Yoga ashram 

AKHANDA ASHRAM

The first ashram I stayed in was an akhanga yoga ashram. Based in Tapovan, Rishikesh. Found it on a blog website…it had good reviews and lots of people mentioned the yummy food so I booked in for seven days. 



Kirtan singing 

SCHEDULE 

5am – get up bell rings 

5.20 am – meditation 

6am – yoga (1hr 45 mins)

8am – fire puja

8.30am – breakfast

9am – free time 

12.30pm – lunch 

4.30pm – yoga (1hr 45 mins)

6pm – dinner 

7pm – kirtan (chanting and singing (1hr)

9.30pm – bed time 

CULTURE

This was a pretty relaxed ashram and we didn’t have to attend everything, it was expected but if you decided to skip something it was all good. 

There was a mix ability of yogis too. So it felt really comfortable and easy going. 


Fire puja 

AKHANDA YOGA

Akhanda includes all aspects of yoga, including: satkarma, asana, pranayama, Vedic mantra, kirtan, and meditation, as well as various traditions in yoga philosophy: Vedanta, Tantra, Samkhya and Classical Yoga.

Costs 1000 rupees a day ($20) for all food, water, room, all activities.


Monkeys gather inside on the way to the dining hall 

Full info on ashram 

https://akhandayoga.com/ashram/anand-prakash-yoga-ashram-rishikesh/


Rishikesh bridge 

RISHIKESH – THINGS TO DO

As well as ashrams, Rishikesh is known for bridges, white water rafting, trekking, access to The Himalayas, the Ganga river, religious culture and really bad weekend traffic. 


Ashrams and sunset 

HIMALAYAS 

I took a two day trip to The Himalayas. It was AWESOME…correct use of the word for once. 


Went to the Kanatal area and trekked up to the Surkandi temple and did a few small walks around the camp area. 


Had a blessing at the temple and soaked in the glorious panoramic views – truly beautiful and mountains and valleys as far as the eye could see. 


The Kanatal area isn’t in the thick of the Himalayas which is good because that meant I got a front row view of the awe inspiring, colossal mountains. 


The Himalayas were a highlight for sure. 

CERULEAN

EXPANSION

My favourite colour and my favourite word is cerulean. It means the colour of the sky, not sky blue but the colour of what’s above us. It means everything to me – escapism. I love it because it protects, fulfils and supports many things I hold dear. Like the sun, moon, stars, birds…freedom.

BEAUTY
Recently I asked a guy what they find most beautiful in the world and I was very happy to hear his reply. He said the sky…SNAP! I sometimes feel lonely and sharing opinions and connecting on things is uplifting and comforting.

Here are my top picks of the sky from my adventure in India.

E. N . J . O . Y

Delhi to Rishikesh – on the famous Indian trains

BOOKING THE TICKET
Shiv, the tour leader connected me with a guy at the hotel to help me book a train ticket to Hadiwar and from there I’d get a taxi to Rishikesh. Generally you have to book them way in advance through an agent, it’s not as simple as an online booking system. I eventually got my ticket – 5.30am mail train (yikes) and packed my things. I felt a little nervous at the thought of catching a train because Delhi is known for scams and issues for foreigners. And I was alone and had three bags to carry myself. Two people I had met on the tour were had over BIG TIME! They got to the train station and some people came up to them and told them their train was cancelled and long story short the only way to Rishikesh was by cab, a very expensive cab. Scam. 


Hadiwar train station 

OLD DELHI TRAIN STATION

Oh my, what a site. I got there at 4.30am and it was super busy, loads of locals sat on the floor outside, literally thick with people. The place was huge and I couldn’t believe how busy it was that early in the morning. I was told how to find the right platform but my train wasn’t listed so asked someone, they said 8. I went there, wrong platform. Argghhh! By this time I was dripping with sweat and beginning to worry as lots of time had passed. I asked a guy at the ticket office and he just said ‘next office’. So I went to that office and they shook their heads. My mind’s finger was hovering over the ‘panic button’! 

I’M LOOKING FOR DEBORA BARNES 

A porter eventually came over to me and told me he’d help for 300 rupees, 200 more than I should pay but with time running out I accepted. I still didn’t fully trust him but off we went. He took me platform 11 and we waited for the train. There were no screens and no way of me checking if this was right. I felt like I was being scammed. Like sometime would happen like this: ‘oops sorry mam, wrong platform after all, you’ll have to get a super expensive cab that’s been waiting all along’. I got up and started asking the guy how he knew this was the right platform when an official looking man said loudly, 

‘Debora Barnes…I’m looking for Debora Barnes’. 

