Saturday, January 31, 2009

Sunset chaos

Just arrived in t'is a crazy town!!! I'm just on the outskirts close to the airport as I am flying out at 9 am tomorrow and I can't even imagine the craziness in the epicentre! Left Kochi at 10:30 am after having a lovely masala dosa with a Horlicks (yum I love that drink!) and took a flight to Mumbai where I was directly put onto a flight to Delhi. I flew on Jet Airways which was a treat and a half. The staff were lovely, I got spoiled royally with fresh juices, tamarind candies (my new favorite), Himalayan water, lemon scented towels, and 2 delicious meals about an hour and a half apart!! Thinking back to Air Canada's Jazz airline or even Westjet, you don't get fed if it's under 2.5 hrs unless you buy a totally budget sandwhich from them! The food on Jet Air was yummy and the dessert was fab. Yup my sattvic diet is DEFINITELY over now LOL.
Delhi is a cool 22 degrees which was a bit of a shock to my tropically adjusted body. Kochin was 30C when I left at 10:30am!! I hear Rajastan is really chilly at the moment so I'm pretty much out of luck with my Kashmir trousers and short sleeved tops. Thank god for my Lululemon trousers and my 1 pair of leggings. Oh yes and my one hoody. Damn. I'll have to get some shopping down in Varanasi when I arrive tomorrow so that I don't freeze. Yikes.
I just spoke to Martin and he is on his way to Varanasi. There has been really bad fog in the mornings so his flight was cancelled so he's on a train from Delhi. I'm praying that my flight makes it out tomorrow morning...cross your fingers and toes (but not your eyes!!) for me.

Friday, January 30, 2009


Ahh so I am back in Cochin all alone and getting ready for my next portion of my journey. I left the ashram yesterday with a very heavy heart and cried half of the way back to Triv. I think I scared the rickshaw driver! But I made it back in one piece...barley though. He was a crazy driver and almost got me squished between a bus and oncoming traffic. He was quite a risktaker and ended up on the sidewalk to avoid the near collision. After coming out of the tranquility of Neyyar Dam I was quite on edge and extremely nervous! But I made it back to Bigs and Aggy in one piece and I was overjoyed to see them. They came back from Varkala and had a lovely and relaxing time. I ended up meeting up with Migs and Sarah and had a lovely visit with them. It was so good to see Migs and meet Sarah...we have many friends in common! Migs, Sarah, and I went to the Indian Coffe House where we as there was no masala chai in sight. I never drink coffee and had just come out of the ashram where I followed a pretty strict sattvic diet (no stimulants like caffeine, garlic, spices, onions etc) so I was completely spun out from the coffee and ended up feeling really in the heat. It is as hot as hell here and normally Iwouldn't mind excpet its just so muggy and sticky. Migs and Sarah have AC in their room so we chilled there for a while which was wonderful.. We met up with Bigs and a glowing Aggy for dinner and had fantastic food (goodbye again sattvic diet...) and decided to catch the 9:30pm showing of "SLUMDOG MILLIANIER" (hee hee this was how it was spelled on the billboard). What a good movie. It brought back many memories for me and Bigs!! The audience was extremely interactive...clapping, cheering, oohing and ahhhing. It was like being at the Rocky Horror Picture Show but better. The only thing was that there were no subtitles so we missed out on a good portion of the dialouge...but only really minded when everyone was laughing except us!!
Bigs, Aggy, and I went to the Indian Coffee House for brekkie and I ran into 2 women whom I shared the dorm with at the ashram! It was so lovely to see them and I felt again a bit emotional. I left Bigs and Aggy and caught the train from Triv to Cochin where I am now. It's still smoking hot at 10:30 pm. I"m flying to Delhi tomorrow and will spend the night there before heading up to Benares on Sunday. I spoke to Martin a few hours ago and he is flying there tomorrow so I'll definitely meet him there. I'm relieved and excited to have a few laughs. I hear that the north is quite cold....and I'm sure i will really miss the heated south when I'm up there. Especially when I am having a freeeezing cold shower. Brrr. I have really enjoyed my time here in the south and when you have such amazing travelling partners like Bigs and Aggy it makes for wonderful memories. xxoxoxoxox

