Holi Festival – Jaipur, India – March 17, 2014.
Holi Festival – Jaipur, India – March 17, 2014.
Wednesday, March 19, 2014
While the Indian Railways booking system is the tiniest bit confusing we have finally managed to figure it all out and we confidently boarded our train despite having only one confirmed ticket. The train conductor gave us the okay to break all cultural taboos we have so respectfully honored the past two months and sleep in the same bunk for the 13 hour train ride to Hardiwar.
An hour on a bus and we arrived in Rishikesh. I had previously spent a considerable amount of time coordinating a volunteer exchange so that we could give our piggy banks a bit of a breather. The agreement was to create a blog and exchange photographs for a one to two week stay in what we thought was going to be a yoga retreat and teacher training center in Rishikesh.
Well, long story short…this is India. We ended up at an unknown place, living in an ashram nestled on the banks of the Ganga.
If anything this trip has given us the opportunity to play chameleon and quickly adapt to the most ridiculous scenarios and situations.
So we settled in, called it home, and were quite happy. We are learning that being patient is always a good idea, and that one should always try something once, even if it’s not what we thought we signed up for.
Our 10 Days in Rishikesh…
Everyday breakfast was at 10:30 a.m. Naturally, we would drive the kitchen staff mad every morning by consistently showing up late. At the beginning of each meal, I would take photos and record the recipe before enjoying the Aloo Parantha, fresh juice, coconut porridge or Banana Honey Dosas. Yumm. We’ve definitely managed to recover those couple of pounds lost the previous week being disgustingly ill with Indian tummy bugs.
After breakfast we would then lolly-gag around the grounds and enjoy the tranquil views before surrendering to our caffeine addiction.
Each day, the next few hours were spent at the German Bakery on the west side of the Ganga.
We would watch the dozens of monkeys attacking children and women on the bridge while enjoying some of the best coffee in Rishikesh.
Rishikesh has incredible shopping. Sure, Rishikesh is relatively small compared to some of the other cities we have been, but the selection of colorful clothing, singing bowls, soft sarongs, yoga accessories and silver charms make shopping accidentally easy. Somehow all these items ended up in box headed home…
Lucky for the Indian Post, there were no drawer-knobs to be found so that helped lighten the scale when it came to shipping time.
There are some vegan bakeries and amazing cafes in Rishikesh that are overly inviting, and oftentimes we ended up spending hours of our day drowning in oversized floor cushions without noticing a minute had passed.
Afternoons were enjoyed inside the most incredible bookstores in the world. Imagine a bookstore shelving every title you have ever wanted to read or never wanted to lend out. Ayurveda, yoga, religion, cooking, life and books asking questions which ignite every single snoozing neuron. All these and more waited patiently on the shelves as my fingers gently ran across the hundreds of appealing spines so neatly organized.
The bookstores, those were my favorite part of Rishikesh.
Books is still a topic where I act 80 years my actual age and add 4 kilos to my backpack – I simply refuse to exchange a paperback for pixels. To physically turn a textured page, fold a corner, read and re-read or have the ability to curiously flip to any page I desire, gets me so excited its teetering on inappropriate.
So I bought a few books…
While sitting in The Little Buddha Cafe overlooking the speedy Ganga, I began my two new books, Light on Life and Light on the Yoga Sutras by B.K.S. Iyengar.
By about 1:30 p.m. everyday lunch was served back at the ashram.
We enjoyed dal, mix veg curry and rice most days of the week. The rest of the afternoon was usually spent in a carb-induced snooze alongside the dogs enjoying the tranquility of the joint.
On most evenings we would venture back out over the bridge and explore, shop, read, eat and chill.
In the evenings I would head back into the yoga room for a 90 minute class before surrendering to the rest of the night.
Days were perfect and predictably always too short.
Other variable activities thrown into our days included yoga on the beach, hikes up to see the sunrise over the mountains and a trip to the Ashram the Beatles called home for a few months in the 1960s.
At the end of the day, the people at the ashram were all amazing. Our time there was absolutely perfect.
As we begin to mentally prepare ourselves for our departure from this country, Rishikesh served as the perfect supportive platform to breathe, reflect, connect the dots and digest all the sub-continent has dished up.
Rishikesh, I will see you in the future!!!
Sunday, March 16, 2014
To watch the preparation for the biggest celebration in India, we headed to the streets to get a feel for just how crazy the city of Jaipur was going to be.
Colors were sold in every single shop on even the dodgiest of side streets. Everyone was purchasing bags of neon powder, water guns, spray cans and white clothes.
The entire city looked like Party City and the anticipation was immaturely exciting!
We walked around the streets at dusk taking part in the Holika bonfires that transformed intersections into a blazing fire lit stages ready for anxious participants to dance, sing and prematurely throw colors.
The festival of colors, the festival of love.
The entire day was spent playing Holi.
We were told we played Holi quite well. I’m not sure if that means we are exceptionally tolerant of the hundreds of hands suffocating our faces with neon powders or what, but we had fun.
We were warned things would get out of hand, and of course just around noon they quickly turned gritty.
One older gentleman punched a man in the face on my behalf, a woman policeofficer beat a group of boys attacking me with a wooden pole. Later a male officer stood between us and the out of control crowds and ordered we leave the streets.
At the end of the day, we had a blast and ended up making it back to the hotel without getting into too much trouble.
Video footage coming soon!