That’s me I thought. I froze. He came up to me and said ‘Are you Debora Barnes?’ And pointed at my name that was on a piece of paper. I replied yes and he said ‘Good, I’m just checking that you found the right platform and you have’. He told me to wait and the train would be here soon. 

WTF?!?!?! I was flabbergasted. What kind of place is this?! How on earth did that guy have my name and what kind of service is that?! Have you ever heard of a huge train station that checks up on passengers? What a legend. The only thing I could think was that the guy who I booked my ticket with asked the train guy to check up on me to make sure I was ok. If so that’s really cool and I’m so grateful he did that because it was pretty confronting being the only white person with everyone staring and no way of knowing what platform to stand on. 


No direction 

GOOD KARMA 

The Indian people are so closely connected and live with a phone glued to their ears. They know someone for anything you wish for and will have you connected in a flash. I think this was just another demonstration of that connected community thing they have going on. They made sure I was looked after – special huh?! 

The train had a sleeper carriage and another thing the agent guy did was upgrade me for free. No idea why, only thing I could guess is that Shiv asked him to look after me. I text Shiv and asked him if he did but he just said I’m glad you were looked after, so I guess I’ll never know why I was taken care of so well. They had nothing to gain other than karma. 


Think the extra help was down to this guy 

SLEEPER CARRIAGE 

The train bed area came with fresh sheets, a pillow and a curtain for privacy. I slept for five hours – was lush. My bed was on the top bunk and I had to climb down to get off and at one journey down to the floor I put my hand on a worn pair of boxers that was on my ladders. GROSS! It was a like slow motion, I could see it happening but had no where to go. My hand landed on them and I ran to the bathroom pronto. 


Luxury 

Sleeper train selfie 


Squat toilet AKA hole in the floor 

TAXI FAIL

An India lady asked me where I was going and it turned out she was going to Rishikesh too so she asked if I wanted to share a cab with her and her family. When we arrived in Rishikesh they got out and the taxi driver wouldn’t take me to my destination. He said the only want to my ashram was via jeep. ABSOLUTE BULLSHIT. He just didn’t want to take me. Regardless I had to get out and I stood with my three bags in some random place asking people for help. 


The damn cab that wouldn’t take me all the way 

SCOOTER, THREE BAGS AND A LOST GIRL

I was in the area where there were no cars or rickshaws allowed, it pedestrian and scooter only. One guy had a simple solution, walk for six kilometres. WALK SIX EFFING KILOMETRES?! DUDE – HAVE YOU SEEN MY BAGS?!?! I asked him for directions and he gave me about 100 things to remember. So my finger started hovering over that panic button again. Then suddenly he said ‘I’ll take you for 300 rupees’. I agreed.

OMG – what a ride!!! If only you could have seen me with my three bags on the back of a scooter hurtling around the walking area of Rishikesh. If anyone would suggest for me to do that type of thing in Australia I’d give them a piece of my mind for being so irresponsible but in India, nahhhhh, it’s fine. Sorry mum. 


The pedestrian bridge, Rishikesh 

INSANE DRIVING SKILLS 

The driving skills in India are insane, I swear their spacial awareness is on another level compared to the western world. It’s like the roads of full of professional stunt drivers, all with precise vehicle handling abilities. We twisted and weaved through the streets and then eventually made it to the bridge and we actually crossed the bridge with hundreds of people toe to toe. CRAZY! 


Scooters, humans and primates crossing the bridge at sunset 

Eventually we found the ashram and I checked in. What a weird but wonderful journey I’d had. 

Time for a shower and yoga. 

Spirit animals 

STORY TELLER  

Sitting in the campsite in Himalayas with Sarah a Canadian girl I met at the ashram, we met some Indian guys. One of them is studying to be a judge and loves telling tales of history and adventure. Apparently he’s known is his home town as a story teller and said that any tale told by him will never be forgotten. He was pretty good. 

The Judge 

SPIRIT ANIMAL STORY

I have a story to tell. In order to share it properly, I need to rewind a little…

ENGLAND AUGUST 2016

I’d gone back home to the UK to visit family for a month and I was suffering with a broken heart. I could almost feel a tugging sensation from my heart space void…it felt like there was a magnetic like pull from my chest and the pain was intolerable. This feeling prompted a desire to make some life changes. One being, I wanted to connect more deeply with myself and the Universe, and India, my heart thought, was the place to make this change. 


Rishikesh, India 

INDIA 

India has often danced around in my mind as a place to visit but I put true intention behind the country then. This thought process, by the way, took a while. It wasn’t just a snap decision and it was tough for me to say out loud because back then, I still didn’t have the belief that I could do most things by myself and my self esteem was pretty low. Even saying it to my sister was hard enough. Feared I’d probably fail and would never end up going. 

