Tea, tea and more tea

My day began at 5.30am with a beautiful Hatha yoga practice beside my bed. I really enjoy this practice as it concentrates on strengthening the body and bringing full awareness to it. By taking the time to move through each asana, its a great opportunity to really ‘notice’ how my body is feeling. With Vinyasa, its a much faster pace and the subtle feelings within can be missed. So it’s nice to have the balance of the two throughout the week.  

After enjoying vegemite toast (yes, I brought a tube with me) looking out the window to the green mountains which surrounded, my driver and I traveled to a tea museum. This was the real highlight of my day. Learning all about tea and how it is made (white, green, black, chai) was really something. There is so much love which goes into tea making. I also found it amazing that all different types of tea were made from the one leaf! Me being me, and lacking in general knowledge, I felt a little silly when I learned this. I literally though black tea was made from a different, yes black, leaf. Again - feeling a little silly on this end! Turns out it’s just the older leaf! And the oxidization process determines how strong the tea is. Just as an apple turns brown when its bitten into, so do the leaves when being processed.

I also found it amazing to learn that tea is a tree! Not a little shrub like they appear. They can grow to 25 feet tall and can live for hundreds of years - the one plant. Here, they have trees over 140 years old whilst in China they have 400 year old trees! The trees are pruned to be small to make it easier to pluck and ensure all trees get equal water and equal sun. Amazing.

Unfortunately no one is allowed into an actual plantation. Although we are surrounded by tea plantations, you can’t visit them like a winery back home (which was what I pictured). I want to try and get a picture of a tea plucker but I may not see one. Or if I do, they will be a million miles away, hanging off the side of a cliff. Im not kidding! I don’t know how they do it?? The hills are verging on vertical and they carry huge bags of tea on their head.

I also went to a look out point in a national park with mountain goats- after waiting 2 hours in line for a ticket to get up! But it’s all an experience right!

This evening I have been doing a lot of thinking about home. I’m nearing the end of my trip and I must say it will be very sad to leave. This place is so amazing, in a crazy kind of way. I’m also nervous about going back to ‘reality’ - however I will be living in a new state when I get back which is exciting, and random! For the final 11 days in India I’m focusing on being still and preparing myself to leave. This is important and something Bharath told me to do when my course was coming to an end. I’m committed to absorbing every precious moment here and being grateful for the life changing experiences I’ve had/am having. But in saying that, I am also ready for home where I shall practice the same way of being. Presence doesn’t just apply when travelling.

Had I been single with no one back home who I miss, then I could definitely keep going. However, 3 months away from the man I love, my pooch (who probably doesn’t miss me one bit being the snob he is), and my family is a long time. Coming home will also mean I can get into the full swing of teaching. I’m certainly nervous about this, but just as I’ve put myself out there to come to India, I must do the same to find my first student. One step at a time. I love that I have come to accept this way of living, rather than trying to ‘rush to the finish’ line.

What will be, will be. Just as everything has been falling into place over here (and back home also), I have no doubt the same will happen back in Australia. It’s all about perception right?!

Well, I must get out of this little booth I’m still in at my current hotel. It’s not the most inviting of places to be! But very glad it’s here. That’s for sure.

Tomorrow I’m off to Cochin. Thank you Munnar for having me. Until next time!

Namaste xx

P.S. Pictures not forgotten :)

Treated like a true princess

Well, what a different experience it’s been here. I absolutely love Thekkady. The vibe of this little town high in the mountains is just magical. The 9th Annual Flower Show, which is like our Royal Show, is also next door which means people are out and about having a wonderful time. But before I get to how wonderful this place is, I need to close off what happened at last night’s resort from hell.

When I was leaving, walking down the very narrow canal back to the main road, I noticed a black thin ‘thing’ on the path. I stopped instantly thinking it was a snake. Turns out it was. There was no getting past it either. My options were – turn back (which traps me in the resort) or step over it. So I stepped over it! Hoping it was dead I took the risk. It didn’t move so my assumption was it must be dead – but it looked VERY alive! When I asked my driver if there were snakes in the area, he asked if I had seen that one, as he had seen it too. He confirmed it was dead as he too stopped to look at it. Far out! I also worked out that the bird I heard in my roof this morning was actually attacking a snake. The thing that slid down the tarp and stopped at the edge where the tarp and wood cornice met would have been a snake. The weight of it was too ‘dull’ for it to have been anything else. Seriously!!! I will not be going back there, ever again.

