoy folding a blanket (with precision).

Pack up all the equipment after class.

These are only small bonuses of course but ones that make me happy none the less, the little things… The real joy is a bit deeper and comes from some very simple set of instructions that transform a yoga practise and cause something very profound to take place, a step nearer to inner connection, which is ultimately the aim after all… So how exactly does that happen? Well Iyengar is all about the detail and instruction, which create an enquiry and in turn a connection with the body. Becoming the observer rather thinking a myriad of things such as:

“What shall I have for dinner?”

“Why are we doing this again, I hate this posture!”

“Oh my god how long do I have to stay in this posture??!” With a scrunched up face as though being tortured (this I have been guilty of so many times!)

I have also felt totally engaged during the practice which is nothing short of a miracle given my short attention span. This I believe comes from quieting the mind as it’s too busy observing the difference an adjustment makes and being totally captivated by it.

This morning I practised with Hari (my usual teacher) and I had the chance to incorporate the things I’d learnt during the Iyengar classes. Then this afternoon another Iyengar class to make the most of it whilst I’m  here. This coupled with some Christmas card making in the sand and some beautiful sun rise and sun set walks on the beach has created a pretty special day which I’m very grateful for.

Last few days in Gokarna….

I’ve wondered into Gokarna in between classes of the weekend Iyengar yoga workshop! Lena’s eagle spotted a poster in a one of the beach cafe’s yesterday and fits perfectly with my desire to explore Iyengar style further and use my time productively over the last few days I have left in Gokarna.

Back to the workshop later… first an update on general goings on. I had hoped to get some photos on here but I’m not going to have time but will aim to get some on before I leave here. My ramblings might need at least a little bit of a break with some lovely visuals for you.

So what to share…. Always a challenge to articulate my experiences and am going to make more of an effort to note down the beautiful little moments that punctuate my trip. My travel buddy for the last week Lena departed this morning, I’m not embarrassed to say I was a little but teary! It’s been such an easy week in terms of sharing time, space and lots of interesting subjects. Precious to share such a ease, especially when you don’t know someone very well.

So the days have been mostly:

Sticking to the early rising of 0600 for chanting

Ayurvedic massage

Yoga

Brunch

Afternoon adventures of either Gokarna, a walk or enjoying the beach

Sunset on the beach with a cheeky chilled beer

A little wonder to soak up the beach atmosphere that the sunset creates – drumming, dancing, fires, music making…

Dinner

Early to bed (rock and roll)

 

The daily massage has been a big luxury and certainly a treat, which has been just gorgeous. divine oils and then a the application of a heated back infused with an array of gorgeous herbs. I was a little bit sad that today did not consist of a massage but I’ll just have to get over that one!

Other highlights have included a walk along the coast to some smaller beaches called Paradise and Half Moon. We had intended to kayak from Om beach but sadly someone pipped us to the post – not to be. The walk was none the less gorgeous and fulfilling, when we arrived at Paradise all there was were a handful of people, who were camping under the stars and a man selling coconuts and water. So what to do but refresh with one of my favourite things, hen a dip in the sea to cool down – bliss…

As luck would have it there was a man with a boat so after some negotiating on the price (Lena rather than me I hasten to add) we secured a trip back to Om. It was only a brief trip but was certainly one of those ‘simple pleasure’ moments. No Dolphin sightings sadly but I was happy to drink in the sensation of speeding along the expanse of the Pacific ocean for a short time.

Last night was another evening of chanting and Kirtan, which didn’t fail to uplift. I managed to get hold of the drum again. A few moments lacking rhythm (when I started thinking!!!) but mostly felt pretty good! I’m tempted to buy myself one.. we’ll see….

I nearly forgot to mention that I went to see an Astrologer! Swamiji at the Ashram had talked about it and I was intrigued. It was a great experience and as long as you don’t take these things too seriously, it can be eyes opening. I was slightly unnerved by the revelation that I will have two children. Christ. Hoped to avoid that one!!! Time will tell of course… It’s all looking good career wise from March, so I might not be living on the streets on my return after all! There were other parts of course but those are the ones which come to mind. Oooh that and the personal mantra I was given, love that.. My deity is Hanuman the monkey god, which is ironic given the monkey mind.

