Gokarna: OM Beach and Half Moon Beach

Whoa, whoa, whoa, I’m a little slack these days.  We’ve been full power busy in our little jungle bubble doing all kinds of home projects, art projects, construction projects, and just had visitors from America, UK, Germany, and Australia for the past three weeks.  Whew.  It’s been a whirlwind for sure.

To break up the energy, me and my Aussie friend, Trines, took a little 5 hour road trip down south to Gokarna, Karnataka.  It was super.  We got some great views on the drive down, stopped for Chai, and listened to an epic playlist, of course!

If you’re ever traveling in India and wondering about awesome beaches, this is an area to check out.  The town Gokarna itself is good for shopping. . .if that’s your thang. . .

You can find everything from silver goblets to a whole new wardrobe.  Some of the prices are better than in other tourist areas, too, but you still need to work on your bargaining skills.  It’s actually a popular pilgrimage destination for Hindus so it’s a very holy, mystical, and magical area.  It’s also considered to be a bohemian destination for those seeking the “hippie trail” in India.  There are many beaches surrounding Gokarna itself and we decided to check out Half Moon Beach and Om Beach.

To get to Half Moon beach you either have to do a 30 minute hike from Om Beach or you can take a boat.  We got to Gokarna very late in the day so we opted to take a boat.  It cost 200 rupees per person.  Don’t let them charge you any more.  They told us it was 2000 rupees at first, for instance.  Yeah, yeah, always good price for me, my friend, right?!

Anyway, it was just about sunset while we waited for our boat to get ready and I enjoyed petting the baby cows.  I just love cows, as you know, if you’ve been following me awhile.  They really can be like dogs sometimes.

Magic Man and Trines enjoyed a lovely bench. . .probably watching me pet the cows. . .hahahah. . .

Then we got on our cute, little boat, and zoomed over to Half Moon Beach. . .

It only took about 5 minutes but I was surprised when we arrived that there wasn’t massive crowds and it looked pretty peaceful.  In India, especially going to tourist or well loved places, I never expect it to be quiet and under populated.  Half Moon beach was just that.  In fact, I think we were the only people around.  It was like our own private beach.

We stayed at the first place attached to the Half Moon Beach Cafe.  I’m not going to lie, it was not a “nice” room, but it was basic and cheap and the grounds were very special.  It was 350 (5 bucks) rupees for basically just a bed in a concrete box with outdoor shower and toilets.  It’s kinda like camping.  Oh yeah, you also have to come with your own bed sheets and towels.

The surrounding landscape looked like a postcard to me.  The birds chirping, the rolling fields, stacks of hay. . .It would be a nice place to stay if you are looking for a quiet, rustic, earthy experience to hang long term.  Also, everything we ate at the restaurant was super yummy.

The next morning, the three of us decided we wanted a little bit more stimulation and moved over to Om Beach. . .but this time we did the hike.  Btw, the hike takes only about 30 minutes and it’s a beautiful, easy path that anyone can do.  I highly recommend it.  One thing about living by the beach is I miss the mountains all the time, so for me, it was super nice to strap on my pack and hike all up in mother nature for a bit.

We taught Trines Rainbow songs on the hike and sang through the woods. . .

Tall trees, warm fire,

Strong wind, deep water.

I can feel it in my body,

I can feel it in my soul!

On the other side of the hill/mountain/cliff thingy, we finally got a view of Om Beach.  Wow.  Besides being actually shaped like an Om symbol, the view was utterly stunning.

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Yep, this is called living the dream, folks.  Seeing that beach made me feel so glad I’m not stuck in Trump land in the cold winter.  Brrrrrr and yuck.  But, dang, now THAT. . .well. . .that’s a glorious sight.  Don’t you reckon?!

 

 

Isn’t he the sexiest man alive. . .even with all that gear wrapped around him?!  Hehe.  Okay, okay, I digress.

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So, we found a cool spot on the beach to stay and for 700 rupees we got a really, really nice room with a great bed, clean bathroom, and a lovely front porch.  I could’ve stayed at this place for months.  The ceiling of our room was neatly lined with different colored sarees and I thought that was a cool touch.

Jungle Cafe is set up like a beach village with beautiful outdoor showers and toilets (for shack renters or whoever) so you can revel in the sounds and sights of nature, accompanied by cool shacks for rent alongside the mini house blocks.  Shacks went for 350 rupees and were very nice, too.

But, one of my favorite parts about this place was that the ground was maintained so well you could walk around barefoot and never step on anything ouchy.  There was a whole team of lovely ladies who meticulously swept the sand around all the houses and shacks, almost like a beach zen garden.

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Another win: you can order from their restaurant and have it delivered to your house or shack.  Yessssss!  The food there was delicious.  Fruit salad and yogurt is always a go-to for me.  I love it!  We did try other food, too.  Sometimes I eat more than just fruit, but man, it’s hard for a faerie.

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Swimming was about 2 minutes walking distance from our little zen garden home and it was glorious. . .

We were happily surprised that Om Beach wasn’t very populated either.  I have heard about this beach from so many people that I assumed it would be packed at this time in the season, but it was nice.  It seemed the only people who were there besides us was a whole tribe of Israelis.  It did feel a bit like the dominant culture on the beach and that was an interesting ambiance.

Our one night at Om Beach was a fun evening with a few other random travelers.  We drank vodka, listened to 90’s European Pop music, and ate dinner together.  It was the kind of night we all needed after the eerily quiet night on Half Moon beach.

In the morning, me and my Magic Man went for a quick swim, had breakfast with Trines, and then jumped back in Dinky-Doo and made the 5 hour trek back to our jungle paradise home.

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If you’re in the mood for dreaming. . .

Dream of Gokarna.  Dream of Rainbows.  Dream of all of your favorite things.  It’s good for your heart and soul.

See you in 5!

 

 

 

Goodbye Tree Town, my Ann Arbor Home!

It’s about that time again.

I started packing.

I’ve had my last hurrahs (for now).

Two months ago when I arrived in the USA it seemed like I had so many days to fill.  Now that it’s over, I’m wondering how did it go so fast?!  But, I’m ready.  I miss my fur babies.  The three of them are really cute and I’m beyond excited to feast my eyes upon their glorious bodies.  I’m such a lucky girl.

One of the sweetest things I got to do this summer was attend the opening of my friend’s brand new cafe called the Electric Eye Cafe.  It’s a cute coffee shop with rotating roasters and a friendly-chic-whimsical vibe adorned with quirky written signs.

If you’re in the Ann Arbor area, it’s a great place to check out.  I know there’s heaps of coffee shops, but this place is unique, and well, a friend’s place is always so comfy, isn’t it?!  It’s also in a great location on Main Street and there’s plenty of parking.  Just go ahead then.  Do it.  You know you love the coffee.  Say ‘hi’ to Keelan for me.

Another place I never miss when I’m in Ann Arbor is the good old Fleetwood Diner.  It’s been around for decades and it is quite a special place.  You don’t want to miss it on your trip to this wonderful tree town.  I assure you it won’t disappoint.

I took my mom here for lunch on my last day in town.  We had a great time sitting along the street watching the Ann Arbor life pass us by.  I also hoovered my ‘hippie hash’ like I hadn’t eaten in 10 years.  Mmmmm.  It’s just so delicious, and I’m not even usually a fan of potatoes that much.  But, these hash browns cooked with tomatoes, green peppers, broccoli, onions, and feta cheese are something to dream about.