CRYSTAL HEALING 

On the night Bec and I chatted about finding God, India and my next adventure, Bec did a crystal healing treatment on me. I lay down on the couch and could feel her spinning the crystal and her energy over my body even though she didn’t touch me. It was a wonderful treatment and I eventually fell asleep. 


Crystal rocks I found around the Himalayas 

FROG 

The next morning Bec was still in bed and I wandered downstairs to find a dark green frog in the living room. It freaked me out, jumping around, being all froggy and jumpy. Did I mention it jumped?! I kept asking it to leave, I even opened the back door super wide but it just hung around breathing all frog like, occasionally making frog sounds. Bec came and saved me aka calmly put it in a pan of water so we could return it to the Nature Reserve at a later time. Bec was really happy to see it…

Me: HELP BECCCCCC – GET UP!!!! 

*Bec comes down stairs*

Bec: Ahhh, it’s only the frog

Me: ‘The frog’? You know this thing? it’s in the living room!!!! 

Bec: Yeah she came last night when I was doing the crystal healing – she jumped right in the house and sat by you. I think she’s come to tell you you’re going to be ok and you’re going to go through the spiritual transformation you desire 

Me: Really…

Bec: Yeah. Just chill out, it’s only a frog…I’m making a brew, you want one?

FROG SPIRITUAL MEANING 

We took Frodo (good strong name) to the pond and she seemed happy to be home. 

I googled frog meaning and here’s a quick summary: 

Spiritanimal.info 

The frog as spirit animal or totem reminds us of the transient nature of our lives. As symbol of transition and transformation, this spirit animal supports us in times of change. Strongly associated with the water element, it connects us with the world of emotions and feminine energies, as well as the process of cleansing, whether it’s physical, emotional, or more spiritual or energetic.

As messages from the Universe go, this was as clear as day for me. Fully aligned to my present time it helped solidify my choice to go to India to help connect with myself and The Universe – transform. 
GOA – INDIA – DAY ONE 

I’d been in the country a few hours and hadn’t seen any other animals other than standard birds in the distance. I arrived at the hotel and the guy was taking me to my room when I stopped in my tracks because there was this MASSIVE DARK GREEN FROG IN MY WAY!!! The first animal I see in India is a FROG. 

Yep, got the message again Universe. Thanks for being so clear.

Side note: I was also very clear that the frog gave me a fright. I screamed, loudly – everyone at the very nice resort hotel, all Indians, turned to see what the commotion was and of course it was a dramatic white girl whimpering away from a harmless frog. Needless to say they all belly laughed and shook their heads. Living up to expectations already. 


Very wonky photo of the frog in question – I sent it to my sister Bec immediately and was like AHHHHHH! 

HEARTBREAK HELL – ARPIL 2016

In my first few months of desolation I came to a bunch of realisations and had a list of development areas for myself to work on. Learn to love myself, they say. Get comfortable In your own skin, they say. Self acceptance is key, they say. Um, how exactly do i achieve these things?! News flash, the whole reason I didn’t have these practices in the first place is because I didn’t know how to cultivate them. And now all of a sudden I somehow need to make them happen?! Urm…

My strategy at that time? Live alone, stay in doors a lot, mindlessly browse the Internet, cry, eat tonnes of take aways and chocolate and compete numerous online quizzes. Knowing how OCD I am will surely come in useful one day, right?! One of the quizzes I completed was for my spirit animal. Turned out my spirit animal was a butterfly. 

Find your spirit animal.

BUTTERFLY SPIRITUAL MEANING

Spiritanimal.info

The butterfly is one of the most emblematic totem animals symbolizing personal transformation. If you see the butterfly as your totem or spirit animal, pay attention to the areas in your life or personality that are in need of profound change or transformation. Perhaps, this animal totem guides you to be sensitive to your personal cycles of expansion and growth, as well as the beauty of life’s continuous unfolding. An important message carried by the spirit of the butterfly is about the ability to go through important changes with grace and lightness.

Message received loud and clear, Universe. Thank you. 


Rishikesh butterfly 

FIRST DAY SUNBATHING IN GOA – May 2017

I lay by the report pool, surrounded by lush greenery and the second animal to cross my path – a beautiful butterfly. She kissed my shin as she fluttered by and I lay there all cosy and content safe in the knowledge that the Universe has got me…she’s got all of us.

SNAKES – JAIPUR – JUNE 2017

I’m in Jaipur, browsing stunning jewellery pieces in a beautiful store when I come across some captivating earrings. Snakes. 