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Om Namo Narayana

On my final day here at the Sivanada Yoga Ashram and I am feeling very sad!! I've had such an amazing time here and have developed some good friendships as well. I would love to stay on for another week or so, but I'm flying to Varanasi on Sunday so I gotta make the trek back to Triv so that I can get to Kochi on Friday to fly out on Saturday to Mumbai, then Delhi, then finally to Varanasi. The yoga has been really good and challenging as I've moved up to the intermediate level. I've managed a headstand but it only happened once and I've got a nasty bruise on my shoulder that bears witness to my other attempts!! I like the intermediate class as it moves faster and gets into more challenging positions for longer. I'm already pretty flexible so it pushes me deeper into the poses. Its been amazing for my body and I feel taller, stronger, and happier after each class. We had a massive tropical rainstorm yesterday with thunder and lightning, so that was pretty exciting. I was listening to a lecture at the Siva hall for the Teachers Training students and ended up falling asleep...the warm breeze and the fragrant wind combined with the Swami's deep voice lulled me to sleep...wole up just in time for my asana class though.
Last night was a really special evening, we had a puja dedicated to the Divine Mother. It was a really interesting event and very endearing. We sat in rows singing our usual chants and then for about 1/2 hr we threw kumkum (the bright red powder you dot on your forehead afterwards) and flowers onto a banana leaf that held a ghee candle that represented the Divine MOther and recited the following mantra: OM SHREE PURA SHAKTIA NAMAH (or something like this...Usha maybe you can help me out!!!). It was really moving and was a bit funny too...Johanna was making me laugh a bit! Afterwards we all lined up and met the swamis who marked our foreheads with the traditional markings of worship: The three lines on the forehead representing the ash (for Siva), a dot of sandalwood paste, and on top of the sandalwood a scarlet kumkum mark. We were also given a blessed flower and then sticky rice pudding on a banana leaf for prasad. We were all very enxited and giddy afterwards, and Johanna and Kim didn't want to go to bed! I had a good sleep afterwards but awoke at 4:30am to the nearby temple playing its annoying chanting cd over the loud speaker. I was awake by the time our bell went at 5:20am and actually made it on time for satsang, unlike yesterday when my entire dorm slept in till the final bell at 5:50 and had to creep in for the meditation! I'm gonna be meeting up with Biggie and Aggy tomorrow in Triv as well as Migs and his wife so that will be great to see them all. Then off to my bigger adventures!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

"Why do we do this?" "Because we are yogis!!"

The above Q & A came from our KRIYA (yogic cleansing) class yesterday when the teacher demonstrated putting a thin rubber catheter up one nostril, down her sinus cavity, and out through her mouth. She then pulled it back and forth while the rest of us groaned and squealed!! I had no problem with the netty pot though as I have used it before and own a pot at home. But many other students have never used it before so there were loads of giggles and pictures being taken of the teapot up in the nostril!
Welcome to Sivanada Yoga Ashram!
So I am on my 4th day here and I am loving it. It is really challenging and we are kept extremely busy the whole time we are awake (5:20 am - 10:30 pm) but strangely I am not tired. It takes me a few minutes to get going in the when the gong goes off but once I get into the main hall (Siva Hall) with all of the other people and the sky is still dark I feel totally energized. The day is set up like this:
5:20 am: Wake up bell
6-7:30 am: Satsang (meditation, chanting, lecture)
7:30am: TEA TIME!!! (most awaited moment of the day!!)
8 - 10 am: Yoga Class
10am: Brunch
11am: Karma Yoga (Picked up leaves from the lawn toilets!!)
12:30pm: Coaching class (optional...but really necessary if you have any questions or need assitance with asanas)
1:30: Tea time with fruit
2pm: Lecture
3:30 - 5:30pm: Yoga
6pm: Dinner
8pm: Satsang