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One of the best nights I had in my two month long visit was with a bunch of co-workers for an epic dance night out on the town.  We were on a serious mission to tear up the dance floor, and well, I reckon we did a fantastic job.  I’ve made some new amazing friends this summer in Michigan and uncountable good memories.  My cup runneth over, dear friends. . .

I even got to hug one of my most favorite people in the whole wide world who was only in town for one night.  We hadn’t seen each other in four years and it was great to recharge on her super vibrations. . .

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In a few days I will be all packed up and time traveling back to my beloved Magic Man.  It has been monsoon season in Goa, so I’ll be arriving to the greenest, lush jungle surrounding my rainbow penthouse.  I will cherish the good times and good vibes of this pure Michigan summer and I’ll see you all on the flip side. . .

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Lake Michigan Dune Time

If you’ve never seen one of the “Great Lakes” in your life, I recommend making a trip sometime.  Lake Michigan, in particular, has beautiful sand dune beaches and water that stretches as far as the eye can see.  Once at the water’s edge, looking out into the vast blue horizon is like gazing out into the open sea. . .without all that salt, of course.  It is quite a sight.

My family goes camping every year somewhere on the lake and this was the first year I got to attend the annual shenanigans.  I’m no stranger to camping so I was pretty excited to bust out my awesome camping gear. . .plus, sleeping in my tent all cozy in my sleeping bag is some of the best sleep I ever have.  I know, I’m a weirdo to some people.

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After setting up camp at the PJ Hoffmaster State Park Campground, we headed straight for the beach.  And it looked like this. . .

The water was brisk, per usual, but after about 5 minutes it just starts to feel refreshing.  Growing up in Michigan, you get used to cold water.  It’s no big deal.  It’s just how it is.  I think I heard somewhere that cold water stimulates your lymphatic system, so it’s all good for your health, too.

The beaches are tall white sand dunes that are killer to hike up, but make for great adventures.  The best part of hiking the dunes is running down them.  Each step takes so long to sink down in the sand it kinda feels like you’re walking on the moon or floating instead of running.  And it’s even fun to hike up a dune just for the sake of floating back down again.  Me and my dad went on a really fun hike one of the days and I got some primo shots.

I love this one below.  It looks like he’s a lone man in the desert. . .or on some strange desolate planet. . .

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You can tell a little bit how steep this dune really was.  It was a great workout and also a never-ending foot massage from all that sand.  My little footsies were quite happy afterwards.  And BTW, I have the best Dad.  He’s a gem!

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Some of my oldest and dearest friends joined us for a few nights of camping fun.  I’ve been cashing in on all the friendly company I can manage while I’m here.  In the blink of an eye I’ll be back to my little jungle home far far away from so many of my loved ones.

Here are some great shots from another dune hike. . .

We came across this bench on our dune hike and I had to capture the wisdom of it.  I think it’s a good notion for all of us.  Keep dreaming, keep dreaming. . .grab it when you can, grab it when you think you can’t.  Just do what that little voice inside of you says.  Listen. . .

“I believe people should find their dreams and chase them before it’s too late.  If you know what your dream is grab it and run.”

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We had beach disco parties, of course, because I have to dance no matter what.  It’s good for my soul.  We had dinners and fun chats around the camp fire.  And we even made it to the nearest city to see a singing, dancing, light up fountain.  It was something.  It’s one of the oldest musical fountains out there, so check it out for a truly local experience.  Haha.

It was really hard to leave the camping trip, but I will be excited to visit the dunes again and that beautiful blue horizon.  Thanks, Lake Michigan.

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Ann Arbor Daze

So, I’ve been back in the other Motherland. . .aka America. . .for awhile now.  The summer is here and the weather has been delightful.  I even got joy from a big whiff of fresh grass straight off the plane.  Sounds weird, I’m sure, but we don’t have much grass around us in Goa.  We’ve got plenty of lush jungle, but grass, well, it’s a special thing and there’s not much of it.  So, yeah, that first whiff was pretty darn nice. These days, the little things fill me with abundant joy.  It’s great.  I guess I can thank the teachings of Mother India for that.

Ann Arbor is looking pretty great, don’t you think?  These are a few shots from my river run and an old building downtown. . .

I’ve been a busy busy bee on this visit.  It’s actually been more like work.  Doctor appointments, helping my mamma, seeing the family, and all kinds of other task oriented adulting.  No siestas or Goan sunsets around here but I’ve been getting my fill of delicious American beer, diners, eating my way through the gigantic cheese selections and all the Mexican food I can fit in my stomach. . .and of course, loving the grocery stores.  It always takes me awhile to remember what I even used to buy at these places and that is such a strange thing.  Overwhelmed by choices, but glad to have them, I just hope I don’t get out of this place with twenty extra kilos on my booty!  Haha!  Not that my husband would mind.  Heh.

Michigan in the summer is pretty fantastic.  I am enjoying all the wonderful things about Ann Arbor in this glorious weather and catching up with all my old homies.  I think this is the longest I’ve gone without posting, too, which I apologize for keeping you waiting.  I’ve been burning the candle at both ends and have barely had enough time to burp or fart. . .I mean. . .well, you know what I mean.

I’m missing my Magic Man and my kitties so very much these days but I’m trying to stay in the moment and enjoy it while I can.  In the meantime, Louise the calico keeps me pretty good company. . .

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Good news in:  my mamma has made mega improvements since I’ve been here and she’s on the road to walking again.  Woohoo!  I’m really proud of the progress she’s made and I know she’s stubborn enough to get back to dancing on her feet as soon as possible. That’s a big relief  for me and her and now I know she’s on the up and up when I head back to Goa.  My article Broken Heart News will catch you up on health and life stuff, if you’re interested!

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In the little slots of time I have between all of my daughter duties, I’ve had a few dance parties with old friends and new ones.  I’ve been blessed to hang out with my awesome family all the time.  I really am the luckiest girl in the world to come from such a cool tribe of people.  They’ve been enjoying the good life with me and getting a kick out of my delight in American luxuries.

One of my favorite nights was with one of my dearest oldest friends and a brand new one.  We went to our fave Thursday night dance spot and sang along to Queen songs with the whole crowd.  It was utterly awesome and I will revel in the memories for a long time.  God Bless America. . .and my amazing friends. . .and Queen. . .and my healthy body that let’s me boogie all night looooong!!!

I promise it won’t be so long until the next update.  Sometimes it just takes awhile to arrive, I guess.  So, here I am.

In the words of my new mantra. . . .

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May you all feel the same way.  As always, I hope things are goan good!

 

Ann Arbor Shenanigans

Being back in my beloved hometown, Ann Arbor, has been a full spectrum experience.  I spend most of my time at the hospital giving my super mamma some love and healing energy, but I’ve been lucky to fit in a few nights of revelry with old friends and family. Thank goddess for small mercies, or in this case, wine, good food, superb company, and maybe a bit of dancing!  Okay, really though, I try to fit in dancing whenever I can because it is my church.  There’s nothing like a good boogie to make everything else feel just a teeny weeny bit better, don’t’cha think?!

If you’re saying to yourself that you don’t remember the last time you had a good boogie, then please, do yourself a big favor and move it!  Put on your favorite song and shake your booty like you really, truly mean it.  I promise you’ll feel better.  Whatever stagnant energy you have festering inside you will break up into stardust and float away.