Last year I went for a little trek and came across four brown snakes so I’m a little scarred by the day. Because of this, snakes aren’t really on my radar for favourite things but these earrings were like WOW! I couldn’t take my eyes off them and I felt compelled to study them. After pondering over them for a while and getting the jewellery shop guy to drop them off to my hotel in the evening so I could try them on in a black outfit and with different hair dos (important), I eventually gave them a home. 

I was a little nervous to google what meaning snakes have connected to them because they aren’t liked by many and they are even a little hated. Thought it might be bad but I connected with them so much I needed to know. But here it is – aligned …again. 

SNAKE SPIRITUAL MEANING 

The snake animal meaning is powerfully connected to life force and primal energy. In many cultures, it is revered as a powerful totem representing the source of life. When the snake spirit animal appears in your life, it likely means that healing opportunities, change, important transitions, and increased energy are manifesting.

This is starting to get cool. 


Ruby is a high energy stone which is a type of sapphire. It is used to amplify energy and increase chi or prana. In this way it is considered a boost to Earth healing. It is also a stone that may bring a sense of adventurer to the wearer. It is considered to be a leadership stone as well.

ASHRAM 

On arriving at the ashram the first thing I see is this bright mural featuring Shiva, a snake and butterflies. It also has a crescent moon – I wear a crescent moon necklace, always. Sadly no frog but still, a nice reminder of transformation and new beginnings. 

COINCIDENCE? 

Now I know a lot of you may be thinking these are all coincidences and not messages from the Universe. Maybe they aren’t, I can’t say for sure but I can say what I believe. 

SYNCHRONICITY

I have faith that this is synchronicity. Synchronicity, Jung’s theory, shared by numerous well known geniuses like Albert Einstein, ‘life is not a series of random events but rather an expression of a deeper order…synchronicity’. Some believe that when you see lots of synchronous events it’s signs from the Universe that you’re on the right path. I believe this too and ask for signs when I need guidance. 


THE ALCHEMIST 

For more info, here’s a good article on synchronicity. Also if you’re interested, read the well known book The Alchemist for a thought provoking, mind opener about this theory. 

FIND MEANING 

The source escapes me but I read an article and it referenced some research about people who look for meaning in things and exercise rituals are on average more happy than people who don’t. Makes sense, the way I see it is you either think things may mean something and practice meaning through rituals. Or you can think everything is meaningless, just stuff. For me the former is way more interesting. 


So there you have my spirt animal story. I find meaning and guidance from them. They’re not some huge road map sign posts dictating my life, they just symbolise aspects of my path – they’re aligned with my present journey. All about transformation and change. And Maybe they were sent from the Universe to help guide me and remind me that She’s got me. Maybe not. Regardless, I find meaning in them. 

Next time there’s a coincidence just a little too strange for normality, perhaps open your mind just a teeny tiny bit and allow yourself to wonder and find some meaning. See how it feels and take it from there. 

Follow the thread because you never know, it may lead you to some yarn. 

*** UPDATE***

GUESS WHAT?! 

Arrived at the Transformation Program ashram yesterday and what was the first animal I saw? A butterfly. 

And the second? 

A frog. 

This time it was actually huge! I’ll try and take a photo of it and share – it lives in this pond…

I bet I see a snake sometime soon too.

***UPDATE TWO***

Finally managed to get a photo of the frog. I visited the pond four times to try and get a photo with no luck. And today I went and sat by it, waited…and nothing. 

So I said out loud:

Frog, please come out, I want to take a picture of you. I know you’re in there, I’ve been here loads but you’re never around. Please come out. 

Three, two, one…

Frog jumps out, sits by me and doesn’t move. 


So frogs do sometimes respond to requests, after all. 

The tour group – India 

WONDERFUL PEOPLE 

What can I say…they’re a good bunch. All with their own unique, wonderful stories…there’s that sonder again. It was so nice getting to know them, even for a short while. As most of you know, I’m a chatty person and love a good banter…and to some it may look like that’s the depth to me. But things aren’t always as they seem. Although I chat a lot, I also listen and observe, intently. And our group was a fabulous mix of age, culture, nationality and personality. 

FRIENDSHIPS FORM

On the first day, after two hours sleep, we walked around the streets of Delhi with an ex street kid. This was where I first met the group. The previous night was the welcome dinner but I had to miss it because of my flight from Goa was a late one. It wasn’t long before a little sub-group formed which we named – The Back of the Bus gang (super cool or what?!) which consisted of Maxime, Tim and myself. 


This was about the 12th attempt to take a rickshaw selfie #fail

MAXIME

On first site Maxime looked like a well presented, unapproachable, super cool dude. He smelt like heaven and looked like he’d never worked a hard day in his life. Maxime’s beard was perfect and his hair was volumeous and shiny. Side thought, I must ask him how he achieves that…


Maxime, far right, looking dapper and perfect 

Maxime is from France but lives in New York. After some time his true personality shone through and he’s a lovely, interesting, open guy. He listens intently and shares his thoughts and insights – a true diamond. I think that when someone truly listens, hears you out and gives empathy it immediately creates a beautiful connection. Maxime’s in sales and marketing and sometimes has business in Melbourne – really hope I see him again. 