I'm def. feeling all the activity and the yoga is quite intense. 4+ hours a day really works the body, and as much as I am feeling sore I am also getting stronger. The Ashram is a very interesting place, and is full of international men and women. There is a group from Iran of Muslin (fully in hijab!!) women who don't speak any English, loads of Indians, Japanese and Chinese studenst, a bunch of Christians from Europe and all the other usuals: Ozzies, Israelies, and other Westerners. There is a Teachers Training course happening right now, and man they are getting WORKED! They did a series of 108 Sun Salutations yesterday...we just did 6 and I was sweating! The first night I arrived I felt very strange and a bit lonely. I walked in to the dining hall to the Swami singing Hare Krishna and everyone sitting on the floor clapping their hands with MUCHO GUSTO and tried desperately not to think of my father's parting words to me: " Don't join a crazy cult in the ashram!!". LOL. It's not like that at all, and many of the chants and bhajans we sing include Buddha, Mohammad, Allah, and Jesus. It's non-deominational for the most part, but does have Hindu overtones. The Siva hall, where we take our satsang is a huge open air hall with a massive golden OM at the end above the statues of Swami Sivanada and Swami Vishnu-Devandaaya. Candles are placed around the statues of the swamis and also on the Dancing Shiva, Ganesh, (and another one that I can't tell). The walls have a massive painting of each main deity and goddess (Siva, Ganesh, Vishnu, Durga, Laksmi, Kali etc) and I often look at them during the Kirtan as they are so beautifully painted. I'm OM-ing and OM NAMAH SIVAYA-ing more than i ever have in my whole life- everything opens with a triple OM and closes with a OM. If you want to greet someone or excuse yourself, you do it with a quick OM. It took me a while to get into it...instead of saying "Hi" its "OM". I felt a bit silly at first but now its all part of the routine.
The ashram is located in a tiny area of Trivandrum called Neyyar Dam and sits above a lake, where there are crocodiles!! Across from us is a lion sanctuary and you can always hear them roaring...especially now as they are in heat and are really randy. The Swami explained that all the roaring is them "communicating" with each other...but we all know differently!
The people here are really nice and I've become close with 2 girls, one 19 year old beauty from Holland called Suze and another wonderful lassie from Scotland called Kim. I share a dorm with Suze (and 17 other girls...) and I met Kim on her first day in the afternoon yoga class. It's been really nice spending time and getting to know them.
The food is alright...the brunch is better than the dinner and there is usually more of it. There is no sugar, garlic, or onions on site though so the food tends to taste a bit bland. We all sit on the floor in rows and eat off tiffin trays with our right hand. Food is quite plentiful though so you can get really full. We only have 2 meals a day, and I'm really not that hungry (which is a surprise to you I'm sure as you know how much I can eat!!). There is a Health Hut on site but it is open funny hours. Kim, Suze, and I have escaped today to "town" for internet, chocolate, and crisps purposes! Have a lecture this afternoon on Aryuvedic Eating so I'm really excited about that.
We had an amazing walk this morning with the Ashram...a walking silent meditation. We got up at 5 and at 5:30am headed up this mountain (treacherous at parts...eeek) to sit and meditate as the sun came up over the surrounding mountains. I mainly just sat and took in the incredible view. I felt really happy and at peace. Got some photos of the sun coming up and will post them soon. हद अ ग्रेट निघत
Last night at Satsang we had a special performance from a local Kalaripayattu martial arts troupe. It has been said that Kalaripayattu is the first martial art ever and that all other forms performed when India was under British Rule. But since the Independence of India it has made a strong comeback. The warriors train from 5 - 7 am and 5:30 - 9 pm everyday and demonstrate amazing flexibility, precision, strength, mental control, and courage. I took some video footage and hope to upload it onto Youtube so stay tuned for the link. The guys were quite fit and handsome (a nice sight for our hungry eyes!!) but dangerous. Would not want to get into a fight with one of them!!!
I'm here till the 29th then I'm going back to Trivandrum to see Bigs and Aggie and hopefully meet up with my former mental health OT Migs and his wife Sarah. They were supposed to also be at the Sivanada Ashram right now but Migs had to stay for a bit longer in the Philipines. It'll be nice to see him and meet his wife Sarah. I'm going back up to Kochin on the 30th where will fly to Delhi and then to VARANASI!! Just got an email from Martin so it looks like he will be meeting me up there which will be great!!! I'll get a goood inside look at Varanasi and also get some good laughs in as well...he is wickedly witty.
Ahh I guess thats its for now...
NAMASTE!!! xoxox