On that note, we celebrated my step-mom, Desiree’s, birthday like professionals. . .starting with a seemingly endless happy hour party.  Some of my longest, dearest friends came to join the good times.

We went to this restaurant called The Quarter Bistro in Ann Arbor, and if you haven’t checked out their happy hour, maybe you should.  Everything is 5 bucks and it did a fine job at putting us in a wild party mood.  Haha.  I’m pretty sure I didn’t take enough advantage of that five dollar food menu (evident by the outcome of the end of the night), but the drinks kept showing up at my table, and well gosh, I couldn’t resist the friendly American hospitality.  I mean, who can?  The below picture is clearly a good example of how awesome the happy hour was.

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And then, we started talking about dancing.  Let’s go dancing.  But, where?  Hmm. . .and after a pit stop we ended up in downtown Ann Arbor at a place called LIVE for “gay night.” We arrived early and had the dance floor to ourselves, and I must say, we didn’t mind at all.  Being the party is the best way to BE!  Be the party wherever you are.

The two DJ’s played tons of good tunes. . . .like Madonna, Prince, TLC, to name a few. There were too many songs to remember, of course, but I shook my booty like a BOSS!!!  Oh yeah. . .and in black suede wedge boots.  Holla!  It’s been awhile since I have worn anything but sandals.  Such is life when you live by the beach.

Thanks to happy hour, and my starved appetite for some good ol’ American culture, I thoroughly enjoyed my time at LIVE.  The dance floor eventually filled up and there was a pretty cool lights and smoke show, too. . .until we got smoked out. . .and not the good kind.  But, it was still a super groovy time, indeed.

One thing I’ve realized after living in India for so long is how much I really love cheese. . .and cheese displays.  O.M.G. Will you just look at this thing?

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It’s almost as if they’re blocks of rustic gold sitting like cute little nuggets that just wait to be cuddled.  Riiiiight?!  I still get a little teary eyed in any grocery store even after a few weeks of Michigan time.  I swear, this reverse culture shock is so special.  New perspectives are gems, really, and appreciation for random things is truly a gift.  I spoke to the lady at the check out in this posh grocery store and told her how lovely it was.  She was curious about my opinion and I briefly explained.  And then she stopped what she was doing and said, “Wow, I really need to work on my gratitude.”  Welp, I’m here to remind you, sister.  Sometimes the little things are really really really big, um, like those blocks of delicious cheeeeeeese!  Okay, enough about my cheese obsession.

I’ve done a good job at making friends with the nurses at the hospital.  There’s a really cute Hungarian chick who’s got a holistic preference to medicine and she likes to come into my mom’s room and spread essential oils for some alternative therapy.  My mom has also become so popular that when staff make their rounds they yell hello’s from the corridor as they pass by.  It’s pretty cute.

The good news is:  Mom is doing better. . .ish. . .and there’s some movement and feeling in her lower half.  But she’s got a long way to go.  A long way.  The faeries surely have their work cut out for them.  Keep sending good vibes, dear universe.

I have also reconnected with my most favorite coffee cup in the whole wide world. . .

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My daily morning hot beverage just seems to taste better when those dudes are hanging around.  All you need is LOVE!

I got to hang with my brothers and my BFF’s. . .drink delicious craft beer, attend 2am fried chicken parties (what?), go ice skating, and manifest pretty much no snow AND sunshine for most of my visit.  All in all, I reckon I had some good luck and good vibes on my side.

For my last hurrah in town, guess what I wanted to do?  Yep, you got it.  DANCE!  So, I rallied the troops and we went to a funny little local place called the Elks Lodge.  It’s not usually open to the public, but on this particular night, a dear old friend happened to be the DJ and we enjoyed a super fun night. . .

After a whole month of tiring hospital visits, and a few fun shenanigans, the wind in the palm trees, Magic Man, and miss Shanti have been missing me, and I must take time out of hospital duties to deal with my own life.  However, the winds of change are blowing strong and I’ll soon be back in sweet Ann Arbor to continue the fun.

Now, I’m sitting in the airport on my way to Dallas. . .and then to Abu Dhabi. . .and then to Bombay. . .and then maybe, just maybe, back to Goa.  Right now, it feels like I’m flying to the moon.  At least I know Magic Man will be there to hug me when I get off my final plane delirious and ready for some good sleep.

I left my mamma in the hospital in tears and it wasn’t easy, but I have faith in her stubbornness to heal until I get back.  For now, I’m working on that ever present gratitude. Gratitude for my friends and family who are the best in the world and gratitude for things like planes. . .even though it’s a lot of sitting. . .so that I can zoom back and forth in the universe and tend to my loved ones across the globe.

Remember: Be the party wherever you are and never forget how lucky you are, either!

Loving you, family!

Broken Heart News in Ann Arbor, Michigan

Two weeks ago, I was having my afternoon siesta with Shanti.  It was a hot day in the jungle and the late afternoon sun beat us into a dead sleep.  When I finally woke up, I checked my phone and found frantic messages from my brother.

Are you up?  It’s mom.  It’s not good!

Great.  The last thing anyone wants to hear when they’re on the other side of the world is that a family member is in trouble, especially your MOM.  It takes a long time to travel that far and it’s a lot to wrap your head around in less than 24 hours.  Whew.

So, I jumped on a plane to Detroit immediately and flew back to the good ol’ U. S. of A!

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It’s been a year and a half since I have been out of India, and let me tell you, I felt a bit like Mr. Bean in the airport.  I’ve heard about reverse culture shock but I didn’t really understand it, well, until the Mr. Bean in me was so strong that I started freaking random people out by my charming enthusiasm for American standards.

It started with getting off the plane in Newark, New Jersey.  One might think the arm pit of America isn’t that great, but holy cow, the moment I stepped into the airport I was hit with a wall of aroma. . .and I’m not talking the lovely wall of pungent, aromatic curry-dirt-pee-whoknowswhat smell like an assault on your senses.  It was a wall of fragrant, delicious brownies, cookies, pastries, perhaps.  Oh. My. God.  I dropped my bags and breathed in the air like a crazy person who just escaped from the mental institute.

IT SMELLS SO GOOD!!!!  I kept yelling to the air.  People walked by with confused expressions as I sniffed the air.  God Bless America.  Ha!  I never liked that phrase so much until now.

Then, I passed a cafe on the way to my next gate and the smells of coffee, bacon, and cheese wafted over to me and literally made me giddy.  The sensations hitting my olfactory system made me do a little dance at the counter.  The clerk just smiled and tried not to stare in strange wonder at why the heck this weird chick (me!) was so excited to smell stuff.  I mean, smells at the airport aren’t necessarily a famous memory for most people.  And when I ordered a SMALL latte and it came out looking utterly gigantic?!  Wow.  God Bless America again!

Home sweet home.  Mmmmmm!

I finally made it to Detroit and my cool dad picked me up.  Yeah, I said cool.  He plays guitar, rides a skateboard, and knows all the good music.  I’m a lucky girl and I count my lucky stars all the time.

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And then after a nice, long, HOT shower to wash off the funk of twenty five hours of traveling, I made my way to the ICU at the hospital to see my mama.  She just had an aneurysm in her aorta and almost died.  In fact, the doctor said that most people that suffer aortic aneurysms don’t even make it to the hospital, so my mama is one tough cookie.