So now I must head back to Kudle beach for the next class of my Iyengar workshop, I’m loving the precision and technical elements of the practice, really helping me to make a bit more sense of it all. I also realise now the Iyengar influences of my teacher Rosemary back in the UK.

Might have to stop for some coconut refreshment on the way back… until next time….

 

Teaching a go go!

I’m slowly approaching the first week in Shakar Prasad and what a week it has been. The list of things I’ve learnt not only practically but also about myself continues to grow at a head spinning rate. A few ones to highlight..

How getting the local bus is an experience that warms your heart because at least four people help you find the right stop

Making chapatis – This is one of my favourites without a doubt.. I’ve only learnt how to cook them, but man you have to move fast applying a chapati to a naked flame!

Living with an ever changing number of people, this is an interesting one because people arrive at varies points and it is always exciting a welcome but it constantly changes the dynamics, which is a real challenge but keeps you on your toes.

Yoga Nidra (psychic sleep meditation) this the practise we’ve been doing in the afternoon, interesting….

Meditation is a personal thing and needs to be adapted to the individual, it’s not a one size fits all but an adaptation of a certain practise can be the key (this opinion well may change!)

Chanting – bloody love it..

How to fill an urn from a well, not as easy as you first think but strangely satisfying

Burning toilet paper is actually a fun job – making fire, what’s not to love?

I can turn around a negative mood pattern – work in progress of course but I am able to observe a pattern and rather than let it take hold and in turn I’m more able to change it.

What a tulsi plant looks like.

There are more but that gives you a flavour at least. Surfice to say it’s been an interesting week. yesterday we went into Gokarna town and enjoyed a gorgeous sunset, along with a visit to my favourite local restaurant Prema, my drink of choice? A papaya, lemon, mint & ginger juice – delicious. I also had a sudden realisation after knowing three local people in town, how easily you can become established in a place.

To top of the learning Swamiji has gone out of town for a few days so I have the honour of leading the morning and evening chanting sessions, can you believe it??! There are some chants I know very well now but some which I’ve not yet quite grasped, that Sanskrit is a tricky customer sometimes… I absolutely love them though, it’s so liberating just singing and chanting. So much so I have become one of those people that sing out loud when I have my headphones in..

Also I have been given the chance to teach the early morning yoga class (after chanting), which is for the locals and anyone staying at the ashram who would like to attend. I have spent the last couple of days convincing myself not to freak out and low and behold it feels ok(ish). The class is a very basic one, only really covering the sun salutation and some other simple postures. It’s an incredible opportunity and one that seems total surreal. The British woman teaching Indians yoga. There’s a joke there somewhere…. Would I have ever imagined that would be part of my journey? Not a chance.

If that wasn’t enough I also got to lead the Yoga Nidra session this afternoon again very useful for my development and one I can only learn from and something I really enjoyed. Just have to learn to speak slower…

Later on three of us went to practice which was a fantastic session, sharing and learning from each other, the headstand coming ever nearer!

Ashram life

24th November

I arrived at destination Shankar Prasad 4days ago and after the initial adjustment to relocating, a pattern I have now become familiar with, which is actually really helpful because I now know understand that I just accept and that it is a temporary adjustment, I was talking with Swamiji about this and how I felt settled and she used a very apt phrase ‘your soul has landed’ I thought that was a perfect description.

I now feel very comfortable and at home and am loving the environment. It’s a perfect way of life for my in so many respects. The day starts with chanting at 0600, yoga class for an hour, breakfast, a bit of cleaning in the morning, then karma yoga in the form of selfless service. In my case this is outside work. Total heaven! It brings back fond memories of working in Hereford. Although a coconut grove and cocoa trees didn’t feature there as they do here. I was plugged into an audiobook – Eckart Tolle ‘The Power of Now’ and reminded of the importance of being conscious of the now, rather than looking back or projecting back. Being fully present in each moment creates a powerful and deeper experience without the interruption of the monkey mind. Still manages to make its presence known of course but certainly gave me some food for thought. Lunch and then a Yoga Nidra session which today was incredible… It’s described as psychic yoga sleep and is likened to the state you experience as you freshly awake or just before you sleep. A kind of in between state if you will…

Other highlights to share from the last few days.. The havan
on Saturday, which is a fire ritual involving offerings (poojaa) to the fire. There’s lots of chanting involved, including a Japa which is the repeated chanting of a mantra in this case the auspicious amount of 108 times.