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

AShley este sola

Ahhh well it's time to part with Biggie and Aggy today and I feel a bit sad. Biggie and I have had such an amazing time and travel really well together (and she's got kickass music...) so it will be hard to say goodbye. She's hoping to come to Van in the summer after her Oz tour so I'll be able to show her around my hometown. I'm gonna be leaving at 12 to go to Neyya Dam in Trivandrum for a weeklong yoga intensive at the Sivanada YOga Centre...and I'm a bit nervous. I'm in a dorm room (with 31 other people...) and I hope I'll meet some nice and unpretentious people there. My adventure is only just beginning now...yay! I'm trying to convince Sundara to get her butt over here and travel with me but she's not taking my lead!! LOL
We arrived in heatsoaked Trivandrum yesterday after a lovely but winding bus ride and then a 3 hr hot train ride. We were sad to leave Kumili and the coolness of the hills but the bus ride was so much fun! We even saw an elephant!! Arrivingi n Triv was like opening an oven door in the and sticky. It took us a while to adjust as the hills were so refreshing. Wandered around Triv to the market and then to the 260 yr old Sri Padmanabhaswamy (what a mouthful) temple. It was beautiful from the outside (and from what we could see of the inside) but we couldn't go in as we are not Hindu. But the Sadhu at the gate let us poke our heads in. We also got accosted by a group of elderly men who wanted our pictures taken with them...we said no at first but then relented..they were just so cute! We really don't understand all this business of people taking our picture. I guess we are really an oddity here. Haven't seen that many travellers here. Had a delicious fish curry dinner last nght...coconut creamy and sweet but hot. I love the food here. Seriously. I got flashed yesterday (intentionally?...I think so) by a middle aged man "fixing" his lungi. I was really shocked and surprized as it was mid day on the busy street!! Didn't know what to do so I just looked away and pulled Aggy and Biggie along with me. Ewww. Hope that's the last time that happens...although Lee was telling us of some stories about the north. *sigh*
Keep those emails coming...I loved opening up my mailbox today to see all 52 of them LOL!!!
I'll do my best to update when I'm not getting up at 5:20 am to meditate or when I'm not in my 5 hrs of yoga class. Or cleaning toilets..part of my sevi service!! Love to you all...namaskar.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Just saw the most amazing dance perfomance by a local performance company - Mudra Kathikali Centre. Kathikali stands for KATHI - heaven and Kali- dance. The peformers are all male and play both male and female roles. They did a demo before the dance performance where one peformer (set to drums and a man playing a large set of finger cymbals) showed us the facial and torso movements, the hand mudras (and the meanings behind each one) and symbolic dances. The performer was amazing- the first demo was on the eyes. The performer did circles, horizontal and vertical slides all set to the beat of the drum. He would catch accents, speed up and slow down, then go into double time. We felt quit dizzy waching him! Then he went onto to show the facial expressions: with just a wiggle of an eyebrow and a movement of the mouth he demostrated grief, happiness, anger, courage, peace, disgust, and fear. It was incredible how fast he could change expressions and change the mood in the room. then he went down into the torso and did some shoulde shimmies, circles, and then into the dance. The muscular control was amazing, and I sat on the edge of my seat for the whole demo. when the performance started I was enthralled from the getgo and sat with my mouth open in amazement. As a dancer myself I have such admiration for all the hadwork, control, and precision that I witnessed here. The performance took us to another land, and when it was over I was shaken out of a dreamlike state. We hung around afterwards to chat with the performes, and I tried to convince them to come to Canada and do a tour...they wouldn't sweat so much in our climate! If you have a chance to YOUTUBE Kathikali do so, I'm not sure if it's even on the but have a look and see. Amazing!! xoxox

Cardamon scented days...jasmine filled nights

Kumili is a beautiful little jungle town!!! I haven't got around to much intention in coming here was to go to the Periyyad Wildlife Sanctuary and check out some of the wild elephants and such but it is really expensive to get in and to be honest the packages that are constantly being pushed at us look really tacky.
One of the packages we could buy:
Jungle Patrol: Only recommended for physically/mentally strong persons develops/sharpens their power of observation to sense the unseen animals and birds during dark nights. So exactly what am I gonna see?? LOL

So we have been wandering the town of spices and sampling more local Keralan the food gets better and better! Its pretty hot here although the morning was overcast and cool...quite refreshing after the oppressive mugginess of Cochin. Had an interesting bed fellow last night...a little lizard! I felt something scuttling around the sheets last night but was too tired to look and prayed that it wasn't a super spider like the one from the night before. When i drew back my sheets this morning, a little gecko popped out...he was sooo cute! We are going to see a Kathakali dance performance this afternoon and then Biggie and Aggy will cook a Keralan meal for me tonight...yum yum yum!
The air here is thick with spices and the nights are scented with jasmine. Its such an olfactory explosion!
Tons and tons of HOLY cows here...quite sad really as there are no bins for rubbish and the cows graze in plastic fields. Makes me sad.
Going to Trivandrum tomorrow with Bigs and Aggy...will have our last day and night together before I head off to S T R E T C H my body and my mind. It will be such a sad parting, Biggie and I have had so much fun together! :(

Other than that, I am on the mend and am feeling good. Also had another HOT shower this morning to set me right. Makes me appreciate so much about my life back at home. This trip has really opened my eyes to many things that I take for granted.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Emerald hills...Kerala