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When I got to the hospital, she was one drugged cookie, too.  The surgery lasted TEN whole hours and all the anesthetics and drugs took days and days to leave her system.  She said she saw lots of weird “things” in the room while the drugs wore off.  I told her not to tell anyone else.

Since I’ve been home, I’m catching up on all of my fave American TV shows, hanging with the family, seeing friends, and enjoying the simple things in life that are so good here. . . like grocery stores and donuts!  Wow.  I recently ate a custard paczki (poonchkey) and I dare say it was one of the most delicious things I’ve ever eaten in my whole dang life.  Haha!  I cut the thing in half and when I finished the first half I almost cried remembering there was still a second half.  I had a good laugh at myself. . .maybe even for a couple minutes.  I laugh at myself all the time.  It’s the only way to live.

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I’ve also been remembering myself.  Like, what the heck I even wear in winter!  Pants, hats, jewelry I haven’t seen in years.  Sliding into an old pair of jeans is like seeing a long lost friend, except that friend is ME.  What a trip.  Phases of myself and my life that have been packed into boxes. . . the comfortable, comforting memories of being me.

Being back in America makes me appreciate the amenities of first world.  Doing laundry is so fast and easy.  Going to the store to find some random thing is simple.  Clean air to breathe.  Raspberries, blueberries, kale and all the things I’ve missed are never hard to find.  These little, unappreciated luxuries surely balance out the hard stuff.

I’m at the hospital every day.

Days are long.  Sometimes stressful and sad.

We’re still waiting for my mom’s nerves to wake up in her legs and then hopefully she’ll walk again.  I’m pretty sure the faeries are helping out.  They always know when I need them.

If you’re reading this, wherever you are, send a little love to my mama.  Send a little more love to everyone around you.  Everything in this life can change so fast.  One day you’re fine and the next day you can’t walk.

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Say ‘I love You,’ do the things you always dreamed, appreciate walking and talking and being healthy, and never take life for granted. . .for even something like going to the grocery store to buy your favorite cheese.  Most people don’t know how lucky they are.

Everything right now is hard. . .but it gets a little teeny tiny bit better as the days go by.

Gratitude.

If there’s one good lesson my mom can teach you, it’s respect your body.  Love yourself. Take care of yourself.  She didn’t do those things and now she’s facing the consequences. . .and they are not fun.  Not at all.  Not for her or anyone around.

I’m missing my dear Shanti but I’m glad she has company until I get back.

I think I brought the sunshine and beachy vibes from Goa to Ann Arbor because since I’ve arrived it’s turned sunny and springy.  I hope all the good vibes of my jungle home in India help heal my mama’s broken heart.

And I hope that you beautiful people out there can feel the love, too!!!!!   Aho!

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Love in Hampi, India

What would you do in the name of love?  Would you hire a magical monkey to build a bridge of rocks across the ocean to have your one true love rescued?  And where would you get such mystical rocks?

Wait, I know. . .

I know a place with rocks that pile on top of each other in inexplicable ways–daring the laws of gravity and humanity, carrying the spirits of the elders in their smooth and playful shapes.  These hard sponges of energy tell the kind of stories you can only feel in your body, in your soul, in the crevices of yourself that you don’t even know. . .yet!

This place is called Hampi.  It’s an ancient village that was once one of the richest cities in the world.  Today it is rich with experience and wonder. . .and what remains are the remnants of a culture, perhaps, long forgotten.

We got whispers of a Rainbow Gathering happening near Hampi (check out my post The Valley of Home here if you don’t know what I’m talking about), so we rallied our group of fantastic traveling faeries (see post The Good-Good Life if you’re intrigued) to meet up with us for a grand adventure.  And a grand adventure it was, indeed.  Btw, the rainbow gathering moved 800km away, so we stayed in Hampi.

We left Goa before sunrise to get an early start on our 9 hour drive across the state of Karnataka.  Most of the drive went through arid countryside decorated with small villages just often enough to keep things interesting.  People gathered at watering holes with special receptacles.  Women and children gathered at slabs of rocks used for washing clothes.  Sometimes we’d pass groups of men sitting at desolate bus stops waiting for nothing but a good conversation.

Village after village, we whizzed by in our orange time machine, Dinky-Doo, and glimpses of other realities faded into the dust.  Half way through the journey, we stopped in a big city called Hubli and had the best South Indian breakfast for a whole 20 rupees.  Yep.  That’s only about 30 cents, dude.  Win!

But, hours later when Hampi appeared in the horizon, it suddenly felt like we were on a different planet.  Gigantic rocks piled high and strategically like some posse of giants just finished a grueling game of Jenga.  I swear dinosaurs roamed these lands.  I never stopped believing there just might be one coming around the rocks at anytime.  The misplaced palm trees also give it a stone age (haha) meets Jurassic park kind of look.

Hampi is divided by a glorious river and the GPS told us our guesthouse was on the wrong side.  Woops.  Couldn’t Hanuman make a bridge across the tiny river while he was making that huge one in the ocean?!  What gives, monkey god?!  So we had to drive more than an hour down to the next town where the only bridge was to get to the other side.  Recurring tip: Nothing is easy in India.

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The two sides of Hampi are quite different.  One side is filled with ruins and temples and the other side (nicknamed “Hippie Island”) is bohemian guesthouses and rice paddies.  You can only cross the river by boat and it’s a whole 20 second ride for 10 rupees.

However, when we arrived at Nargila Guesthouse, I was hypnotized by the postcard views and the sight of my faerie tribe. . .

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Our room, I must admit, was not my favorite in India, but it was peak season and really busy and we were lucky to get one at all.  The restaurant part also made up for anything the room was lacking.  It was similar to the ones in Kheerganga which you can read about here. But to reiterate, it’s a whole floor of cushions and low tables so you can literally lounge around all day and order stuff from the restaurant.  If you’re wanting to catch up on a good book, do some writing, or play cards all afternoon, the rice paddies in the background provide the perfect postcard view for any time of day.

Hampi Tip:  The Nargila Restaurant is worth a visit, especially since one of the hosts, Ganga, is a lovely guy.  He makes your visit very cozy and the place makes the best banofee pie in India, I swear.  So, it’s worth it to check out for a meal or two, or even an afternoon, but maybe stay in another place if you want super clean rooms.  It depends on your needs/wants while traveling.

Every morning we got to watch a local gang of monkeys doing their morning ritual of “monkeying around” on the closest tree line.  It was pretty darn good coffee time TV, people.  Every so often one of them would jump on the roof of the restaurant kitchen and cause a little trouble, but mostly they stayed in the trees.

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Our first night in Hampi we spent celebrating reuniting with our friends.  It involved lots of good conversation and even more cashew Feni.  What the heck is cashew feni?  It’s a local alcohol made only in Goa from the fruit of the cashew. . .kinda like a moonshine. Heh heh.  Yes, we stashed some in our little Dinky-Doo just in case.  Needless to say, shenanigans were had and even a dance party by the river unfolded quite, um, naturally.

Pardon the blur in the photos.  In my state of, ahem, bliss, I can’t believe any pictures are recognizable at all.  We did a fine job of spreading some magic on those river rocks.  I’m sure they’ll remember us for a long time. . .