TIM

I first noticed Tim when we were leaving the hotel – he looked cute but quiet and reserved. He had these crazy loud traveller pants on and a big cowboy hat…polar opposite to Maxime. He was so quiet I assumed he wasn’t British. Turns out Tim is from Guernsey…a perfect teasing point for me and Maxime. Another gift from the gods in terms of banter was Tim’s middle name…Ronald. Utter gold. 

GETTING TO KNOW YOU

The morning was pretty quiet and there wasn’t much chatter. However as the day unfolded people started to dip their toe into showing a bit of themselves. 


Marcie, Tim and myself at the Amber Palace, Jaipur 

It wasn’t long before I found out that Maxime had a broken heart…the day after I learned Tim had the same ailment too. It later unfolded that there were a total of four broken hearts on the bus. Made me think of this quote: 

SHIV

Shiv was our tour group leader – officially called Chief Experience Officer…what G Adventures call their tour leaders. He’s from near Jaipur, he did tell me the place but I’ve forgotten it. Shiv is super cute and has a cheeky energy to him. He’s also very professional and by far the best CEO I’ve come across on my travels. There was a perfect mix of organised things to do and free time. And Shiv was so helpful – he could make anything happen and did so effortlessly.


Look at his cheeky grin

BACK OF THE BUS GANG 

Maxime, Tim and I had a grand old time. We connected quickly and bantered like we’d known each other for years. Travelling does that, it speeds up connection and creates bonds quickly. We’d sit at the back of the bus, tease each other, nap, laugh, take photos…was a super fun dynamic. 


Me and the boys – I’m a bit wind swept after the Bollywood rooftop dancing 

THE TOUR ENDS 

By the end of the tour Maxime had transformed. His perfect pressed clothes were no where to be seen, his hair was still luscious but not as preened and now with a hair slide holding his fringe back. Maxime looked so relaxed and happy – felt way more authentic and true. Hope his heart is healing. He said he was ok in India but things like this hit home the most in the normal everyday routine that once was. 


Max’s monkey dancing

Tim and I spent a day in Delhi together at the end of the trip. We basically slept and ate. Tours take it out of you, lots of early mornings and jam packed days. I had some organising to do for the following morning…had to book the train to Rishikesh and find an ashram to stay at. My train was an early one – I had to get to at 4am! Once all the tasks had been completed Tim and I napped together and then said our goodbyes. Must say I shed a tear. 


Hanging out with a British guy really reminded me of home and all of the super cool people there. I LOVE the British way, the banter, the constant jokes, the kindness, the belonging. 

Great Britain really is great. 

Manchester I 💛 you. 

Home is where the banter is. 

Final few days of the Golden Triangle 

JAIPUR – THE PINK CITY
Oh my word! What a crazy city this place is. I mean really crazy. We when out for a walk and I didn’t really like the feel of it to be honest…although I did rationalise it because it was rush hour when we went out. But still, it’s a bit too crazy for me. And by this point I was getting a bit fed up of the manic streets and consistent honking. They use a myriad of transport. Cars, camels, horses, scooters, bikes…you name it, they use it and it’s sometimes overwhelming to be in the middle of it. It’s nicknamed The Pink City because of the colour of most of the buildings…it’s more like terracotta to be honest but you get the gist. 

CITY PALACE 

We visited The City Palace in the centre of the Old City in Jaipur. It has a good blend of Mughal and Rajasthani architecture. There were lots of paintings, antique traditional clothing and weapons. 

Standard group of locals having a nosey


Max said my posing was crap so I decided to work it a little

 FELL IN LOVE AGAIN…THIS TIME WITH THE AMBER PALACE 

I am known to fall hard, quickly. And I can definitely say that The Amber Palace is up there with The Taj. It’s beautiful. What I particularly like is that it’s on lots of different levels so the scenery can be enjoyed as well as the architecture, and it makes it more interesting to visit. The design is remarkable too. I took lots of photos here because I loved it from the moment I laid eyes on it. 





JEWELLERY SHOPPING

Mmmm, jewellery. I just LOVE jewellery. Jaipur is known as one of the best stone cutting and jewellery making cities of the world. We went to a jewellery shop that also does wholesale and I shopped till I dropped. Was there for two hours. Bought lots of silver pendants, some stud earrings and a ring. Also treated myself to some special dangly snake earrings.