Just arrived in Kumili from Munnar. We (Bigs, Aggy and I) did a 2 day tour from Cochi to Munnar that took us by car to an elephant sanctuary (really sad :( ), then up through the rolling jungle hills to Munnar which is a gorgeous valley full of tea plantations. We met a lovely English couple (Lee and Mike) that were on the tour with us and they kept us thoroughly entertained their travel stories, of which they had many!! The guest house we stayed in was on a side of a mountain overlooking a massive valley. It was absolutely breathtaking and we felt very fortunate to have been able to be there. After tucking into a delicious Keralan thali (this food here is the BEST!!) we went up to the town which was this electric hub of activity. Kerala has a very interesting history...aside from it being a Catholic state it was also communist and has a 99% literacy rate. The area is quite rich and we have seen almost no poverty, as compared to everywhere else. When we arrived in Munnar, there was a Communist rally happening next to the massive church. Everyone was getting very excited and wound up! We went up to the KDHC tea plantation to see how tea is made and cultivated. very interesting and we had a lovely cuppa afterwards. Yummm. I'm getting quite addicted to the chai here..more so now than ever before! After the museum we spent some time wandering in Munnar and I went to a Hindu temple overlooking the town to pay my respects. I'm feeling a temple hungry as I haven't actually seen too many here (loads and loads of massive churches) so whenever I see one I tend to visit asap. Caught a really remarkable sunset coming down from Munnar (the roads here are FREAKY!! Twisty turny single lane roads that a bus, car, and tuktuk all take at once. We actually saw a car that went off the road onto the edge of a they were saying their Hail Mary's as fast as they could...they were super lucky to get out alive!) and went back home to another gorgeous meal. Stayed up talking for quite a while with Lee and Mike, and Lee came to my rescue when I discovered a very UNWELCOME guest in my treehouse...the biggest spider I have ever seen. Lee bravely took the spider outside and set it free (after I trapped it under a bucket...and screamed while soing so as I could feel it scuttling around the inside...eeeewww).
I had a fairly rough sleep though as the dogs in the hills were howling all night, and then at 4:30am the mosque at the bottom of the valley started the call to prayer followed by a Hindu temple chanting for ages. But when I finally did get out of bed, I had a HOT WATER SHOWER (fisrt one since I left home!) which was blissful. I felt totally human and pranced into the dining room for breakfast! After breakfast we went up to see a waterfall and then to a dam where we all dove onto homemade chocolates and marshmallows. Our driver then took us to this beautiful lake (reminded me so much of home) where an Indian family took pics of me (??!) with thier kids. I've been having my picture taken quite a bit here, I guess I'm as much as a novelty to the peole here as they are to me. It's funny though as I'll get in with whole families! We then went up to this incredible viewpoint where we could see into the next next state - Tamil Nadu. It was breath taking, and I am so glad that I took this tour as I would have missed out on some of the best scenery I have ever laid my eyes upon. After having yet again another gorgeous thali, Aggy, Sarah, and I headed off in a taxi to Kumili where we will stay for 2 nights before I split up with them and head to Neyyar Dam for the Sivanada Yoga Ashram. The trip here was really lovely along very windy, and we almost got annilated a few times by buses whipping around th ecorner. The driver thought it was quite funny when we all squealed and gripped each other...but I didn't think it was that funny! We landed at a gorgeous guesthouse where we watched a massive colony of fruit bats (HUGE animals..big as birds!!) leave the Periyyar Wildlife Sanctuary and head for the farms to start their evening meal. It was a really cool sigh to behold.
We're off to see elephants and stuff tomorrow at the Sanctuary...and may engage in a Keralan cooking class tomorrow night. Getting quite sad to leave Biggie on Wednesday- we've had so much fun travelling together! But she's on another mission to Varkala with Aggy so that will be relaxing for her before she heads into the jungles of Borneo to work with the oranguatans. Gonna go grab some food no wthat the power is back on (the state turns power off for 1/2 hr every night to conserve electricty!) Miss you at home....pls send me updates! xoxox

