A few weeks ago I, and my wonderful travel partners Katie and Marina set forth on a 2 week adventure around Northern India. Our rambling began with a sunrise train from Rishikesh to Agra. We booked the sleeper class which is far more affordable than the AC trains, but is known to be somewhat uncomfortable. Luckily, we didn’t mind it and I’d say I preferred it thanks to Katie’s ukulele. We played it for a moment then an elderly man in our compartment asked to try the small instrument. He completely retuned the uke, which would take us about a week to reverse, but it was worth it. Our compartment became the life of the sleeper. Four older men sang and danced and the women below my bunk clapped to the tune of the Indianized ukulele. Even the busy chai carriers stopped beside our bunks to partake in the enjoyment.
We walked past the Chai stands and waking Sadhus in the street, down a dirt path littered with discarded things and interrupted by tiny rivers, to the gate of the Mahesh Maharishi Ashram . In 1968 The Beatles studied transcendental meditation at the ashram, bringing attention to Rishikesh from the West that would last well beyond the years of the ashram its self. It closed in 1997, and became a part of the National Park bordering Rishikesh. The many meditation pods and dormitories, as well as the personal home of Maharishi are now historical relics covered with art, vines, and lines from Beatles songs. It may be trespassing, and the threat of the guards was hot on our minds, but the place is alluring. We spent 2 early morning hours inside the overgrown walls. When I walked into the small temple with walls covered in stones from the Ganga, I felt a strange sensation travel down my spine. It wasn’t unpleasant, it just made me careful, Made me mindful amongst the splintered wood and broken glass.
The blessing a construction site taking place in the bottom of one of the 5ft holes dug for the foundation.
Thinning the grass at Krishna Cottage in the early morning.
A Sadhu entering his temple home in Laxman Jhula.
Sunset from the banks of the Ganga.
Last week a I went on an excursion with friends to a small white temple in the Rishikesh hills. The ride was packed, and a few of us (myself included) who were sitting sideways in the way back became quite nauseous. The expanding valley outside our window was a viable distraction. We walked through a bit of brush then up 300 steep, narrow white steps to Temple. The view was peaceful, no urbanization, just quaint villages and lovely, verdant mountains. The priest was a slight, friendly man who shared mantras and gave us scrumptious, crumbly treats. The temple was dedicated to these four Hindu gods, Durga, Kali, Ganesh, and Shiva, and inside was a statue of each, bathed in color and covered with intricate patterns. They represent the value in prosperity, destruction, abundance, and rebirth.
In Hindi Jharanā means waterfall. Last Sunday a group of us Yoga students went on a hike to the construction site of the Ashram being built for Peeth Yoga training in a few years. Along the trail there happens to be a short detour to an amazing waterfall. In my life I have experienced many breathtaking waterfalls in Hawaii and the West Coast, and this one made the ranks. I was unable to take my camera to the most mystical part that was only seen by 4 of us because it involved climbing up slippery algae covered surfaces and passing under curtains of falling water. That unseen part was the most special for me, maybe next time I’ll protect my camera and share it.
These roots do this to me.
Wound in the ground like the the veins near my heart.
Keep us breathing.
The twists are as tangled as teenage love. Without the naiveté.
They write names in your skin
thinking it promises some kind of permanence.
Years after we are gone, your branches will keep shape.
You are the mother.
near this river where the saplings want to know your grace.
You are the outside peace.
“I’m glad I’m not one of those people who get’s seasick.” That’s what I said to Hank and Makana as we began our crossing to Molokai. About 15 minutes later I was nauseous, sitting on the very tip of the bow, afraid I might be sick any second. Luckily, I remained only moderately seasick. We stopped at a small island just off the coast of Molokai called Kaohikaipu, or Turtle Island, where Hank, Makana, and Mike speared a few fish. When Hank got back near the boat he pointed his spear at a reef shark, trying to steer it away from his fish. The shark swam away only to return with five more sharks that surrounded him. Needless to say he got back on the boat immediately.For the next two days we anchored in one of the most breathtaking places I have ever been, with a perfect view of West Molokai’s heart shaped valley and its many waterfalls and the tallest remaining sea cliffs in the world. Hank and Makana helped me spear my first fish, sadly it didn’t stick. Rufus surfed about nine hours the second day and became The Man on the trip before he made outrageous curry with fresh caught fish. Hank played Stand by Me surprisingly well on ukulele and the rest of us accompanied. The stars were sharp, the ocean a beautiful gradient of blues and greens, and the company unreserved.