I didn’t even care that I couldn’t do my yoga this morning. It would have tainted the practice if I had! No, not really – but with ants and spiders everywhere, it wouldn’t have been a pleasant practice by any means.

My journey to the current destination has been quite different. With a new driver who is more forthcoming with information about where I am, what to see etc it’s been really lovely. With 25 years of doing this job, I guess he is quite accustomed to what travellers like. The trip to Thekkady has been like no other trip I’ve taken in India. Here we are up in the mountains, and we spent about 3 hours driving up spiraling, cliff hanging roads to get here. The crazy driving doesn’t stop though. Buses overtaking trucks on blind corners with a 500-foot drop only centimeters away. No biggie!

Travelling through hills full of tree plantations, the scenery has been nothing short of magnificent. Of course I took many pictures, some of which we stopped for and others with a window down – action shot.

Arriving in Thekkady, the vibe of the whole town was instantly different. It just felt like a great place to be. And then the vibe improved even more when we arrived at my beautiful hotel. With a greeting where I had a golden bindi painted on my forehead, I knew I was in a lovely place. I’ve been treated like royalty in this magnificent hotel. My room is also to die for. Another huge bed, large enough to have a small yoga class in, and a beautiful new bathroom. Certainly a step up from last nights experience! But most importantly, I feel safe here. People surround me, which is my most important thing when staying anywhere. In fact, lots of people surround me as I’m on the fence of their royal show listening to traditional live music!

For someone who is very quite, and I really do need my quiet time, I realize it may seem odd/ironic that I want people around me. But when traveling alone, I just feel so much safer this way. India is a crazy place and I just like knowing I’ve got people near me. Plus – I like people!

This evening I went and saw the most interesting traditional dance show I’ve ever seen. With some of the most elaborate costumes and face painting, it really was an amazing experience. Much of this performance was based on facial expressions. I’ve never seen anyone move their eyebrows of cheeks the way these two actors did. When I have access to good internet again I will be sure to post pictures. My descriptions will no doubt do an injustice to what I actually witnessed this evening.

Finally, I’ve ended my night with the most wonderful traditional Indian vegetable curry dish. With about 5 red chilies in it, my mouth was on fire by the end of it, but nonetheless the meal was amazing. And everything was so clean! I had about 4 waiters waiting on me, all with incredible manners. I’ve truly been treated like a princess since arriving at this place. I’m sad I’m only here for one night, but so very grateful for this short stay regardless.

Tomorrow morning, I have a date with elephants, tigers, deer, cobras – whatever the jungle brings to me whilst on my safari boat ride. I shall keep you posted!

Namaste xx

P.S. still working on getting pictures up. Internet is getting worse the more inland I go. I’m trying!

Tears to relief. Thank you Ganesh

I’m in Allepey, Kerala, at the moment. Here people tend to hire houseboats for a few days and travel through the backwaters. I’m only here overnight so I wont be doing that, but my ‘resort’ is overlooking the lake which is lovely.

Let’s be completely frank here – I’m not staying in a resort by any means. Scared to lay on the bed because I’m not sure what could be lurching within the sheets and pillow, I’m thrilled to say I will be here for one night only. The room is very old and disheveled. Cobwebs, boarded up dark brown windows with added bars for security measures, disintegrating curtains and a cupboard which looks as though it dates back to the 18th century just about sums up the room. The room is like something out of a horror film and it ended up bringing me to tears tonight.

Firstly, the ‘resort’ can only be accessed by foot – about 500 metres from the road. So I’m completely secluded. After assessing the long narrow and empty road we drove down, there also isn’t anywhere for me to get food, so I’m reliant on the food made here. Looking at the kitchen, I’m nothing short of nervous. But hey, it’s all an experience! Internet is also only available in the front reception area, which is currently deserted.