I’ve also had the chance to have a few brief discussions with Swamiji which have been insightful and interesting to say the least. It’s great to see the vision of someone, who is working as part if the community. The village the ashram is based is unspoilt by an sign of tourism, so you get a much deeper experience and connection and often more genuine interactions because you aren’t seen as a cash machine, just a person with a story to share and an ear to listen with.

I love the house itself a characterful place, where I would be happy to call home. The community living makes total sense (yes coming from the person that lives on her own..) and causes you to draw your resources together and work with a common goal. Ok this naturally causes occasional irritation but that in itself then needs a quick reality check.

Tonight we had the honour of going to another ceremony this time of a local family which perform this particular celebration only once a year. It was run be an elderly man who was so sweet to observe. We were with him whilst he set up in a little road side temple. Again such attention to detail bowls me over. So all in all a rich experience and one that is a great introduction to the ashram way of life. I go on to the Sivananda ashram in Kerala for the Christmas/new year period. At the moment it’s almost an intro to ashram life and then the hardcore version will be my next step.

With the wake up bell in mind (she says not being in the moment) I best get some sleep…..

Last night on Om beach

21 November 2014

The last chai making session began what was a beautiful evening on Om beach with my new friends. We had the whole process down to a fine art. I bought an assortment of the most incredible spices and herbs from a local shop in Gokarna. Watching him add all manor  of spices I’ve never seen let alone heard of. There were some familiar ones such as cinnamon, nutmeg, star anise, cardamom. All of these incredible flavours fused with some fresh ginger made the best tea I’ve ever had.

I think the whole process of making the fire (which we took in turn) and seeing it brew and infuse only went to enhance the flavours. It really ties in with the Ayurvedic way of love and care going into the preparation of any food you eat. Andy created a beautiful space with candles and made a genius speaker out of a bucket so we had some tunes to make a soundtrack too. Coupled with some baked bananas on the fire we were in our own little jungle heaven. It was one of those shared experiences that stick with you and sharing it with a group of new friends made it a blissful one. Suffice to say the chai was beautiful and blissfully tasty…. Afterwards a brief stop off for a song performed by Andy on his guitar, a great way to remember his spirit. Last night dinner was at a venue we hadn’t tried before and was a perfect last night place. A bridge lead to a little sanctuary which was lit with bursts of colourful lights, creating a gorgeous atmosphere. The food of choice.. Some freshly caught kingfisher which was one of best meals I’ve had here, prepared to perfection.

Along with a few beers (very un-yogic!!) will chatted the night away, sharing all sorts of stories and experiences, all relaxed and free following without any trace of ego. To top the night off.. Something I did not expect to be doing in India.. A few rounds of pool! Girls versus boys, as you’d imagine this is where the playful ego’s returned.. We won one game but sadly by default, it’s the taking part that counts right??! A slow wonder back home, wondering on the beach and taking in the starry sky.

Destination Gokarna

As I start to write I wonder just how to articulate the journey which unfolded over the last two days. The trip began three days ago from Rishikesh and now I’ve been transported to a very different India, one I’m not familiar with. The landscape is a very different and it’s quite difficult to comprehend the transition. I have loved every minute of the three days even with a few bumps in the road, these only served to make it an even richer experience.

I’ve already covered the first leg of the journey from Rioshikesh to Delhi so I will begin at 03:30 two days ago……

We checked our flight the night before and all was seemingly ok, so we made the zombiesque journey to the airport (I think everyone is familiar with that feeling) all quiet on the roads and quite tranquil. Then out of nowhere a taxi ahead of us hit a buffalo, now we’re not talking about a small animal here, were talking a huge beast which would be very hard to miss in any respect. I only heard the impact and saw the aftermarth. It was a particularly surreal moment and as quickly as it went down it was up again and off it went. The taxi I hope was the more injured of the two.

The arrival at the airport was straight forward and to the departure board to check our flight only to be greeted with that message no one likes to see in capital red CANCELLED… we were all surprisingly calm. Off to find out more and rebook for a late flight that day (luckily 13.05). After an initial enquiry we were given the generic “operational problem” which gives little away. Later on a second enquiry a hostess informed us the that our plane had sustain a fatal blown whilst taxing at another airport from…. wait for it… a buffalo! Bad couple of days for the holy animal in India. I say it was fatal for the plane, this buffalo was not so luck as the other. The air hostess showed us photos of engine and the remains of the cow (not something I particularly wanted to see).

