I’m in Candolim, Goa for two weeks to practice with Rolf & Marci, whom I practiced with 6 years earlier in Thailand. They’re great-- very influential and help me so much with my practice. I would like to come back next year for one month with them. Yoga is a slow process and takes the body time to integrate the changes made during practice. I learn and progress quit a bit in two weeks, so one month with them would really be beneficial and necessary to see the results.
I was in Purple Valley for two weeks before this which is a yoga retreat further north in Goa. (Goa is a state on the western coast in southern India.) I thought four weeks in Goa would be all I could handle as it’s very touristy. Candolim in particular where I am now is known for its clubs and charter buses of fat German tourists. Yes there are lots of tourists, but where I’m staying in Candolim is right next to the shala and in a nice shady nook. I’m a two minute walk from the beach and there are no roads back in this cluster of homes and guesthouses, just sandy walkways. It’s actually the quietest place I’ve been since I’ve been in India. With all the tourists comes more Western comforts because there is enough of a market to support it. The restaurants offer a wide variety of western food which I’m really excited about-- at this point in my trip I’m very tired of the traditional Indian meals of white rice and spicy sauce. I can even get a burger in Goa which in unheard of in other parts of India because the cow is sacred in Hindu and not to be eaten. Goa has much of a Portuguese influence and seems to be predominantly Christian. It’s acceptable to wear tank tops and bathing suits which is great because at this point it’s really hot and humid. If I were coming back to India to practice yoga for month it would be here, not Mysore.
Since I’ve been in India I’ve only been in places to practice yoga. When I leave here I will be traveling for a month around the north as a tourist. I’m really excited to get out of the yoga bubble and see the country. My travel partner for the north had to leave suddenly and fly back to NYC because his father had a heart attack. So I’ve rerouted my itinerary. This Friday I fly to Mumbai for 3 days. Mumbai is considered the most modern business and fashion center of India, like the NYC of India. I’m really excited to see and experience the vibe of a real Indian city, but I think 3 days will be all I can handle by myself. From there I fly to Varanasi which is a holy city on the Ganges river. Varanasi is known for it’s ghats (steps leading down to the river) where millions of pilgrams come every year to take a dip in the holy river. It’s considered very auspicious to die in Varanasi because it’s where the flow of the Ganges river changes direction from the south to the north, and it’s very famous for it’s cremation ceremonies at the burning ghats. Varanasi is supposed to be quit the spectacle of life and death.
From there I continue my pilgrimage further up the Ganges river to Haridwar. Haridwar is another very sacred city for Indian pilgrams as it’s where the Ganges decends from the Himalayas to the north Indian plains. Haridwar means “Gateway of God” and has been a center for Hindu religion and mysticism for centuries. I will be meeting up with my friend Zoe in Haridwar to travel further north towards the Himalayas. After a few days in Haridwar we will continue on to Rishikesh which is famous for it’s ashrams and is a popular tourist destination. We will make our way to Gangotri which is the start of a trek to the Gaumukh glacier in the Himalayas. The Gaumukh glacier, which means “mouth of the cow” is the source of the Ganges river and is considered one of the most sacred sites in India. The trek should take about three days and requires a permit. I’m not sure yet if we’ll hire a guide to carry supplies, tents and cook for us or if we’ll stay in tea houses along the way. Probably the later of the two. I don’t think we’ll be able to pre-arrange the trip until we get to Uttarkashi, the town before Gangotri, where we’ll spend a couple nights. India is not very organized and it can be difficult to plan such things online.
So I’m really excited about the rest of my journey and look forward to the north and seeing more of “real” India. Now that I’ve been in India for two months I’m beginning to understand and feel more comfortable with how it works here. Starting out in yoga communities has been a great and safe way to ease into the culture. I look forward to venturing out on my own, even though I know I’ll be amongst other travelers and tourists so I have some comfort in that. India is a crazy place and definitely the most adventurous place I’ve ever traveled to. It’s like everything here is an unknown and so unpredictable as to how it will turn out. It’s what makes India so chaotic and so fascinating, revolting and intriguing, all at the same time. I love it, and I’m so excited to get out and see more of the country, but it’s definitely not a place I could ever call home, or even a home away from home. In my mind, I’m already planning my next trip back here, yet it makes me appreciate my country all the more. America, the “dream country” as my waiter in the restaurant said to me yesterday...