After a day of rest and lounging at the Nargila restaurant, we headed to the Monkey Temple on the full moon.  January 12th was the first full moon of 2017 and it was in Cancer. . .which basically means that it was a more intense full moon than usual and it was said to invoke a lot of new beginnings for this brand new year.  I’ll take it.  Anything is better than the shitstorm of 2016.

For me, personally, going to the Monkey Temple on the full moon was also very auspicious and special.  In case you’re just joining my little universe, I’m a monkey and the year of the monkey is just about to end, so I literally got to say goodbye to my challenging year at my very own temple.  It seemed almost too appropriate and perfect that I honor the growth and changes in such a profound way.  But, it wasn’t easy, of course, physically or mentally.

It all started with 575 steps up.  Way up.  To the top of a cliff.  See that white building on the top of the rocks?  That’s it.  Ooh, and that’s Ela, our American friend.  She’d already been to the temple but joined us for a second visit.  Hanging with her is like eating some good ol’ American comfort food.  Wait, does that sound weird?!  I mean, I don’t get to hang with a lot of Americans. . .okay, I NEVER get to hang with Americans, so her presence was a real Midwestern treat!

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We quickly became part of the pilgrimage, making the climb up to pay our respects.  The steps were steep–a switchback around and between giant boulders.  The old men and women in our procession would sometimes drop on all fours and climb that way because it was so tough for them.  I didn’t find it that difficult thanks to all my running, and my glorious youth, but it was definitely a sight to see.  There were even spots where entire groups of people would rest and catch their breath, all while smiling and laughing at the people still climbing up.  It was pure comedy while we all huffed and puffed our way to the promised land.

There was a countdown painted on the rocks at random spots so you knew how many more steps it was to the top.  I also loved some of the paintings along the way, like this one of Hanuman below.

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Everything was fine and dandy approaching the temple. . .

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And just as I turned the corner of the last rock, my damn foot vein puffed up with shooting pains  (a healed injury from August, 2016).  Ugh.  I don’t know if it was the sudden elevation, or an actual physical manifestation of the monkey year pulsating on the bottom of my foot, or just freakin’ coincidence, but it pushed out a whole bucket of tears in less than 2 whole seconds.  As if I’m not already a scene being a white chick there, but a crying white chick is even better.  Guhreat!

At most Temples in India, you have to remove your shoes because the area is considered holy and shoes are dirty.  I personally never leave my shoes in the designated area. Instead, I carry them covertly with me so they don’t get stolen.  I’m not saying that all shoes get stolen, of course, I’m just saying I don’t want to take the chance because it does happen and I really love my shoes.  A lot.  They’re worth a ton in rupees, man, and that’s all I’m gonna say.

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So, I know it was in the middle of the day and it was the full moon, but still I expected to see at least one naughty monkey somewhere hiding in the shadows or en route to a napping spot.  Nope.  A big fat nope.  Not one single monkey in sight for me, the monkey, in the year of the monkey, at the monkey temple.  Hahahahahaha.  The only thing I got was a resurrected foot injury and some sweet pics.  Maybe the monkeys were letting me enjoy my temple all to myself because usually the place is filled with them in every direction.  I like to think of it like this.  Thanks, Hanuman.

The next day, we braved the river blessed by our magical dance party and paid 10 rupees to get to the other side.  The river is only so big and it’d be easier to have just a foot bridge across it, but since this is India and nothing is logical, you have to take a boat. . .and better yet, since they don’t want to waste fuel on the 20 second ride across, you have to wait ages for the boat to fill up.  It’s annoying and funny.  Indians will do anything to save a couple rupees.  I can’t decide if they’re genius entrepreneurs or horrible cheapskates.  Maybe both.

Our lovely Dutch babies, Jasper and Femke, joined us for the afternoon.  They are on a mega traveling expedition around the world and also have a blog.  It’s written in Dutch, but you can check it out here.

At the time we were crossing the river, there was a whole heap of Indians on the other side bathing and having a good time.  They got a kick out of me taking a photo as we zoomed by and posed accordingly.

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The view from the other side looked like this. . .

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The other side of the river was completely different from “Hippie Island.”  It almost looked like scenes from Indiana Jones or Tomb Raider in certain areas.  I never saw anything like it before in my life.  Wowie zowie!

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The temples and ruins were said to be 600-800 years old.  Some of them were made with such huge slabs of rock that, still today, no one knows the technology that they used to create it all.  I envisioned an archaic regal society–filled with vibrant colors and different smells–as I scanned the old buildings around me.  There was an energy in the air that felt like memories of the majestic life it once had.

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I couldn’t resist a little photo session.  I mean, when you come this far, you’ve gotta take advantage of the views, right?!

 

That big pyramid temple in a lot of the above pictures might be the most famous in the area, called Virupaksha temple, and up close it has the most intricately erotic carvings. You know, the kind that remind you of the Kama Sutra and probably the sort of fun that this ancient society once had. . .obviously, since they freakin’ carved it in that much stone.  Geez.  Hehe.

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In a popular courtyard area, surrounded by temples, I was happily surprised to finally see some sweet cows being loved.  I know what you’re thinking.  Don’t Hindus worship cows? But really, in my humble opinion, and as I’ve stated in previous posts, they are among the most mistreated beings in this huge country.  However, at this spot, there were two lucky cows given so much love.  People actually waited in line to pet them and even rub their feet.  I’m sure they were just hoping to get some food, but cows are pretty affectionate animals and they deserve cuddles too.

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There was some kind of ritual going on in one of the buildings that echoed out of the stone columns.  Kids danced to music and plenty of visitors checked out the happenings.  We stayed out in the courtyard watching the monkeys rival over turf politics while listening to the sounds of the beautiful music echoing all around us.

It got a bit more interesting when a tiny puppy tried to steal a bag of potato chips from one monkeys’ turf.  I thought I was going to witness a nasty fight, but the puppy survived unscathed, at least, for the moment. . .

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After a day of exploration, we went to the river for sunset. . .

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One of the things I love to document when I travel is the street art, or graffiti, and Hampi had a few good pieces around.

The day before we left Hampi, all of the locals were getting ready for some festival at one of the temples.  I don’t know the name of it but it’s basically fancy chalk drawings that women do outside their homes and businesses for good blessings and festivities.  They don’t use stick chalk, though, they use powdered chalk. . .kinda like colored sand that they drop from their hands as they move in a particular pattern.

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Technically, you’re not supposed to walk or drive on any of the designs because it’s just rude and bad luck and so not cool, but of course some idiot drove on one and it started a big fight on the street.  The old lady was pretty pissed off that her sacred design was defiled.  I was just glad it was an Indian and not a Westerner.  We’re not all white devils after all.  Yay!

Four days later, we said a truly final goodbye to our special friends.  We just happen to catch a good part of their travels before they left for other places, but I know deep in my heart, we will all be together again someday.  I’m very thankful for all the fun we’ve shared and it’s only five minutes until the next cuddle.

Our last night in Hampi was quiet without the faeries.  As they headed on a bus ride towards Bangalore, we got a good night’s rest to make that long journey back to our beloved rainbow penthouse. . .in the jungle village by the sea.

I will never forget Hampi and the reminder of the great spirit within all of us.  Those magnificent rocks are true gurus in the art of how to rock.  Aho!

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Thailand–Bangkok, Buckets, and Birthdays!