Friday, January 16, 2009

ahhh Kochi

Had a most amazing day today!!! Bigs and I arranged a backwaters tour through our hotel- Maple Regency (which rocks by the way...) so we jaunted off to the boat jetty at 8am. As we were waiting met this really sweet German girl called Antonia who was also going on the tour. We got onto a houseboat by 10 and we were off...the weather was super hot, the sky a blistering shade of blue, and the islands lush and colured emerald green. The tour was so serene, just meandering around the narrow rivers and checking out the small islands and its inhabitants. Listened to the repetitive chanting of aa Hindu temple beckoning people to come worship, watched fishermen reel in their nets, long skinny canoes punting their way down the river, the odd silver finned back of a flying fish break the stillness. Everyone on the boat lapsed into a collective appreciative silence as we sipped our masala chai and watched the scenery unfold. GOt off the boat on one island and had a tour around an Aryuvedic garden, learned how calcium carbonate (for medicinal purposes) was made here, watched a toddy man shimmy up a tree and collect foamy sap from severed coconut flowers- which we then later drank (before it becam alcoholic...although after 6 hours from collection it becomes alcohol...quite curious to go home and see if mine fermented!!). Ate a goreous feast of steamed clams wrapped in banana leaves and cooked with cumin, coriander, ginger, garlic, and curry. We then boarded the boat again and slowly made it make to our starting off point where we enjoyed an amazing Kerala thali- rice with squash, potato, eggplant, carrot, onion subji; ginger raita; tomato cooked with fresh black pepper and onions; cabbage with grated fresh coconut; carrot salad with fresh coconut; sliced green beans again with coconut, fresh papad and to top it off a delicious rice dessert topped with fresh cashews. Everyone on the boat wolfed their meal down with sigh of deep appreciation...definitely one of the best meals I've had in India. After lunch we got into small Indian canoes and were punted down the narrow crevices off the riverways. We sailed past naked children playing in the mud, women doing their washing and making coconut thread, men chilling in the sun, and many kingfisher birds singing overhead to us. It was very dreamy and...HOT as hell. Luckily it was mostly in the shade so that was a major relief. Stopped off at a field and had fresh coconut water and meat. Yummmm. Biggie and I went for a lovely pedicure after we got from our 7 hr trip...our feet were disgusting and in dire need of TLC and we sure got it! My feet are literally shining and singing with every step. I can't believe that they are my feet!!
Just finished a delicious masala dosa with Antonia and her friends (who are all staying in this incredible mansion on top of one of the biggest buildings in even comes with a pool AND its' free as they are Couch Surfing it!!..we're going there tomorrow) and I am getting ready for my Aryuvedic treatment tomorrow. Biggie's friend Aggy is coming tomorrow from London so there will be 3 of us for the next few days. We are leaving Cochi on Sunday on another tour through our hotel that will take us up into Munnar which is tea land! We'll visit plantations, check out the rolling green hills, visit an elephant rehab centre, and sleep in a tree house. Should be quite the trip. Then I am off to Periyyar Wildlife Sanctuary for a few days before heading down to Trivandrum for my ashram stay...which is looking a bit tricky at this time. Amma isn't actually in Amritapuri at the moment, so that leaves a major hole in the ashram. Sivanada Yoga centre hasn't returned my I'm not sure what is happening! BUt I do have my ticket to Varanasi (yes yes yes!) for Feb 1 so at least I have that. Hope to hear from Martin soon about meeting up in Varanasi as I could really use some familiar company and he knows Benares like the back of his hand. So hopefully that will manifest.
Off to bed...will post pics later. These computers here are terrible! xoxoxox

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Cozy in Cochi

Just arrived this morning at 2 am after a BRUTUAL 12 hr train journey from Margoa, Goa. We booked this train in Goa which was the only train out of Goa for a good couple days and we were assured that this was the best train in all of India. We definitely paid for it as well so I was looking forward to having a relaxing, cockroach free journey. Well imagine my utter dismay when a rickety green, red, and white train pulled up that looked susiciously like the last train we travelled in. Well it wasn' was much worse! The train had just pulled in from Delhi...a 48 hour journey and the train was in an absolute tip with empty food trays everywhere, empty water bottles, general garbage and dirty kleenex. Sarah bravely started cleaning (all I could think of was the cockroach party I was going to be in the middle of) and we stashed our bags on our beds which were the top bunks. 2 horrible Danish ladies got on and stored their luggage on our beds, replying unsympathetically to our protests. I got really mad (and those of you who know me know that it takes alot to anger me) so I moved into the next compartment with 2 sweet Norweigan girls. Sarah moved her stuff over (as did 2 other people from our compartment...the women were foul) and we actually had a pleasamt time with the two lassies. Managed to sleep a bit and only saw 2 cockroaches (one of which Biggie killed for hero!). WE landed outside of Kochi at 2 am and were very disorientated and a biton the grouchy side. GOt into a rickshaw and sketchily made our way to the hotel we booked hours before. Our richshaw driver got lost and ended up asking 2 passing policemen for assistance. I was quite sure that this was gonna cost us either loads of money or our lives (so dramatic at 3
am!!) but we made it safe and sound to our clean hotel. Caught the jetty into Fort Cochin and spent the day wandering around eating fresh fruit, ice cream and watching the fishermen work the ancient and massive chinese fishing nets. Very very hot and muggy and no plac eto swim! Going on a backwater cruise tomorrow and I'm gonna get an aryuvedic massage and steam on Saturday...hope to clear this lasting cough outta me! xoxox

