When my father, brothers & I travel together, we like to engage in drive-by-tourism. Drive-by-tourism is driving by touristic hot spots without getting out of the car. We are an adventurous bunch.
In Delhi I have engaged in drive-by tourism on my own – I drove passed the Red Fort, the cricket stadium, the largest Mosque in India and some other sights around busy Old Delhi. Sundays are crazy in Delhi and it turns out I am here on a blistering hot one.
Yesterday I arrived in Delhi from beautiful Dharamkot with a semi-sleeper bus, which is a bus in which you sleep, but you don’t have a bed. We did get a bottle of water and a blanket, which is fancy for India. The driver was clearly drunk; he was driving like a maniac and fitting a 12-hour bus-ride in 10 hours. There was no possibility to sleep on the bus, since it felt like we were going to hit something or someone every minute and eventually the bus driver got pulled over by the police who had been chasing our bus for a while and eventually had to block the bus to make the bus come to a screeching halt. Such a relief! We were 100 kilometers from Delhi at this time, and we were lucky to be chauffeured to Delhi the last 100 kilometers by another man who could actually drive a bus.
This bus experience made me bond with a lovely female from Czech Republic who had lived in New Delhi from age 6 through age 13 and we visited some of the spots she remembered from her time living here – it was great to see her enjoying being here 18 years later. We had a nice day, even though we hadn’t slept; we walked around the neighborhoods she frequently visited and had ice cream from the ice cream parlor she used to love (and still does).
Now I’m spending my last night in New Delhi in my room, sweating, and watching a film called “This is it”.
There are many bad things in the news about Indian females and female tourists being raped in India. This is of course scary, some of my lovely friends & family have been worried. This is how I deal with it:
When I travel by train I buy a ticket that is more expensive than the basic class, as then I have a greater chance of being safe. So far this has worked and I have been meeting very sweet Indian people on these occasions.
When I have to take a bus I request to be seated next to a female, or I get my own single sleeper bed.
In Mumbai the local trains have compartments specifically for women or men.
Nothing bad has happened so far, but I have to be cautious all of the time which can become a bit tiring, and – sadly – there have been moments where I have felt uncomfortable.
Basically I just have to spend more money to be safe, don’t shake any man’s hand as physical contact between men and women is not a usual thing here and stay on the beaten path.
Every evening in Ram Jhula, Rishikesh there is holy chanting by the Ganga river. People light candles on flower beds and let them float along the river. This is a highly spiritual ritual and amazing to witness.
This birthday is particularly great, since I’m in the middle of the Himalayas in the idyllic town Dharamkot with an altitude of about 2,200 meters.
Dharamkot is a small town up in the mountains close to Dharamshala and McLeod Ganj: home of the Dalai Lama. There are many Buddhist monks walking around here, as well as Tibetan refugees and Tibetan food in the restaurants. I had the pleasure of speaking with one of the Monks here and it seemed that he was walking around talking to passersby (tourists) about compassion. He has been studying for 12 years total now, and has 4 years of studies left, after which he can choose to focus on meditation, compassion or teaching about Buddhism. He finds meditation too difficult, so will probably focus on compassion.
This morning I went for a walk up the mountain at 5.30AM and this was my view:
Then I did yoga here:
I ate chocolate Momo’s, which is a traditional Tibetan dish, usually not with chocolate, but hey: it’s my birthday.
The temperature here is significantly lower than it was in Varanasi and Rishikesh: 18 Celsius here compared to 37 there. This is of course due to the high altitude. I love this temperature, the sun is shining bright and I have much more energy. In the evenings and early mornings it is a bit too cold for my flimsy clothes, so I bought a Nepalese blanket and some sheep wool socks to keep warm. Happy birthday to me!
There is also a dance party here this evening where my Scottish friend Scott and I will be going to.
Tomorrow back to same ol’, same ol’ which should consist of more greatness.
Oh and my pal isn’t here, I think he’s in Europe at them moment.
