While I know this isn’t about the house and the frankly bizarre French admin systems, I thought I’d share my Indian trip with you.
After a frantic 10 days of catching up with people in the UK with teas, lunches, dinners, birthdays and dancing I finally got on the plane to India.
Slight moment of panic at the airport when they were deciding if my one spare page in my passport was acceptable… How big is the India visa stamp I wondered?
I arrived safely on Patnem Beach for 10 days of yoga at Lotus Oasis Yoga. My home was a lovely beach hut. Can’t beat stepping out of your room straight into sand, with the constant sound of the ocean and 2 beautiful shady shalas for morning and afternoon yoga in between eating and chilling in the sun and shade. It was mix of different styles of yoga and yes I even tried out Kundalini. I went to Ashtanga sessions and did almost all the primary sequence not once but 4 times, and much to my surprise for the first time I did not leave in tears feeling very inadequate!
And yes, the ladies in the picture are sweeping the beach clean. If you look really carefully in one of the pictures you can even see dolphins out at sunrise – trust me they are there.
From Patnem I went to Gokarna on the train. 25 rupees for a train that arrived on time and I got a seat. I last travelled on a train in India about 15 years ago and I had forgotten how much fun they are. A hill down to Kudle beach and a walk across the sand and I found myself at Tipi Garden Resort, where I spent the week yogaing with the most amazing yoga teacher. How lucky was I to find myself practicing with just one or two others so having almost private tuition. The time in between yoga was spent chilling out in the hammock outside my tipi, saying good morning to the cows and walking to Gokarna town, Om Beach and Half Moon Beach. And yes, of course, I did a half moon pose on Half Moon Beach but as I am not an instagram yogi those photos are staying on my camera. On my way to Om beach I met the cutest little puppy – the runt of the litter of about 8.
I had a long chat with the priest in Gokarna about the state of the pollution in the town – the pink area is where all the sewage and rubbish from the town is dumped. The pink is actually from a chemical the government puts in the water to deal with the smell (it doesn’t work), and once a year they dig a channel out to the sea and wash it all out. In my naïve simplistic view I can’t help thinking the more obvious thing to do would be to stop dumping the rubbish (although it would likely only be dumped somewhere else) and invest in some sort of reed bed system to deal with the sewage. I did say it was a naïve simplistic view!
All too soon it was time to leave Gokarna and get the overnight sleeper bus to Hampi. This was the first time I had taken an overnight bus, and despite being dumped at a random petrol station at 11pm along with about 25 others and being told the bus will be here in a hour it wasn’t an unpleasant experience. I’d far rather take an 8-hour bus with a bed I can lie out on than be sat on a plane for 8 hours.
Bleary eyed I found my room. Luckily a lovely girl I’d met in Patnem, who had also joined me in Gorkarna for a few days had gone to Hampi before me and sorted out a room for us. As it wasn’t yet ready from previous occupants we dumped our stuff and immediately headed out on a bicycle tour of Hampi, as you do! I loved Hampi; hot, dusty, vast rocky landscape, and a complete contrast to the beach. We snuck in the back door of the temple and became entranced by Laxmi the elephant. Even though we both knew we shouldn’t, we found ourselves handing Laxmi 10 rupees for a blessing. She takes the money in her trunk, hands it to the mahout and then places her trunk on your head. We loved her so much we watched her being bathed the next morning.
I would have liked to have stayed in Hampi for longer, but it was time for me to make my way to North Goa ready for my 28 day yoga immersion at Swan Yoga retreat. It was going to be a long trip, so I allowed for a couple of days to recover from another overnight bus journey.
I arrived at my designated pick up point, along with several others, and waited and waited. Eventually mass panic and lots of shouting and gesticulating amongst all the tuk tuk drivers. Everyone goes except 6 of us. Cue more shouting and gesticulating. Eventually almost 2.5 hours after arriving at the pick up point we are shoved into 2 tuk tuks and driven for what seems like hours (in reality it was only an hour) across very bumpy roads. All I’m going to say is I wish I had had my sports bra on! By now it’s completely dark as we approach a road that is 4 lanes wide with very large trucks screaming past – and then we cross it in the tuk tuk. Randomly on the side of this road we are told to get out of the tuk tuk; ‘wait here, bus is coming’. And with that we are left on the side of the road. I’m very glad at this point that there are 5 other people with me. I’m marginally relieved when the tuk tuk drivers come back and do at least wait with us. The bus does indeed turn up about an hour later, and the standard panic of everyone trying to load on bags, find their designated ‘bed’ and ticket check occurs. It’s almost 11pm by now and all I want to do is sleep. I try and lay out my bed; a sarong underneath me and a recently purchased blanket over me, as after the getting so cold on the last bus I wasn’t taking any chances. It’s quite hard to sleep cos as the bus moves you slide around and every bump has you lifting up off the ‘bed’. Oh and did I mention there are no toilets on the bus? – eeekkkkk. My stop is the last one and we roll into Mapusa at 9am the following morning. A 40 minute tuk tuk ride brings me to Mandrem, and once I find a room I head to the beach for a much needed snooze in the shade.
All too quickly my time in Mandrem came to and end and I was on the move again, this time to Swan Yoga retreat where I spent 28 days fully immersed in all things yoga.
Swan is a very traditionally based yoga centre with very little physical practice and more focus on the original yoga message/spiritual path. I spent my time here immersed in philosophy studies, meditation, mantra chanting, fire ceremonies, cleansing ceremonies (yep, internal cleansing involving vomiting and other methods. I won’t go into any detail – rather just let you use your imagination), karma yoga (basically cleaning!), and very long days starting at 6am and finishing around 8.30/9.00pm. I don’t think I will ever be someone who enjoys getting up at 5.30am.
I had an amazing time here with so many lovely beautiful souls, and can’t even begin to tell you how much I’ve learnt. It will probably take me the rest of the year to process it all.
A few photos from around Swan, Mapusa and nearby beaches.
Decoration of the temple before the fire ceremony:
And here is how you get cashew nuts; from one fruit, which is edible, there is one nut. Now to get this nut you have to set fire to them to burn off all the oil and break the hard outer case. After burning, the case has to be smashed to release the nut. Makes you appreciate the cost of them a bit more now, although my mind boggles as to who/why it was discovered that this was what you needed to do to access the nut!
After all the hard work and enjoyment at Swan I took a few days out on the beach in Agonda before heading back home. Luckily for me I was joned by 2 friends from the UK along with 2 ladies from the Swan course. The days flew by in a very relaxed way starting with yoga in the morning, brunch, days at the beach, watching the sunsets, chilling out, chatting and laughing.
I’ve been back in France for just a week and am slowly getting back into being back at work. Updates on house progress while I’ve been away coming soon. Don’t say it too loudly but I hope to be able to show you not one but two finished bedrooms. I know, sounds a bit surreal really.