Come sunset, the place is eerily quite. My room is hidden away from other people and I’m petrified of the dark. Owen Skyped me to help calm me down, which did help. I also emailed Ganesh to tell him how upset I was and asked he make sure the future hotels are not like this. Ganesh instantly replied and sorted everything out. Within minutes I was moved into a little hut next to the only other people who are staying here. Yes, I need to sleep with a mosquito net, and yes the toilet and shower doesn’t have a roof - but I don’t care. I’m with people. And rather than feeling like I’m in a haunted old house, I feel like I’m in a mini lakeside resort. It’s dirty, but I feel safer than before and that’s all i care about. Finally I can relax a little. 


Earlier today I had my first Ayurvedic massage. There was nothing else to do so I thought, why not?! This was an experience in itself. Stripped completely naked in front of the two Indian women, I quickly realised this was going to be no ordinary massage. A thin piece of cloth the thickness of a tissue and width of string was tied over my ‘bits’ to cover ‘not much’. They certainly weren’t shy about putting this on me! Picture a tissue thickness g-string they have physically put on me. I was directed to sit on a stall which had a white cloth draped over it. Here I had oil dabbed on my shoulders, elbows, wrists and finger tips. It was then massaged all through my hair and down my arms. I then realised I was about to be slathered in the stuff. Although slightly awkward at first, with everything out for the world to see, I soon settled into the experience, recalling that this is what they do every day. Plus, Im not one to shy away from this sort of stuff anyway.

I then lay on this wooden bed which was also covered in white cloth to try and soak up some of the oil. By this point I had two women working on me - in sync also. Oil dripped from every part of my body and the women rubbed their hands up and down, not missing any part. I mean that literally! Everything was massaged! Boobs, bum.. My goodness they were not shy. My face was last to be treated before being directed into the hut across the way where I was to have a shower. The shower was old and dirty, and a bucket of water with a scoop awaited me. I was shown some soap and packet shampoo, which sat in a rusty ledge, which I was to use to wash the oil off. Recalling that this is all character building and one of those experiences you look back on and laugh, I embraced the whole process and washed myself from the bucket. Although a very different experience, I would be lying if I didn’t say it was somewhat relaxing. The purpose is not a deep tissue massage but to get the herbal oils penetrating deep into the skin. My skin feels amazing since.

So, with these memories, I shall say goodnight. I’m just hoping morning comes quickly as I’m not exactly comfortable here.  Ready to move on…

Namaste xx

24 hours later and a little more feral than normal. “Hello Kovalam!”

I left Mysore yesterday morning at 9.30am. Today, I arrived at my hotel, Jasmine Palace, at 9.50am. In short - buggered.

The 16 hour train from Bangalore was nothing short of ‘an experience’ to put it nicely. Dealing with people sitting on my bed, bumping me through my curtain, fart smells, men walking up and down the aisles yelling (I’m not joking - yelling) “coffee, coffee, coffee!” or “chai, sweet chai, chai!”, screaming children and snoring about sums up the experience. Not to mention the toilets. I swear to God I nearly died when I saw them. I knew they wouldn’t be good and in anticipation of what I would find I held on for as long as possible. But I was mortified when I saw the toilets.

Walking out from my carriage into the part which joins the carriages, I was instantly struck by the foul smell of urine and shit (excuse me, but it’s the truth). Those smells combined with hot, humid conditions were just revolting. Trying not to fall off the speeding train, (as all the doors are open and the train tilts at every corner), I steadied myself against the wall of the first toilet door. I opened the latch and saw an Indian toilet with a combination of water, urine and poo sloshing around on the floor. Jesus Christ! Slamming that door shut I went to the next one. Same again. In hope to find a western toilet I tried a third door but again the same story only this Indian toilet had tiny raised platforms for your feet to go on. By this point I knew I just needed to suck it up, do my business and get out. Thank God for my baby wipes and Dettol gel in my pack. Refusing to stand on the feet cut outs, for if I slipped my feet were going into the hole, I just spread my legs as far wide as possible and went. Where I went, I don’t know, but I don’t think it would have made any difference to how sanitary the toilet was. With wee spraying on my feet I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry. Disgusted, I wiped and sanitised everything when I made it back to my sleeper (which now appeared cleaner than ever before compared).