After feeling better I immediately hopped on the yoga train. There were two yoga teachers that I really wanted to see: Sivananda and Surinder. Alas, Sivananda’s classes for women were closed when I was there, but Surinder’s class was amazing. The yoga style he teaches is Hatha and he focusses a lot on anatomy and alignment of the asana’s.
Besides yoga I also had a Reiki treatment where I learned that my Ajna, third eye, chakra is blocked and my Swadisthana and Anahata chakras are unbalanced. Good to know. What can I do to fix this problem? I’m reading a book about this, soon I will know and let you know.
To learn more about the Doshas (Vata, Pitta, Kapha), I took a class in Ayurveda. We had lessons in this briefly during my Yoga Teacher Training, but I wanted to learn more about it. I knew that I was Vata-Pitta, but now I know which parts of me are more Vata (emotions, mind) and which more Pitta (body) and what I should eat and do to bring balance my doshas.
I also had a Marma Pressure treatment which was very nice, the goal of the treatment was to give me more energy. Basically Josef put pressure on certain energy points on my body, mainly my head, there was music and he used a technique with vibrations. It was very relaxing and I think I had more energy the next day.
At the moment I’m about to hop on a bus for 15 hours to Dharamsala, so I will post some photos of Rishikesh later.
“Is he naked?! Ah I see, he’s just swimming in his flesh colored underwear.”
“The cows here are particularly beautiful.”
“This guy can barely walk, I should give him some Rupees.”
“What am I doing wrong, this Henna won’t stay.”
“So, this is where the Beatles lived.”
“These speed-bumps are simply redundant with all of these cows blocking the road.”
“1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14 people in this Rickshaw.”
“That’s one freaky looking baby.”
I’m sitting on my balcony in Rishikesh, overlooking the Lakshman Jhula bridge and the Himalayas – there are monkeys climbing on the bridge, a cow has located herself in the middle of the bridge and swarms of people are walking or driving their scooter across the bridge. Music is playing from the temple across the river: ‘Om Shanti’. Great tunes.
I have been sick with a virus the last few days, and have thus not been able to do any yoga. The only thing I have been able to do is watch this bridge and the people walking in the temples, which I have a view of as well. So happy to have this view and to be in this city.
When I feel better, which is hopefully tomorrow, I plan on doing loads of yoga at the various schools here. I have heard of a teacher named Surinder who teaches at a hotel nearby, the Sivananda ashram is famous for yoga, as well as tens of other yoga schools and ashrams. Saturday I have an appointment for Reiki. The religious ceremonies on the Ganga by sunset are also supposed to be magnificent.
Varanasi is a hectic city, many Indian tourists on a spiritual holiday. Every day of the year it is a mad-house, but during Indian holidays it supposedly gets even more crazy. I tried to avoid the crowd:
Volunteering at the Ganga Learning Centre
My last day in Varanasi I decided to volunteer at a school nearby. The project is amazing: they educate children, but also their mothers – the mothers learn how to sew for six months after which they are able to work and earn money so that they can send their child(ren) to school. The children, after attending the Ganga Learning Centre, will by then be ready to attend a regular school as they have learned much at the centre.
The children start the day off with a yoga class, then they study English and Hindi before having lunch. At the end of the day they have a Skype session with a ‘Granny’ via the Granny Project – most of these elderly women from the UK are retired teachers. I was lucky to meet the founder of the project and one Indian ‘Granny’ who were visiting the day I volunteered.
It was so much fun playing with the children and pointing out where Holland or the Netherlands is on the globe – they didn’t find this too confusing; their city Varanasi is also named Beneras or Kachi (city of spiritual light)
Breakfast in Varanasi
Every morning I spent a few hours in Varanasi walking around the Old Town and the main road searching for fruit stands.
Eventually I would have accumulated and devoured many fruits: bananas, oranges, pomegranate juice, fresh coconut, watermelon, papaya, sugarcane juice and grapes.