It’s been while, I know.  I’m so sorry to keep everyone hanging around wondering where I’ve been, but life has been throwing some crazy curve balls and I think I’ve finally caught up.

In case you’re wondering where to travel to on your next big adventure, or a far away place to dream about. . . Thailand is amazing.  Save your money, your vacation time, whatever you need to do to get to this lovely land.  Trust me, you won’t regret it.

It’s pretty cheap if you’re coming from a Western culture, the people are very nice and not confrontational, it’s super clean, the food is tasty, and the islands are gorgeous.  It’s an easy place to travel solo and also a fun place to travel with a family.  You can gorge on the delicious street food and *not* get sick like in some other. . .ahem. . .places in the world.

We hit the ground in Bangkok ready to celebrate our friend, Raj’s, birthday.  Heh.  And we really, truly, partied.  Like, Bangkok style.  For those of you who don’t know what that means, well, it means buckets.

But, what is a bucket?

Ah ha. . .a bucket is a wonderful, sometimes too much fun, part of Thailand party culture.  It’s an alcoholic beverage served in nothing other than what you might expect.  A bucket. . .fully equipped with a handle for carrying whilst you wander the streets of the big city into the wee hours of the night.  Bangkok never sleeps.

You can order buckets at the bars or you can order them right from the street at the  bucket shops.

The cheapest bucket is called the ‘Sangsom Bucket.’  Sangsom is Thailand’s special rum and they mix it with Coke and Redbull, but this isn’t your everyday Redbull.  It’s Thai Redbull, so it’s more like drinking the ‘natural’ source. . . if such a thing exists.  It even comes in strange, little, glass bottles that look like old school medicine bottles.

I personally go for a Vodka bucket instead because I don’t like drinking things with names referring to red bulls, but if you ever go to Thailand, it’s kind of a must try once thingy.  I’m surprised it wasn’t in that movie “The Beach” because I’m sure Leonardo would’ve had one or two while filming.  It’s right up there with drinking a shot of snake blood or some of the other charming things one can do in the shadows of Bangkok.

Anyway, I digress. . .

The four of us checked into our hotel room, took disco naps, showered, and then hit the streets on a serious mission. . .a bucket mission.  We ended up finding two more friends from Australia who just happened to be in town at the same time and they joined our birthday bucket celebration.

Near Kho San Road, there’s endless pop up bars along the little streets where you can get into plenty of shennanigans.  We like this particular place where someone parks a VW van turned into a bar.  They have little tables, music, and you can watch the crazy night life pass by.

And so, the six of us arrived at the established bucket location. . .

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It all started out cute and worldly.  Russia, Bosnia, America, Australia, and India represented at our table.  We laughed, we talked about the magic of the buckets and the powers they have.  We even sucked down the first round and thought maybe they weren’t working.

Another round of buckets piled onto the tables and we continued our random chats about the universe.  It was great catching up with old friends and introducing them to new ones.  People selling souvenirs and magic tricks passed us, the music turned up, and the six of us happily slurped down bucket after–um, I’ve lost count–bucket.  And then, that funny thing happens when you drink buckets.

You start taking pictures with the  buckets like they’re your favorite celebrity sitting at the table with you.  I mean, who doesn’t like taking pictures with a drink that huge?

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Once group sharing begins with the buckets, there’s no turning back.  The rabbit hole starts flashing in neon lights, and in Bangkok, there’s so many rabbit holes to choose from, things can get more than weird.

Suddenly, our talks of an early night turned into hilarious talks about that crazy thing that happens in Bangkok.  The thing that all the taxi drivers always try to take you to, but they only ask by making a popping noise with their mouth, instead of using actual words.  The thing that you’re both equally disgusted and intrigued by.  The thing that you talk about every-single-time you go to Bangkok, but never actually do it.

Leave it to the one Russian in our group to slurp down the rest of her bucket and tell us enough is enough.  “We’re going.  That’s it.  Finish your buckets,” she said.  Like Alice falling into wonderland, we set off into the night.  Two tuk-tuk’s carrying the six of us whizzed through the city like blurry race cars. . .weaving back and forth so that we could almost hi-five on the streets at times.

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It seemed like a long ride, but it was exhilarating and fun to hang onto the railing in the tuk-tuk as we flew through endless streets of Bangkok night life.  We finally turned down some random alley and pulled up to a white building.  It didn’t feel so real until that moment.  I remember thinking to myself, “this is where they have a ping-pong show?”  I half expected some seedy part of town with red lights and other scandalous views.

Now, you’re probably thinking one of three things:

  1. What is a ping-pong show?
  2. Oh-no-you-didn’t!
  3. I’ve been to one, too.

The tuk-tuk drivers smiled at us and pointed to the door.  We walked in and were immediately greeted by an older woman at a desk.  She was classy, dressed in a nice outfit, and seemed to have some kind of elegant vibe about her.  She told us the price and we haggled for a few minutes to get a better deal and then she reminded us to enjoy the show.

Another door opened behind the desk and then another woman came out of it to escort us.  We walked into a dark room with a bar on one side and a stage on the other.  There was some kind of music playing, but with the amount of buckets I had and the other distractions in the room, I have no clue what it was. . .nor did it matter.

I began to scan the scene.  I’ve been to a strip club or two in my life and usually they’re filled with gawking men, creepy male gaze vibes, and objectification so thick you can scoop it onto a plate.  But this place was surprisingly filled with mostly women.  There were some men in the crowd, but it was a female dominated establishment, including the staff.  In every single direction, I could see only women working, and not disturbingly young women, either.

The bartender could’ve been a grandma.  The “bouncers” were probably in their 30’s or 40’s and even the women on stage were of appropriate ages and older generations.  It was, to say the least, way more fascinating in a different way than I ever thought it could be.  I was also glad that I didn’t drunkenly volunteer for some creepy child sex show.  Whew.

We got one free drink with our ticket price and then settled into the sights of the show.  A naked woman walked onto the stage.  It was too dark to see any fine details but we all knew what was hiding in the shadowed crevices.  She did a little shimmy.  It wasn’t the normal gyrating you might think of.  In fact, it wasn’t sexual at all.  It was more like she was warming up her body instead of showing it off.

The woman laid down on the floor of the stage, put up her legs, and then placed some kind of straw into her crotch.  Another woman came to the side of the stage holding a birthday cake with lit candles.  The woman lying down then blew out all the candles with the power of her Yoni.  It just happened to be around midnight when the show started, and that meant it was dot Raj’s birthday.  It was, indeed, an entertaining coincidence.  We all had a good laugh.

Then the second act began.  Another lady came out and did a similar awkward shimmy and then laid down on the floor.  A second woman threw balloons into the air and the horizontal woman shot something from her talented Yoni that popped all the balloons.

Another lady opened a Coke bottle with her magical Yoni.

At this time, I realized we weren’t at a creepy, kinky, nasty sex show.  This was a mind blowing, feminist, freakin’ talent show.  This wasn’t about sexualizing women, or their bodies, or turning themselves into objects of desire.  The whole event was more like showing off how bad-ass a vagina is and how powerful Kegel muscles can tell the male gaze to fuck off.  Ha!

It got even better when another woman walked onto the stage, did the usual pre-game dance, and then pulled twenty feet of streamers out of her vagina. . .wrapping it around the poles on the stage and then continuing to shimmy with the end still fixed inside the grip of her Kegel muscles.  The streamers even glowed in the black light.  Take that.

