As if 7 full days of sun, sand, book reading, deep breathing, massages & yoga wasn't enough to totally relax us.....we decided to take it one step further by travelling less than 2 hours by bus up the coast to Varkala. Most things like guesthouses, restaurants and shops are perched up on a cliff with lovely beaches at the bottom. Plunking down in front of the pool with books and great internet connections....we've managed to upload a ton of the photos from our trip to finally share with loved ones.
Does this guy look blissed out or what???? After 5 weeks of go, go, go...temples, forts, smog, honking cars & motorbikes, constantly smelling and seeing people relieving themselves in the streets, constantly having all senses bombarded with extremes......we reach Kovalum and it all changes. Morning yoga at 8 followed by breakfast looking at the sea....reading & journaling.....getting covered in oil in ayurvedic massage and detox treatments.....pool & beach time.....dinner....sleep...repeat x 6. Click here to see more photos.
One of the great things about taking things day by day is that you never know where you're end up. Thinking we would take a bus to Munnar to enjoy the sights of tea plantations....we got to the bus station only to find out there was a strike for buss's out of state so we were out of luck. It was decided we would try our luck at Tirunelveli instead and so here we are. After settling into our room we took a long walk to find the main temple and old market area. After getting blessed by the temple elephant and tasting some local sweets, we found Pothys department store and had some fun with the guys there dressing Steve up. Looks like a king to me!
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3 bus's and a rickshaw ride into the day and we're in Madurai. A short walk from the hotel is the Thirumalai Nayaka Palace that we decided to spend some time hanging out in the coolness to play some cards and wait for the Meenakshi Temple to open and for Tara's custom shirt to be sewn. Here in the palace we ended up being more of a tourist attraction than the palace itself as we were constantly asked for our photograph. Quick summary...temple was amazingly coloured & sacred, tara got a sweet new top and fresh jasmine flower strand in her hair and many new tastey foods were consumed.
A journey of 3 bus rides including the last of which had 20 hairpin turns as we made our way up 1500 meters above sea level to Yercaud. FIlled with beautiful vegetation the air is much cooler in the evening and scented with euculyptus trees that grow everywhere. Unfortunately our health was still tender so healing, reading, movie watching and a few nature walks was all that really happened here. Not many photos to share because of that. Although this photo really gets me as it's a full moon which is always full of great energy. Click here to see more photos.
So we actually flew from Varanasi to Chennai and spent the night there. We got in very late and hopped on a bus first thing the next morning to get to Pondicherry so no photos. That being said there aren't to many of Pondicherry either as tummy aches and fevers kept us in the room more than we'd like. Still managed to rent a motorbike one day and journey to Auroville for a visit. Very interesting community with many skilled potters but wasnt organized enough to make plans ín advance'to see them working or meet them personally. In short...it's lovely here with a french colonial feel and a nice red rocky beach with boardwalk. It felt funny to have most people speaking french and french architecture. Spent valentines day here and found a Vietnamese restaurant where we enjoyed pho soup and reminisced about this time last year when we were travelling Vietnam. Click here to see more photos.
Found our way out of the maze of millions of pilgrims bathing at the rivers Sangam in Allahabad to the bus stand for a 4 hour ride to the Holy Varanasi! Somewhat chaotic, with yet more pilgrims lining the River Ganges bathing to wash away a lifetime of sins. We took a row boat ride with a young boy on the river seeing all of the ghats with long stretches of steps leading down to the water. Non-stop funeral processions to the sacred burning ghats near the water to cremate their loved ones. The most intimate rituals of life and death take place in public and the sights, sounds and smells are unforgettable! Click here to see more photos.
Leaving Chitrakoot by 10 am we thought there would be lots of time to get to our generous hosts in Allahabad. It was only a 3 hour bus ride but we were not prepared for the number of people all trying to get to the same place as us. Finally arriving to the grounds of the Kumbh Mela celebration around 9:30pm we were greeted with open arms. Gathering every 12 years at this site to take holy dips at the meeting place (sangam) of 2 existing rivers (Ganges & Yamuna) and one mythical (Saraswati) river. The 55 day celebration is estimated to attract upwards of 90 million people to the riverbanks to bathe and camp out.On record the largest human gathering on earth! We were lucky enough to get an invite to share a tent with about 30 others in the middle of the wildness. Extremely grateful for this experience.
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Waiting for the train we were the only foreigners there and felt everyone's eyes on us. So many people cramming onto the train ....people jumping on the moving train before others had even gotten off. The beginning of the 3 hour ride was us pressed up against a wall without an inch to spare but eventually Tara got squished between 5 people on a bench seat...5 sitting across...2 old sadu dudes on the upper bunks...all listening and asking questions....touching & smiling as a young man translates. Eventually we got a seat together and rode the rest of the way with smiles from ear to ear at the loveliness of these generous people. In the amazing town of Chitrakoot itself we found ourselves in a very unclean room with basically a wooden board for a bed and a hole in the ground for a toilet. Waking each morning at 4:30am the sound of VERY loud horking and then chanting over the loud crackling speakers. You might think we'd have packed it in early and gotten the heck outta dodge but this place was a blast with more generous people and memories to last a lifetime. Click here to see more photos.
Travelling here we got to experience our first overnight train travel. Boarding close to midnight and arriving 9am we had a surprisingly great sleep and ventured out to find a hotel.The rickshaw ride into town passed us by people making large clay pots next to the road so it was an obvious choice to head in that direction soon after we dropped our bags. More photos and videos will be loaded of this experience later but it made Tara ultra happy and inspired. Besides this excitement the main reason for venturing here was for the World Heritage Western Temples famous for their erotic carvings. Some of the carvings we posted here are a little wild so view at your own risk. Click here for more photos.
Arriving into New Delhi and departing out of Mumbai. In between these 2 destinations lives experiences yet to be realized. Top of the list is street foods, local drinks, pottery, great music, lots of photos, bartering for everything, getting lost, riding motorbikes, swimming & deep breathing.