I slept on and off all night, with my feet raised against my pack (mostly so I would notice if sometime tried to take it) and cuddling my small backpack which has my passport, wallet etc inside. My bed felt like a rock with a big hump in the middle of it. Let’s just say comfort doesn’t come close. However when I saw other trains pass us, similar to the one I was on, with people’s arms hanging out of barred windows, I was certainly grateful to be in the seat/sleeper I was in. The rest of my train would have been like this also - and 16 hours in ‘cattle class’ (as they call it) would have been nothing short of horrendous. It’s going to be interesting when I do the same trip but for 3 days straight to Agra! I will worry about that when the time comes.

Waiting for the train to arrive in Kochuveli, I sat in my sleeper stretching my legs and doing some forward bends, like Paschimottanasana and Marichyasana A. It was nice to try and get the circulation going again. That’s definitely a benefit of yoga. It can come with you anywhere.

Arriving at the Kochuveli train station, a tall Indian man dressed in the whitest of white shirt and pants, with contrasting back leather shoes, immediately came to me. I think I’d been off the train for about 5 seconds before he approached me. Clearly I was the only white person on the train. I followed him to his gold sedan which had seats covered in white towels, smelled of incense and was nice and cool. Everything about this man just seemed clean, which was so refreshing after the trip I had just been on. I suddenly noticed a ‘poo’ like smell in the car. I wondered if it was something in his car, or something one of us may have trodden in? I wasn’t sure. But then I suddenly worked out it was me. I stank. When I smelled my clothes up close, they smelt fine. But I think there was a combination of smells (collected via my 24 hour journey) coming from my hair, armpits and clothes which created a concoction of ‘poo’ smelling Jessica. I was utterly embarrassed. Hopefully the smell didn’t waft into the front of the car…

We traveled for about 40 minutes to Kovalam, where my hotel, Jasmine Palace, is located. Travelling down a steep, unkempt narrow lane, we arrived at my hotel. I was so relieved. Step 1: Shower Step 2: Food. After check in I was taken to the most stunning, large room which overlooks the pool. What a change in sleeping arrangements! The bed is big enough to fit 5 people in it! And the view is just magnificent. I felt instantly relaxed. WIth a quick check in back home to Owen, so he knew I was alive, followed by the best shower of my life, with wet hair I ran downstairs to the closed restaurant who agreed to make me breakfast. Toast and jam has never looked so good. As mindfully as possible, I scoffed my toast and fruit salad. I then took some time to enjoy my black ginger tea whilst admiring the pool and grassy outdoors. I was completely calm and enjoying every second of just being.

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I spent the afternoon walking along the seafront admiring the beautiful coastal town Kovalam is. Westerners were lying on the beach in bikinis which was an odd sight to see, but clearly accepted here. Indian’s swimming fully clothed, in their saris and jeans, was equally as odd for me. How vastly different cultures can be.

I moseyed up to the red and white striped lighthouse which stood on the edge of a far cliff. As a foreigner I have to pay three times what the locals pay to walk go inside the lighthouse. Ridiculous! But ok. After one scary vertical ladder climb to reach the very top of the lighthouse (did I mention I’m scared of heights) I was speechless by how beautiful the view was. Coloured homes drowned in coconut trees lined the beaches, there were multiple coves and in the far distance was what looked like a palace from Aladdin. It felt truly magical. I sat up there for some time, just being present, enjoying everything about being up there. It’s incredible what you notice when you just stop.

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After climbing down, holding onto the rails for dear life, I walked along the beach with my feet in the warm water. It was so lovely to be by the ocean. I don’t tend to swim, but I do love the view of any beach. Hungry, I stopped at Malabar on the oceanfront and ordered dal fry, coconut rice and plain naan. An odd meal to have by the beach, but when in India! The meal was divine, as was the view. I sat there for sometime, enjoying not having to be anywhere, before walking to a lookout to watch the sunset. By this time Kovalam was beginning to glow. There is such a beautiful, relaxed atmosphere here which I really enjoy being a part of.