The final act was the name sake: the “Ping-pong” show.  Two empty pint glasses were put onto one side of the stage.  A new naked woman showed up.  She remained standing and and put a ping pong ball into her Yoni.  She then spit it out so that it bounced on the floor and into the pint glass.  It was like watching a beer pong game at a frat party. . .minus the idiots, the stench of cheap beer, and vomit. . .Oh yeah, and the Dave Matthews music.

I think I was the only one of the group who got a kick out of the show.  Everyone else seemed to be bummed that it wasn’t a sexually charging experience.  I tried to explain the feminist awesomeness on the taxi ride back to our neighborhood, but the unanimous sentiments were nothing short of dissatisfied and grossed out.  The idea of continuing the bucket story was more enticing than pontificating defeating the male gaze and the powers of the mystical vagina.

Kho San Road was bumping, as usual, and we found ourselves with more buckets, and suddenly, I escaped with Karina to do a shot of tequila?!?!  I don’t know why I thought this was a good idea. . .considering I’m not one to usually even do shots, especially of freakin’ tequila. . .but, alas, it happened.  It even happened a second time, at the same bar, and I thought it was an entirely new place.  I even asked the same bartender if he was following me because I didn’t recognize him.  Haha.  Yeahhh. . . probably not my finest moment.

After that, the rest of the night was officially blurry.  We danced, we laughed, and we all got back to our hotel rooms in one piece.

The thing that saved me on my walk back to the room was a coconut and bean ice cream popsicle from 7-eleven.  I cried to the heavens how I needed it so and moaned with every drunken, delicious bite.  7-eleven is a real life saver sometimes.  When you get to Thailand someday, you’ll understand what I mean!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2016 Rainbow Gathering in the Parvati Valley, Himachal Pradesh, Kheer Ganga

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“When the earth is ravaged and the animals are dying, a new tribe of people shall come unto the earth from many colors, classes, creeds and who by their actions and deeds shall make the earth green again. They will be known as the warriors of the rainbow.” Native American Prophecy

It was a perfect sunny morning.  Puffy white clouds decorated the bluest sky and the hills were definitely alive!  We set off on a hike to the Rainbow Gathering about 30 minutes from Kheer Ganga.  It was, ummmm, totally gorgeous. . .

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We probably took longer than 30 minutes to do the hike because we had our packs, there were too many good views to marinate in, and the incline/altitude made it a bit tricky for everyone.  Snow capped mountains were almost within reach, herds of sheep and goats roamed on their luscious salad buffet meadows, and the energy of the Himalayas settled into all of our souls.  Slowly, slowly. . .we made our way Home.

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I love how nature adapts.  These goats with their majestic, long hair and magical horns. . .wow, huh?!  I never got tired of seeing them roam around the hills, listening to their funny sounds echo through the valleys.  They all have such different voices.  It’s almost like you can tell their personality by the sound they make.

The Rainbow Gathering had about 70 people already camping when we arrived.  People from Russia, Canada, Spain, USA, India, Germany, England, Ireland, Israel, Ecuador, Belarus, Netherlands, and many more places. . .gathered in this beautiful meadow and shared community duties, hosted workshops, cooked communal meals, made art, went hiking, played music. . .connecting and reflecting about this giant, yet so small, world we live in.

We scored a sweet spot next to a wonderfully, huge rock.  It was our wilderness abode for two weeks and it served us very well.

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Days in the mountains went slow.  We created a morning space by our groovy rock and a different crowd came every morning for chai and biscuits, and of course, boundless good conversation.  In the afternoons, the shepherds came through our meadow so their flocks could graze.  It was like a tsunami of pungent aroma that overtook our city of tents and it was awesome!

None of the animals seemed to mind me hanging out while they ate around me.  Some of the goats gave us a really good show, too.  They loved our special rock and climbed all over it.  It was damn good nature TV, people.  Go to the mountains, wherever you are.  I promise you will find magic if you look for it.

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There was also heaps of cows.  No surprise, though, considering this is India and cows have a way of infiltrating every inch of the Mother land.  Unlike the afternoon wave of goats and sheep, the cows were just around all day long.  Amit carved a special stick for our camp so we could practice our Krishna skills. . .aka. . .cow herding.  If you let the cows graze too long near your tent, you might get an unwanted cow pie or piss puddle, and well, I wasn’t into that much Nature TV.  Let’s get real.

Loud grunts and strange noises came out of any person with the special stick.  It wasn’t long before the cows got familiar and knew to move along.  Several surrounding tents, however, didn’t have such savvy tenants and got robbed or peed on.  The cows in India are quite ambitious, too, and will even try to inhale your one of a kind Pashmina.  They have no shame!

Nights at the Rainbow Gathering begin with a communal gathering for dinner.  We hold hands, sing silly songs, and ohm like we mean it.  Afterwards, any announcements are made and then music around the main fire goes into the wee hours of the night.  It sounds a bit, you know, bliss-ninny’ish, but singing those songs with people from all over the world does something to your heart.  I swear.  We had tons of Indian tourists visiting the hot springs in Kheer Ganga who came over to see what the Rainbow Gathering was about and a lot of them were supercharged by our dinner ritual.

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A few days into the gathering, one of my dearest friends, Raj, arrived to join in on the mystical mountain experience.  He had never been to this part of his own country or spent much time camping in the mountains, or in general, and he found our camp with a hypnotized look on his face. . .freshly mesmerized and shocked by the massive beauty present all around us, and probably exhausted from the insane hike up.

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We made lots of new friends. . .shared hugs, visits to the hot springs, evening dances under the starry sky. . .

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I think it was the cleanest I’ve ever been while camping.  Visits to the hot springs were so nice.  Rejuvenating soaks, clean clothes, and an awesome hike every single time.  Himalayan living treated us well.  Now I see why Shiva stuck around for 3000 years.

One of the coolest encounters on the mountain was with an old shepherd.  She didn’t see the point in discussing her name, but she told us stories of the cows, the plants, and her two daughters who are married to foreigners.  She would hang at our camp while she was wandering the hills and we happily fed her biscuits and snacks in trade for her company.  I have no idea how old she was, but the wrinkles on her face reminded me of the lines on a  road map, and those highways had stories you couldn’t dare to dream.

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The days melted away and the Himalayas took its’ toll.  Dry skin, sunburned noses, sore feet, sore muscles from the endless hills in every direction. . .but we never stopped having fun, laughing with the global community, and sharing love with our family. . .

No matter where you are in the world. . .if you want a new experience, to meet different kinds of people, to indulge in beautiful nature. . .go find a Rainbow Gathering.  They happen all over the world and you can find whatever journey you might need at this very moment in life.  It’s that kind of magic.  It’s that kind of goodness.  And it’s just waiting for YOU to find it!

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Loving you, family!  Thanks for the hugs, the laughs, the tears, the memories.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The KheerGanga Pilgrimage in the Himalayas

If you want to feel like you’ve left this world and gone to another planet, go to the place where Shiva meditated for 3000 years.  I promise you won’t be disappointed.  Maybe you’ll even soak up some of his deep thoughts in the hot springs while you’re there.

But, where?

In a land far, far, very far away. . .in the state of Himachal Pradesh. . .near China and Kashmir, is a place almost 10,000 feet up in the Himalayas in the Parvati Valley called Kheer Ganga.

