Monday, October 31, 2005

Rishikesh: This is a small town, by India standards, nestled in a valley of the Himalaya foothills. It is built up on both sides of the Ganges river - with one side being more commerical and the other more "spiritual". A plethora of ashrams focusing on yoga and Hindu teachings reside here. It's a good place to come to ease into India, although everything from the moment I stepped off the plane in Delhi is an assault on the senses.

So far, there has been a train derailment in the south of India and Delhi has experienced a three bombings by people they believe are against the peace they are trying to achieve in Kashmir. (I missed the bombing by 2 days and one of them went off near the train station, where I caught the train to Haridwar and Rishikesh.) No one here seems too perturbed by all of this. Today is October 31st and it's the eve of Diwali which is the Hindu festival of light. It is very noisy tonight with firecrackers going off everywhere. The town has many cows and dogs wandering everywhere and it takes some time to learn how to dodge the cow pies in the street. I learned fast after stepping in one my first morning here. There are beggars everywhere and some quite disfigured. Roving bands of monkeys roam the ashram at times. While I was crossing the Ganges on a footbridge there was an entire herd (do monkeys travel in herds?) crossing over and they were as interested in the pedestrian traffic as we were in them.

The Ashram is called "Parnarth Riketan" and it is quite nice. A cross between a resort and monastery. It contains an orphanage and so there are many young boys, dressed in orange, who are "satus" (holy men) in training. When I go to yoga classes I pass by their classroom which is the front yard of their sleeping quarters. Every evening there are prayers and chanting at the river's edge which is really a sight to behold. The Ganges is dirty, even here, and fast moving with rapids along the way. Overall, Rishikesh is an easy going place. More relaxed I am told them many places in India, with an acceptance of Westerners, our dress and manner that does not cause too many stares. My room in the ashram is very spartan but extravagant I think for India. Beggars and cattle sleep outside my window (I am on the second floor). I love to hear the horking and spitting of street people in the morning. Such a joy to listen to as you wake up (not!). Rishikesh is strictly vegetarian and I've not minded it really.

Yesterday, I had an Ayurvedic (Indian herbal medicine) massage. It was rather strange as we were escorted to the roof top and told to strip naked. Emma a woman I met from London, UK was rather taken aback and said she hadn't planned to get to know me this well!! We were told we lie down on some mats in the hot sun and then I had a most amazing massage by a woman who not only used her hands but both feet. It finished with warm oil being poured on my head and a scalp massage. (Note to Massimo: I know you told my not to have this done by the side of the road but I thought since I was naked on the top of a roof, it would be okay) It was great and only cost 300 rupees which is roughly $9.00 CDN. I'm going back for more.

That's it for now. Happy Hallowe'en to all.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Sunday, October 02, 2005

This site will be a journal of my travels throughout India and Sri Lanka. It begins October 26, 2005 with a flight to New Delhi - only 14 hours. The next day I will take a train to Haridwar and then bus to Rishikesh. Once again a full day of travelling. I will be spending a week at an ashram doing some yoga and in general just getting myself adjusted to being on the other side of the world. There is so much "busy"ness in getting ready for a long journey and I did not want to land and have to GO! So the week will allow me to relax, reflect, perhaps try my hand at some meditation, keep physically fit but not over extended and just chill and get the right attitude for the next two months. Stay tuned as I plan to post stories of my travels throughout the country as often as I am able.