This evening has been spent committed to re-packing my pack - which I did an awful job of the first time - and just relaxing in my room before a big day tomorrow. My alarm is set for 5.00am to practice yoga in my overly large room. I’m quite excited by this. It will be my first proper self practice since finishing class on Monday. Nervous and excited!

Namaste xx


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Mysore to Kovalam. A trip to remember!

Well today has been nothing short of different! I’m typing this post sitting in my sleeper on the train to Kovalam,Kerala. Squished in the isle and with a thin red curtain to separate me from the rest of the carriage, this is certainly an experience!

Packing this morning turned out to be quite a challenge. I had WAY more stuff than I realized. Normally Im a really light backpacker, but I think I got a little carried away with the yoga books. Iended up buying all but one book on Bharath’s recommended list of books toread. Plus I’ve been given other books, boxes of soap, bought some clothes… Thank goodness I have a driver meeting me at the other end of this journey. It the heaviest I have ever had my pack.

This morning I gave my beloved kettle, red yoga mat, my Valentines Day vase and my special plate (I’m a little too sentimental, I know) to the lovely couple who live in the besser block house near my apartment. I knew they would really appreciate the gesture. Having to make a fire every time they want to heat water would be really tough, so the kettle will no doubt come in handy.

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I carried my big bag of stuff to their home and softly said hello as I looked into their front door. The petite lady, in her colourful sari, came to the door. I tried to explain what I was doing but she clearly had no idea what I was saying. I ran back to my apartment and asked Pradeep to come and translate for me. By this time her husband stood outside also, and the smiles on their faces were priceless when they understood what this white girl with crazy curly hair was saying. They pulled everything out of the bag and inspected it all before quickly putting it back in and placing inside their home. I felt really happy with my decision to leave those items with them. I know they will be truly appreciated for some time. 

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Somu, my rickshaw driver, was late to pick me up. 9.30am he was scheduled to be there but didn’t arrive until 9.45am. I think he forgot as Pradeep needed to call and find out where he was. It was sad saying goodbye to Chethan and Pradeep this morning. They too seemed genuinely sad to have me leave also. But to be honest, I’m ready for the next leg of the journey as it means two things. 1) the next adventure and 2) I’m on my way home to my Owen and pooch.

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The train station in Mysore and Bangalore reek of urine. The stench is foul. The smell was more potent in Bangalore, as one would expect. But it doesn’t seem to bother the locals. People are sleeping on floors, chairs, in walkways – wherever they can lay down. So it’s clearly not an issue. I guess they have bigger things to worry about… I sat in a coach seat on the way to Bangalore and as you know, I have a sleeper for the 16-hour journey I’m currently on.  I’m certainly getting the opportunity to test my ability to be still and appreciative in the face of unpleasant smells, the constant noise and overall uncomfortable process of traveling from A to B. I always look for the ‘single star in the black sky’. There is beauty in all these experiences. I just need to keep opening my eyes to see them.

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In Bangalore, I seemed to be more of a novelty (compared to Mysore) to look at as there must be less westerners’ there. One man sat about 3 metres from me and literally starred at me for about 30 minutes. I’m not kidding. It’s a creepy feeling and I certainly feel safe knowing I’m in a full sleeper carriage with mothers and children.

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Eating my heart attack biscuits I bought from a stall before getting on the train, I’m missing my yoga routine – or I should say my body is. It’s incredible what you notice within your body once you start going deeper your my practice. The oils are just nauseating but these are the only ‘safe’ food I could find to eat so my healthy diet needs to go out the window for a night. I have a vegan cookie I bought from Depth N Green yesterday that I’ve been saving (thank God I didn’t eat it earlier). It looks like this is dinner. Bharath always said our first priority is survival. So if this means artery-clogging biscuits to tide me over, then artery clogging biscuits it is!

For now, I shall continue to read my new book – Light on Yoga by B.K.S Iyengar before trying to get some sleep. With my huge pack and day-backpack shoved in my little corner with me also, I’m taking no chances!

See you in Kerala.

Namaste xx