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-29947409

After a coffee.. off we went back to Paharganj for breakfast. First to a nearby hotel for Andy’s first chai of the day, he is a man with an impressive capacity for the stuff. I indulged in my favourite ginger and lemon…  At this hotel we meet a couple of interesting Israeli girls and enjoyed some interesting early morning exchanges. I learnt some ways to enjoy tahini and tried to persuade one of the girls that avocado lassi are to be enjoyed and not the resisted. She wasn’t convinced… Then onto the breakfast venue for some sustenance for the long journey ahead. Outside a young boy had a really nasty elbow wound that needed treating. Andy very kindly arranged with the restaurant manager to organise help when the doctors next door opened. It was a stark reminder of the extreme poverty that is still so prevalent in India. There have been huge advances here and I can see that even from my last trip in 2011 but they extremes of wealth are still very much part of modern day India. Travelling from destination to destination reveals this in a very acute form.

Then back to the airport.. a further delay but only a short one and off we go.. 2 hours down to Goa. On arrival at the airport I was very surprised to discover… no hounding, no throng of activity whatsoever in fact! This gave us an extra challenge of what to do next, given Gokarna was a further 2 hours away and it was now dark. After some enquiry we found a local bus stop and jumped on a backed local bus… Not for the faint hearted but certainly an experience, not one I would do on my own but with two guys I felt comfortable within the discomfort. The locals were not particularly happy with us and the intrusion on their valuable space was palpable. Suffice to say we didn’t last long, Andy not able to even stand upright. We got off at a small town and had a chai to regroup. There was a certain amount of hustle and bustle but no obvious transport solution. As always with India a solution soon presents itself and this time it was in the form of a young driver (not so good at remembering names sadly) and he was able to take us to a more suitable place called Margos, which is a better place in terms of connecting transport. The journeys soundtrack? Some hard house music… a complete contrast to the bus journey we had experienced only a short time ago. A collective acknowledgement of this all round. The offer of sweets and samosa also forth coming from our new friend.

After some time we realised that we need to bed down in Margos for the night, eventually we came to a hotel, but after a slight confusion we were given only one room, fine for one night but not ideal for tired bodies that needed some space to process the days activities. It was in fact fine and we all managed to get some must needed rest after a quick outing to grab a masala dosa.

The new day provided a fresh perspective and off the the train station we went. Something I was more than happy about because train journeys in India provide a fantastic combination of experience. A short wait and stop of for what has to be one of the nicest meals so far. A masala dosa which was simply delicious… We all sat and resisted the urge to order another one just to experience the wonder all over again.

A couple of hours later we arrived at a cute little station called Gokarna Road and then a taxi to Om beach. Andy I went to explore our accommodation options and after looking at a lot of beach huts we found a perfect place, which gives us rooms together and is slightly away from anyone else. All very different from Rishikesh and today I’m letting my brain catch up with my body somewhat. It’s incredible to be based on the beach and have the ocean right on my doorstep.

Now I am going to organise my new home, make a plan of what I want to do in the coming days. Mostly self practise and lots of reading, punctuated with some swimming in the sea.. that part will wait till later given the middle of the day heat!

 

 

Hello Delhi

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A brief hello from Delhi… We arrived mid afternoon after a 7hour bus journey which I really enjoyed. I remembered how much I love watching all the different scenes evolve and develop before my eyes. So many worlds within close proximity. The same pattern repeats, fruit and vegetable stalls, chai stalls (in abundance), various places to get all manor of food (mostly of the fried variety), People fixing tyres, auto rikshaws. Building and making a whole host of wares and a lot of tired bodies snoozing on any and every surface imaginable!

Now in Delhi I have discovered a fondness for the mayhem. Only had a couple of wanders around the back streets where people are being incredibly industrious, ready to make a huge array of bespoke items if you so desire.

The journey here was also a stark reminder of the contrasts of povety that is still very much a part of modern India, Rishikesh proved a very comfortable shell and it’s good to be reminded of all elements of the country I’m visiting and be mindful of that fact.

I have finally meet Andy’s friend Mark who will complete the trio for our onwards journey. Already had some very interesting conversations and am sure they’ll be more to follow. So tonight some food and attempt an earlier night in anticipation of the early start in the morning.