I got some crystal jewellery too…

  • Rose Quartz: help hearts open up to giving and receiving love
  • Black obsidian: absorbs negative energy, aura cleanser, helps intuition 
  • Chrysocolla: communication, empowerment, teaching 

BOLLYWOOD DANCING

That evening we did a Bollywood dance class and it was SO. MUCH. FUN. We all nailed it and did really well. We did it on top of the hotel roof and as we were doing it there was a lightening storm miles away but clearly in view. It was awesome! Here the song we danced to, I kinda like it. 


How may people does it take to figure out which God it is?! 

MONKEY TEMPLE

On the final day we went to the Monkey Temple. Its full of monkeys as the locals feed them. There were cows, goats, cats there too. 


Morning prayers 




Holy water bathing 

We got blessed again – always up for a good blessing, me. I was playing around doing the tree yoga pose and having my photo taken and then the holy man came up behind me – surprise! Tim carried on taking photos. Here’s the result…


Hilarious. 

On the move around India

AGRA FORT

The Agra Fort is HUGE! The outside is red sandstone. However there are lots of different materials used inside, mainly the same white marble that was used to build The Taj. It took 29 years to complete and saw numerous leaders reside there during that time. It’s now home to the Indian army and viewing for the public. It’s full of palaces, living areas and public and private audience areas. It has very clear sections and each has its own feel. The leaders added on their own stamp so there’s lots of different architecture, colour, materials and design. 


WHISPERING WALL 

My favourite part of the Fort is one of the living areas in one of the palaces. It has a ‘whispering wall’ and it was super fun to have a go. Basically it’s a wall that carries sound from one end of the room to the other. Marcie, my tour group room mate, and I had a go. It was soooooo cool!!! We were at two completely different ends of the room and we spoke really quietly to the wall and the sound travelled across as clear as day. No idea how it does it but the ceiling was domed so that’s probably got something to do with it…maybe the material too – white marble. Great fun!


Marcie and I were have a grand old convo 

ONE GOD

We explore the another red sandstone fort city, Fatehpur Sīkri, that was once the capital of India’s Mughal Empire and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. There were lots of examples of acknowledgement to the different religions because King Akbar built three palaces for each of his favorite wives—a Hindu, a Muslim, and a Christian. I really liked seeing that because I believe there is only one God, the Universe, energy…and lots of prominent kings in India realised the same and celebrated it. It’s just that they are worshiped differently. There were also examples of multi-faith worship at the Agra Fort

Catholic place of worship – lots of colour 


Part of the city 


From the Agra Fort – dedication to Muslim, Christianity, Hindu religion

2000 YEAR OLD STEPPING WELL

Chand Baori is an ancient stepwell situated in the village of Abhaneri near Jaipur.

Abhaneri is located opposite Harshat Mata Temple and was constructed in AD 800. Chand Baori consists of 3,500 narrow steps over 13 storeys. It extends around 30 m (100 ft) into the ground making it one of the deepest and largest stepwells in India. It’s been featured in The Dark Knight, The Fall and The Grand Marigold Hotel. It’s super cool. 



You would be forgiven for thinking I’d just been for a run but I’d actually just received a blessing at the Harshat Mata Temple

GLAMPING

That night we stayed in beautiful tents which had beds, electricity, en suites and lots of room. There was a gorgeous pool and we cooled down with a dip and then got henna tattoos by the local girls from Dhula village. Dhula village is really small and in the sticks. It was a good experience to go there because it felt authentic and real compared to the crazy hustle and bustle of the other places I’d seen. Our Camp site was two mins from the main village but in its own area. 

POOL CHARADES

We stayed up late playing Kings and Pool charades (we’re bringing it in) and it was hilarious. It was pretty dark because I insisted they turned all the lights so I could gaze at the stars. Was sometimes tricky even seeing what the person was acting out but we got there! When I could, I’d take a few minutes out floating on my back spotting constellations. Relaxing but vibrant energy. 

 

VILLAGE LIFE

The next day some of us got up at 6am so we could go on a bike ride around the village. It was amazing to see their every day lives. Usually we’re on a bus or in a city but this felt real. They don’t have much but they all seem so happy. Some people were bathing from big barrels of water, women were carrying huge baskets of flowers on their heads, lots were off to work, some were praying. All of them waved and said hi, good morning, namaste with the biggest smiles I’ve ever seen. You’ll never see a more genuine and wide smile than from the Indian people. We went to one of the guys homes who works at the glamping place and met his family. 