Monday, January 12, 2009

Biggie and I are stuck in Arambol for one more day as we can't get a train out of here and the buses seems very scary so we'ew just gonna chill today. Both of us are sick as dogs...I've got this Arambol flu that is pretty lethal and started getting sick last night although I don't feel as nauseous today. Biggie's got an upset tummy so we are quite the pair! Had a super mellow dinner at Fellini's with the crew last night...was really sad as it was our last night all together. It was so hard to say goodbye...Fiz, Alex, Martin, and Jo are off today to Kallour to see the Goddess of the Jungle (shrine in the foothills of the Western Ghats). Dave is gonna stay put as he is flying back to Londontown on Friday so we'll likely see him today. I'm hoping to meet up with Martin in Varanasi in 2 weeks which would be amazing.  Martin lived in Varanasi  for so long and definitely knows his way around so he would be able to educate me as well as show me the town in all its splendor. Bigs and I are feeling rather low today mentally and physically and glad that we are leaving tomorrow...this town ain't the same without our group! We're headed off to Kochi tomorrow on an overnight train and will arrive Thursday morn at 2 am which should be quite sketchy. Gotta line up a place to stay today. The weather has hit the high 30's so it's cooking in this town. Not gonna swim today tho as I need to avoid the sun. Gonna eat loads of pineapple and papaya (thanks Sondra!!) to get my tummy back on track. xoxox

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Last day in Arambol

Biggie and I are on our last day in this blissful sad really. This has been an amazing place to be and hanging with our new crew has been most delightful. I have never laughed so much! Spent a beautiful day yesterday at a beach about 1 hr walk from Arambol for Dave's 32 birthday. Ate loads of food, slpet in the sun, drank loads of chai and saw the most incredible sunset...bIg fiery ball disappearing inthe sea. Amazing. We had a splendid dinner on the beach and watched the blood red full moon rise which was accompanied by frenzied singing and chanting from the nearby temple celebrating the full moon. Fiz had some fireworks which we set off and almost got maimed in the process. It was a beautiful evening, one of many here in Aramabol and I am truly sad that this is our last day here. Biggie and I are trying to figure out what to do many options. Ah well...another day in paradise!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Arambol, GOA...con't

Just arrived in Arambol last night from Mumbai on a 12 hr train journey that showed us some of the most incredible sights of the Indian countryside. Women in scarlet and emerald carrying gleaming jugs on their heads, children scratching out a game of cricket among a mound of rubbish, long stretches of rice fields, burned red dusty patches....truly amazing. I spent a good amount of time just standing by the door watching and letting it all soak in.
Visited Elephanta Isle on Tuesday which was really amazing. Checked out the caves of Shiva and watched the antics of the wild and impish monkeys as they stole food from people and basically ran amok everywhere. It was really fun and we had a lovely time. What wasn't so lovely though was that we found out that we had been duped by Sandy our vicious lipped "aide" in Mumbai. Ahhh well it was a good lesson learned and this will only prepare me for the rest of my journey.
Arambol is really interesting little spot- really smoky and dusty full of hippies and Goan locals. I had a lovely salad at one of the restaurants here and just finished a gorgeous beetroot and carrot juice with a kick ass fruit salad full of papaya, mango, coconut shivers, chickoo, and pearly grapes. My tummy is feeling a bit off though so I must take a bit of care today.
We ran into some of Biggie's friends from London last night so we are going to spent the next few days with them. They are really nice and funny guys so I am sure they will keep us entertained with their London attitudes and dry sense of humour. One of the guy's (Joseph) mom (Fiz)has a house here just outside of Arambol so we are going to hang there for a while and see if we can see the dolphins. I went for a run on the empty beach this morning and came across a wild boar forgaging in the bushes. That got me up and running pretty fast!!
Loving the chill vibe and the chance to decompress from the madness of Mumbai. We were quite desperate last night as we did not have a booked room and every place was full but we managed to find a place for a whooping Rs. 800 (about $20.00) that provided us with a bed that was literally a wooden plank with a sheet on top (I did a vicious round of situps on it in the morning bonus) and a dirty little bathroom with no mirror. The upside was that it had a balcony so that was grand. We managed to get a new spot AVE MARIA in the morning right up the lane which is amazing and cheap.
The guys are hilarious and I have been laughing my butt off so much...I don't think that I have laughed this much in ages. They are quite a talented, and intellectual group- Jo is an actor, Alex is a model, Martin was in fashion but is now an architect who is currently building a 6 bedroom home just outside Granada in Spain (he spent years in Varanasi and also speaks Hindi fluently...I hope to hook up with him in Varanasi when I'm there), and Dave is a London dj who is also a Eng Lit student. These guys have been super refreshing to hang with and its been loads and loads of fun. Fiz is also most hilarious and wonderful, and makes the most gorgeous masala chai and porridge. The days are spent on the most incredible beach hanging out, swimming in wild waves, drinking loads of fresh lime sodas and watching the boys take the piss out of each other. Quite blissful and I actually think that I am able to relax!! Not sure when we are going to I was previously warned its a hard place to leave and I am now tending to agree. Its a super healthy place...physically, spiritually, and mentally and with 30+ degree weather, a good crew of people, wonderful healthy food and loads of exercise...I may get trapped!!!
Hope you are all well....lots of love xoxoxox

Monday, January 5, 2009

Organized Chaos

Day 2...