From Goa, it only took us TWENTY-SIX hours on a train, a TEN hour overnight bus ride, a THREE hour local bus ride, and a FOUR hour hike to get there, but it was all worth it.  By my calculations, I think that makes it a true pilgrimage.

So, there I was again in good ol’ smelly Delhi.  It’s not a place I like to linger, especially since the last time I was there with my husband his wallet got picked, but all roads lead to Delhi, it seems.  We timed it just so that when we got off our 26 hour train ride from Goa we only had a couple hours in Delhi before we jumped on an overnight bus to Bhuntar.  It was just enough time to eat at a fave restaurant and pick up some warm clothes for evening temperatures in the mountains.  I even picked up a random Turkish traveler, Cem, to join us on the pilgrimage.  He had a wanderlust in his eyes and a backpack on his back and he gladly accepted the spontaneous adventure.

The three of us gathered our gear and followed a man through the stinky streets until we were told to wait at a certain spot for the bus.  It was a classic scene where groups of travelers were herded into clumps waiting for buses to different places.  Like usual, we waited, and then waited, and waited some more.  Indian Standard Time.  What to do?!

Travelers beware: When you book a bus trip in India, it will often come at a much different time than promised, and may even be a completely different kind of bus than advertised.  Heh heh.  As they say, Ye He India!

I did, however, manage to catch some good shots from the bus window. . .

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We settled into our seats, watched the crazy world of Delhi through the windows, and after another chunk of IST, the bus finally moved.  We passed the infamous garbage mountain on the outskirts of the city–burning and smoking like a scene from some apocalyptic movie–and shortly after, I fell asleep.  I didn’t wake up until the bus stopped for dinner time.

Around 7am the next morning, we reached Bhuntar.  It was grey and raining and the thought of trekking in that kind of weather wasn’t looking too good.  A whole group of us got off at the same stop and haggled for a long time with a guy offering a taxi ride, but then we all decided to go cheap and take the local bus instead.  All the seats were taken, of course, but the roof was an option if we wanted to sit with our bag. . .in the rain.

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The next 3 hours were on a bumpy, windy dirt road that went up and down through mountain villages.  It was picturesque and the loud Hindi music reminded me of riding the buses in Nepal.

We got off in Barshani.  A lot of people like to stop in Kasol.  It’s a really good option to do last minute shopping if you need warm clothes or other things before going up to Kheer Ganga.

The weather was still grey and rainy and we were totally exhausted from non-stop traveling.  Food first was our mission before we made any arrangements or plans to do the hike.  Aloo paratha with yogurt, veggie chow mein, and some really strong chai helped, but the 3 of us still weren’t convinced about the hike.  Do we rest and try the next morning or do we just keep going until the end?  Was it even possible in our current state?  And what about the rain?

In this moment of uncertainty, another group of travelers passed us, and by chance, one of them was a French woman Amit and I met last year in Australia,  Nikki.  The world is truly a small place.  Once you get out there, you can’t believe how often you find the same people all over the world.  Anyway, Nikki was on her way to Kheer Ganga, too.  Her presence was enough motivation to shift our energy and give us some oomph to get our butts back in gear.

Other than trekking to one of the most beautiful places in world for a great adventure and some outdoorsy time, we were also on a mission to get to a little thing called a Rainbow Gathering.  Do you know what that is?  It started in the USA in 1972 as a gathering of people on National land to create an intentional community of peace, love, and freedom.  These gatherings happen all over the world in most countries and attract people from every class, creed, culture, and color.  It’s a great place to meet the global family.  We call it Home.

The hike to Kheer Ganga is known to be quite intense so it’s pretty common to hire a porter for your bags.  I was a bit shocked at the idea because I’ve never done a hike with such a strange luxury, but it didn’t take more than 2 seconds to convince me.  For 850 rupees, I got to “enjoy” the hike.  Plus, it helped the local families earn an income.  Win!

And the journey continued. . .

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Now, I’m a fairly experienced hiker and have visited many mountains, but fifteen minutes into our hike, I was so freakin’ glad we had our amazing porter.  The trail was steep!  The air was hard to breathe.  The views were breathtaking.

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Our amazing porter practically ran up the trail ahead of us.  His fitness level was nothing short of incredible.  Along the trail, there’s little villages filled with chai shacks.  If you need water or snacks or toilet paper, it’s there.  Our porter would wait for us to catch up with a chai in his hand and a big smile across his face.  I think he got a kick out of watching us not-so-in-mountain-shape people huff and puff our sluggish bodies up the mountain.  He’d give us a nod, wait a few minutes, and then take off up the mountain again.

If you can’t tell from the pics, the trail spends a lot of time drifting along a precarious ledge. . .filled with huge rocks. . .and steep hills to fall down.  We walked through orchards, passed makeshift fabric shrines, Indian families dressed in gorgeous outfits with pretty shoes, and a waterfall or two.

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The above adorable little girl actually turned her head when she saw me take out my camera, but you can still see how cute she is.  This village had amazing wooden structures set amidst the greenery along the cliffs.  It looked like a postcard in every direction.

Just when we thought the hike couldn’t get any steeper, we looked ahead and stared UP at a wall of green and rocks.  Heh heh.  Yep, that’s a trail.  At this point, I was really really really glad to not have my pack because I thought for sure I’d be using all fours to get up this part.  Whew.  Kheer Ganga better be good, dammit!

On top, the views were stunning. . .

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By now, we were on the home stretch, but it didn’t get any less challenging or beautiful.  We crossed a waterfall and the incline was relentless, but we kept at it. . .slowly, slowly, as they say around here. . .and eventually we made it to the top.

Kheer Ganga isn’t much of a village. It’s actually just a handful of restaurants with lodging accommodations on the side of a crazy steep hill.  The infamous hot springs sit at the top, so just when you think you’ve reached, your Stairmaster experience keeps on giving.  Prepare to work every muscle in your mind and body to get to this place.

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Rather than hiking straight over to the Rainbow Gathering. . .which was about 30 minutes over in the next valley. . .I thought we should all treat ourselves and our muscles to a much deserved soak in the hot springs water after such a grueling journey.  The men’s side is open and the women’s side is boarded for privacy.  It’s nice to not get the stares and have the option to soak nude.  There’s also a separate section in both areas to do your laundry.

The soak was ahhhhhmazing!  Afterwards, I felt like I was tripping from being so exhausted, so we decided to stay in one of the restaurants for the night and head to the Rainbow Gathering in the morning.  It was a good decision for all of us in our delirious states.

While the hot springs are a main attraction, Kheer Ganga is also famous for being a stoners’ paradise.  It’s a mecca for the world’s best hash, or as they call it ‘charas,’ and the restaurants are designed so the entire floor is cushions with low tables and anyone can lie around, get stoned, and order food and chai.  In the night, they bring out pillows and blankets and the whole restaurant becomes one, big, sleepover party.  It’s pretty cool.  It reminded me of a bed-in, but without the protest.

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With red eyes and no energy, I passed out in my cozy sleeping bag in the middle of the evening shennanigans, but oh what a sleep I had!  The next morning, I woke up fresh as a daisy and without sore muscles thanks to the magic of the hot springs.  And after chai and some breakfast, we continued over to the next valley to get Home.

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