HAPPY FAMILY 

There were about seven people in the family we met. They have a sitting house for day to day life and a sleeping house…we were in the sitting house. This family sleeps in big rooms and share beds and share the main house space which is two rooms. They have goats and cows and a huge farm. They were affluence in the village. The walls were painted blue. You’ll notice most of the Hindu gods are depicted as blue – it’s to mirror the sky and the sea – they see it as lucky…life giving, prosperity. They looked like a close loving family, really healthy and very content and happy. 


I saw lots of cute birds that day but one was AMAZING! It was black and white in a zig zag pattern with a bright orange head. I’ve tried to find it so I can show a photo but no luck. It’s the most gorgeous bird I’ve ever seen. I LOVE birds and I’m super happy I saw such a unique creature. 

Culture. Nature. Love. 

The Taj Mahal 

THE TAJ

After getting up at 4am so we’d be some of the first to get into The Taj grounds and see the sun rise against it, I was full of excitement. I’m a natural morning person but often forget, so I jabber on unknowingly…all happy and uplifted. I’m usually met with stares clearly saying ‘what on earth are you so happy for…its so early in the day?!’ It generally takes me a good few minutes of silent stares before I remember that most people want peace and quiet in the mornings. I on the other hand feel elated and my happiest at that time of day. 

MORNING PERSON

So of course at 4.30am when we arrived at The Taj I was like a fire cracker. I was chatting away, swinging my skirt around, discussing Taj poses, taking bus selfies…well I was enjoying myself anyways – haha! 


On route to The Taj – 5am, everyone is still sleepy 

There’s lots of segregation in India and the queues are separated into male and female. So there I was – waited patiently, handed my ticket in, had my bag scanned (there’s a huge list of things you can’t take into The Taj so your bags get checked thoroughly. 

It was time to walk in…the east gate we used gets you right at the long path that leads up to The Taj. So it’s the iconic view…

WOW WOW WOW 

I mean, just WOW! It truly is stunning. I recently only connected to the word stunning when my family was visiting me in Melbourne and we took a trip to the peninsula. We walked to the back beach nearest Blairgowrie to watch the sunset and when we got there I was actually stunned into stillness at the beauty of it. The sunset against the coastline and waves crashing and tumbling was literally that beautiful I was lost for words and was frozen. The Taj was like that. 

It’s stunning perfection. Pristine. The white marble is almost luminous and it glows with not only the sun’s rays but with pure radiant energy. It’s truly a remarkable site. I can’t put into words how awesome The Taj is. ​​It’s one of those that photos don’t do it justice and there are some gorgeous photos of The Taj…they aren’t a patch on it. 

An English poet, Sir Edwin Arnold describes The Taj Mahal as “Not a piece of architecture, as other buildings are, but the proud passion of an emperor’s love wrought in living stones”.

This video makes me laugh when Shiv, our Chief Experience Officer, realises he’s in view

LOVE STORY

Listening to the love story from our local guide gave me shivers and goosebumps from head to toe. I know the story is also known to have tragedy attached to it but being there in the present in all it’s glory was a huge rush for me. 


The whole place is as romantic as it gets with pretty gardens, cute paths and benches to sit and soak up the site and contemplate life. I was in heaven…which of course is what it’s meant to mirror. 

SHARING A KISS AT THE TAJ 

So a little thing happened…I shared a kiss with a guy under the Taj’s magnificent gaze. It was a kiss full of shy, sweet innocence. We’d wondered off away from the group and found a bench to take a few moments to soak it all in. I’d got on a roll chatting about the universe, meaning of life, love…you know how I am. And as I was talking I hoped he would reach for a kiss,  and he did. So lovely. I mean, who doesn’t want a kiss under The Taj’s gaze?! 

A tender end to an incredible morning. 

Golden Triangle begins

FORGOTTEN ABOUT IN DELHI

I arrived into Delhi airport on time and was expected to be met by G Adventures but there were very few people around. It was around 1am. I waited for a while and started to worry. I eventually found a number for the transfer company and got hold of someone. It took 20 mins to get them to agree to pick me up as they said they didn’t know I was arriving. I had 3% battery and was panicking. All in all it took 1.5 hours for them to get me. I was pretty pissed off and very tired. When I got to the hotel at 3.15am they told me that our leaving time for the first day was 6.30am. OMG! 

OLD DELHI

After two hours sleep we left for Old Delhi. Delhi is separated into territories. At Paharganj area we did the Salam Balak City Walk. It’s where a previous street kid takes you on a walk around the windy streets of Delhi. 