Had such a busy whirlwind of a day here in Mumbai...we met this woman yesterday (Sandy) at the train station (Victoria Terimus station) who works for the Indian Tourist Commission who said that she would give us a tour of the best sites in Mumbai. What a saucy lady she turned out to be. At first sight she seems like a sweet and demure Indian woman dressed up in a beautiful sari, but spend some time with her and she swears like a truck driver, owns a very dangerous long look and could scare any man away with her body language!! She was a BLESSING as she took such care of us all day today. We got to drive all over Mumbai in all its glory...from the poverty stricken red light district to the mansions up in the hills...we saw it all. Visited the Dobhi Ghats where all of the washing sent from launderias go...what an incredible and colourful sight. Spent some time in Gandi's memorial museum which was absolutly inspiring and humbling. Bowed to heavenly gods at a colourful Jain temple and fought off beautiful and impish gyspy children. Witnessed the most intense variations of life ever possible and chuckled at painted bulls and cows meandering around the streets. I am thankful for our taxi driver who Sandy hired for us...she referred to him as "Her fighter". I have no idea how anyone drives here...the biggest case of organized chaos if I have ever seen it. We put our lives in his hands and he delivered us safe and sound all over town. I feel a bit battered by the sounds...the drivers honk their horns here so much that it becomes a symphony. I think other drivers feel left so they then join the chorus! This city literally PULSES with life, tragedy and beauty colliding in a vicious whirlwind. Incense and sewer waste mixing together and smothering you as you pass by. So many paradoxes here that it almost becomes comical.

Went back to the leather shop today and met Mustan who was very excited to see me and receive the gift that my parents sent along for him. He will take me out for a meal tomorrow so that will be good. Off to Elephant Isle on the 9 am boat in the morning to see Shiva and laugh at the antics of the monkeys.


Sunday, January 4, 2009


So I have landed in Mumbai and wowee what a crazy wonderful city! Too bad it took me so long to get here...20+ hours on 2 flights back to back has left me with a numb bum and an insane case of jet lag spanning a 13.5 hour time difference. Just awoke from a crazy deep nap so I'm feeling quite groggy and spaced out.
But I made it! Biggie made it in this morning a bit late as she was waiting for ages at the airport for her backpack which sadly didn't make it from Helsinki. It was so good to see her and we are quite excited to be travelling in India together. I'm feeling super positive and excited about being here for the next few months although I am definitely fighting a cold or something that I picked up from some friends back at home.
Landed at 2:20 am and the air was smoky, hazy, thick and boasted a tempid 25 degrees. I was thinking of my lot back at home with all the snow...seems so far away now. Biggie and I sepnt the day getting out into Colaba (which is the area that we are staying in close to the water). Saw the remnants (and there is much left) of the bombed Taj hotel which is a sight to behold. Meandered through the throng of people at the plaza to see the underconstruction Gateway to India (and fought off many eager tourguides wanting to seperate us and our money for a quick tour of Mumbai). We had a lovely breakfast at Leopold's Cafe which is a tourist epicentre for all travellers to go and be seen (and also much talked about in the book "Shantaram"which I am aching for right now) and I visited a leather shop that my parents went to when they were here. We then wandered all over the rest of Colbaba and up to the Grand Train Station "Victoria Terminus" which is one ofthe most beautiful buildings that I have ever seen. Bought a few pairs of harem trousers with aggressive haggling and then sat to watch a massive free for all cricket game that showcased at least 12 different games. Back to our hotel area were we discovered this amazing food stall selling incredible roti with veg ingredients (sooo good...I swear that I am going to eat my way over the whole menu) and I had an amazingly refreshing drink made from sugar cane juie, lime, and mint leaves. I'm sooo hooked. Tonight it's off to Chowpatty beach to people watch and nibble on many delictable treats served up from the street vendors. I feel quite at home here and not really minding the chaos, although I did manage to get myself nicked by a motorbike today which gave both me and Sarah quite a start! And I hope that a red light means go in this city as this is a rule that all the drivers seem to follow. EEEK!
Thinking so much about my friends and family back home, and hope to hear from some of you soon. I had a wonderful gathering the night before I came here and the night has let me with a warm heart indeed. Lots of love.....xoxoxox