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!

 

 

 

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!

 

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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10 Reasons to Visit Anjuna, Goa

Since “the season” is gearing up around here, I figured it was time for a top ten list.  Well, either that or I’m just in an extra good mood because the sun is out again and I have all clean laundry.  Winning!  Okay, so here’s some of the reasons I thought might swindle your emotions and encourage you to dream about your next trip to paradise.  Brace yourselves. . .

1. Beach Shacks and Restaurants

Imagine lounging in the afternoon in a magical boudoir of cushions and tranquility, drinking a coffee or a fresh fruit juice.  Just.think of how many books you can read or how many cool blogs (wink, wink) you can read surfing the internet. . .all while continental and Indian food is at your beck and call.

2. Sunsets

I know, I know, there’s beautiful sunsets everywhere, but I swear there’s something extra special about the sunsets in Goa.  The pinks and oranges are so vibrant you can almost feel their energy.  Maybe it’s the lush jungle horizon, or the music in the trees, or the sounds of the peacocks calling to their lovers.  You’ll just have to come and see for yourself.

3. Wacky International Dance Parties, Live Music, and Community Events

                                                                     Picture on right taken by Suraj Mohandas of the BimBam Project at Guru Bar

If you’re in the mood to groove, Anjuna (especially) is THE PLACE TO BE.  It is famous for the psy-trance parties where people and DJ’s come from all over the world to participate in having a good time.  These parties are usually on the beach or in some special forests with all kinds of psychedelic decorations.  However, if you’re not into the electronic scene, which I totally understand, there’s an abundance of international musicians performing live all around Anjuna on different nights of the week.  Not only is it entertaining but you get to meet a whole heap of super cool folks from all walks of life.  Goa is quite a little melting pot.

4. Delicious Fruit

I know I’ve already bragged about the mangoes  during the monsoon, but when it’s “the season” there is no shortage of amazing papaya, pineapple, and watermelon.  The grapes and the bananas taste like fruits I’ve never tasted before–so bursting with flavor it makes you realize how bland such things taste in other countries–and the fresh figs must be sent from some Grecian gods.

   5. The BEACH

Oh, the glorious beach.  I know when I didn’t live near the beach I often dreamed of going to one, so I totally understand the sandy wanderlust.  There are many beautiful beaches in Goa  and the Arabian Sea is oh-so-salty so it makes for the perfect floating kind of water.  You can sit under umbrellas and get massaged or drink a beer.  You’ll even have the opportunity to buy some pretty souvenirs (or not) whilst catching some rays.

6. You get to travel to India

Now, maybe you’ve always had a fantasy about coming to the exotic land of mother India, but you’re not quite ready to deal with the culture shock, or the smells, or all of the confronting things you’ve read about or seen in movies. . .

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But, Goa is a bit like India-light.  It’s more laid back and the Portuguese influence changes so many things–food, religion, and the price of alcohol. . .heh heh.  There’s not as many people as compared to other wild places like Delhi and things like traffic and pollution are minimal.  Plus, with this being a mecca for international travelers, the locals are more used to many kinds of people and it makes it less uncomfortable to be different.  In Goa, different is the way to be!

7. Old Portuguese Architecture 

If you’re Catholic, you don’t have to worry about missing mass.  Goa has some of the coolest churches around.  If you just like to admire neat buildings, then there’s plenty of them to see.  There’s nothing quite like riding around through the windy jungle streets and passing by homes and churches that look like remnants of a long lost history.  The vines of Banyan trees dangle above cement crosses and big house porches and the greenest of jungle envelops corners and crevices like the spirits of the southern bayous.

8. Afternoon Siestas

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Not only do you get to relax in various different ways, but how cool is it that it’s culturally accepted, and possibly expected, to take an afternoon nap?!  Um, yes please!  Even if you don’t want to nap, per se, it sure is lovely to take advantage of some extra down time.  Just think of all the things you can do. . .even if it’s doing nothing at all.

9. Cool People

                                   Picture on left of Ping Pong and Coco taken by Sandhya Sanjana

As I’ve mentioned before, Goa attracts people from all over the world.  Artists, musicians, community activists, yoga lovers, doctors, teachers.  You’ll definitely have many chances to meet some of the quirkiest, fun, international people the world has to offer, and who knows, maybe you’ll even make a few new friends.  The world is truly your oyster.

*Ping Pong and Coco host some of the best community events and musical nights all around Anjuna.  They are an abundance of Anjuna history and fun spirits.  Check out my post “Ping Pong’s Legendary Hippie Walk” to see some of the stuff they do.

10. The Chill Inn Guesthouse

The Chill Inn guesthouse is a family run kind of place that is situated down a lovely, quiet street, but only a 10 minute walk to the beach, the famous parties, and the infamous Anjuna Flea Market.  It’s also next to some of the best restaurants in Anjuna–The German Bakery and Mango Shade.  If you’re looking for something comfortable with a home like feeling, then this is the place to be. Everyone at the Chill Inn will make your stay as cozy as possible (minus fancy frills, of course) and welcome you with gracious hospitality.  The Chill Inn Guesthouse is also the only place in Anjuna that offers renting some of the sweetest bicycles around.

*For more information on the Chill Inn Guesthouse, take a look at my post “So, why am I in Goa?“.

If you’ve been to Goa before, what are your top ten reasons to visit?

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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