The young guy who took us around was called Ashmal and he got stolen from his village but managed to run from his captors. He got taken in but couldn’t return to his family because he was so young he didn’t know where he was from. He’s 17 now, he looks good and is clearly doing well. Ashmal said most kids run away because they think they’re running away to The Promised Land – a place where all their dreams come true. Ashmal told us kids run away because of things like abuse, girls are sold as slaves, girls also get forced to marry as children and some children just think they’re going to get a better life in Delhi. In reality, most kids who end up in Delhi and hate it. Then the charity finds them and tries to get them to go back home. The ones who don’t want to go home get to stay in the charity accommodation and are educated and kept healthy. It’s a tough job. Unfortunately it’s only a tiny proportion of run away or lost kids are helped in this way. It’s a big problem that they’re trying to fix. There are lots of success stories though. Some of the old street kids are respected artists now, dancers, work for companies or have their own businesses. 

JAMA MOSQUE

In Old Delhi we also visited the Jama Mosque. It’s huge and white inside. You have to wear these long dress things and be bare foot, the floor was like an oven. It’s beautiful and hosts around 25,000 Muslim people or visitors at any one time. 


We took a walk through the Chandani Chawk market which was my first taste of the crazy jam packed streets of Indian markets. 


There were lots of people, mainly men, out on the streets selling all sorts of things from clothes to fruit drinks. There were also taxis, rickshaws (tuk tuks), bike rickshaws, scooters and lots of stray dogs. It’s was hustle and bustle at its finest. 


KARMA 

Gurdwara Sis Ganj Sahib is the Sikh place of worship we arrived at. 

​​
​Wikipedia says: 

It’s is one of the nine historical gurdwaras in Delhi. First constructed in 1783 by Baghel Singh to commemorate the martyrdom site the ninth Sikh Guru, Guru Tegh Bahadur. Situated in Chandni Chowk in Old Delhi, it marks the site where the ninth Sikh Guru was beheaded on the orders of the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb on 11 November 1675 for refusing to convert to Islam

Other than the place of worship, inside there is a karma kitchen where anyone in the world can be served food. From the richest person to the most humble human, it’s open to everyone, everyday. They believe that it’s good karma to help people and hundred of volunteers prepare food with the money and offering they make at the gurdwara. 

Later we returned back to the bus via Kinari Bazar Lane. It’s full of gold and silver delights. 

AGRA – HOME OF THE TAJ MAHAL

We travelled to Agra, the home of the Taj Mahal and the first thing we saw was the Baby Taj…Itimad-Ud-Daulah. It’s named that was because people say it looks like the Taj Mahal but small. Cute. 

FIRST GLIMPSE OF THE TAJ MAHAL

We watched the sunset over the big Taj Mahal (affectionately called Taj) that evening – was divine. It was my first taste of seeing the magnificent structure…boy is it beautiful. 


To watch it we went to the Mehbt Bagh which is across from the Yanuna river. The Taj changes colour at different points of the sunset because of the different hues of light and the translucent marble of the Taj itself. Those of you who know me know I’m obsessed with sunsets and this is now one of my most memorable ones for sure. 

The day after was the big Taj for real. 

Goa Finale 

Goa is a great place to visit. The guide books say stay away from Goa, India in general actually, in May. But I’ve loved it! They say to stay away because it’s the Indian holiday season and super hot. It’s not like the normal UK hotspot in May. It felt more real though and I’m glad I experienced it that way. I didn’t feel comfortable sunbathing without Richie there because the men and women don’t like to see people in bikinis but other than that it was great. Just the feel of the place was wonderful and simply, it’s different. The people are very welcoming, food is nice, it’s a feast for the senses and the town had a relaxed vibe. The beaches were not that nice really, particularly because I’m spoilt in Australia and in my opinion they don’t compare. I’d highly recommend it as a four day visiting destination while in India but not in high season, go now (May) when it’s low and more natural.


On my last day in Goa I enjoyed a good brekki and went to meet Len. He wanted to show me his new bathrooms he was getting put in. Think he’s a bit lonely as his wife isn’t here so I wanted to be kind and give him some company. He asked me to keep in touch while I’m in India…will give him a quick hello call soon. Len picked me up and we went for a ride around the harbour and he showed me some sites. We went for lunch in a workers bar and we had chicken and chips and I had a water and he had two beers. It came to 500 rupees for all of it! That’s about $10! He showed me around his block and then dropped me off to meet Rich at the beach. Caught up with him before I went to the airport to get my flight to Delhi.

GOODBYE NEW FRIENDS

We sat on a beach lounger and watched the sunset, felt really nice and comfortable. Got me thinking of all the people I’m going to meet but then probably never see again – it’s marvellous but so heart wrenching at the shame time. I really do love meeting new people, I feel affection for them and enjoy hearing their stories and feeling their energy.

Newness and novelty are near the top of my: Things that keep me interested list. I do get bored easily but being in a brand new place, meeting brand new people exhilarates me. Sonder is up there too…

DEFINITION: SONDER

Sonder n. the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness—an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk.

Beautiful.