Friday, 20 March 2015

R & R

Unfortunately, we have to return to Delhi and take 2 flights in order to fly to our final stop. Our first taste of a domestic flight (Air India ) - no frills, but bearable as short.

Easier than we expected in Delhi airport - Hannah had been warned of nightmare cancellations. Just a bit of a delay. Sat next to a lovely fourteen year old Indian girl called Neeshtha, returning to her school in the Himalayas after spending Holi with her family in Mumbai. She was delightful - friendly and full of questions, we had a right old chat. After asking if I was married and me telling her I was a widow, she asked ' Was it a love marriage or an arranged marriage ?' She told me she loved romance and wanted to know my "love story of when you met your husband" - so sweet. Her parents were in a 'love marriage' and she said she wanted that too. She was reading a book of love stories (in English but by Indian writers) She let me have a quick look at it. Found it highly amusing - it was the Indian equivalent of Judy Blume's 'Forever' that Hannah read illicitly once and  though really quite tame, contained a couple of quite risqué titles and she said she'd never let her mother see her reading it. She told me lots about her school which sounded a very prestigious one and super strict - no mobile phones allowed ! The conversation made the journey speed by.

Then we land and head separate ways. Our last 5 days. Some R&R. The bit we'd being looking forward to probably the most. Ananda spa. High, high up. Our winding upward journey took us past masses of the monkeys we'd heard about.  To begin with, after all the build up, our first impressions were coloured by the dramatic dip in temperature and grim weather ( a storm was brewing) and a few things that were disappointing. It is a most definitely a spa, not a hotel and we had to adjust massively. Some slightly weird things formed our first impression-  like bagpipes being played at dusk ( the time we arrived) and the panelled reception area feeling like something from colonial days - all a bit odd and no one really explained the concept of our stay. For the first 24 hours we didn't particularly take to it and thought about reducing the length of our stay. Hannah made some choice comments to someone senior that got passed them on to the GM who was most anxious we didn't leave and from then on  staff bent over to please. Had lots of extras thrown in. One to one yoga especially.

Day 2 we have our dosha type assessed by one of the Ayurvedic doctors and that's when it starts to make some sense. Meals in the restaurant can be chosen to take account of our dosha type.  I'm Vata - of the air, needing lots of warmth and warming (!!!) and need to avoid a lot of the things that form my staple diet. No raw fruits or vegetables. No meat in the evening.etc etc.  Hannah's Pitta ( Fire) and needs cooling down. Salads, raw things are good for her, so we're pretty incompatible. The food, whatever you choose, feels super healthy but is inventive and delicious. It is recommended we take sips of a spice tea made for our dosha type. Mine is cinammon, It isn't Chablis but it tastes okay. This and the outdoor, one to one yoga makes us feel on the road to what we'd come for. Even the white kurta pyjamas you leave on all day are growing on us. What's more the sun is out, the sky is blue and it is beautiful.

After the initial blip, we thaw and adapt to healthy routines. The weather is warm but not hot. It suits us both. Peacocks adorn the grounds. Monkeys entertain - though after a monkey escapade on a previous holiday, we keep a cautious distance.

We trek up the mountain where, in the distance, we see the snow -capped peaks of the Himalayas. The guide lets slip a few secrets about Charles and Camilla who stayed at Ananda last year - but nothing very front page. Ruby Wax did the same trek apparently, but not the royals. Perhaps they just had colonics. It is quite a gruelling climb as there isn't a proper path. We wind our way up through a little settlement, miles from anywhere up the mountain. Nothing  of the 21st century has arrived here. An almost naked man is taking his ablutions outside. A family sits outside one of the makeshift 'houses' perched on the mountainside, they look to have nothing but there's a serenity about them. One of our yoga teachers later told us about his super fit 98 year old grandmother who lives somewhere up this mountain. She climbs the 328 steps up to the temple to lay offerings every day.

The view at the top makes it all worthwhile - a panorama beyond words. A tiny temple at the summit beckons, you ring the bell outside and go in two by two. A young priest blesses us with prayers, gives us rice and red and yellow strings are tied to our wrists. Normally I feel 'templed out' but this is different. Just us. It all feels quite spiritual. I might never take my blessing bracelet off.

We take a trip to Rishikesh and soak in its hippie vibe. It is buzzing and  colourful, full of westerners. By the looks of some, they'd never left from the 60s. We wander about, and once again the jewel colours draw us and we buy more clothes ( Eek on the excess baggage count.) Then a little late in setting off, we're taken across the river, sharing a boat with the hordes going to see the Aaarti, the daily Hindu ceremony being performed where ritual lamps are passed around. Incense is burnt, songs are sung it feels like one big noisy, hot, atmospheric party.

  We are both loving the yoga, especially doing it surrounded by spectacular mountain scenery, to the sounds of water and birdsong. It doesn't get better than this. Even the early start is bearable. Our yoga Nidra and
Ayurvedic sessions are sublime. We have Reiki. By the end of the stay we feel noticeably rejuvenated. From being such cynics at the start, we might now continue with some of the Ayurvedic principles once we get back.

Coffee count 0
Alcohol count 0

The days speed by.

Day 5. Friday.
Early yoga - a different teacher- the best session of them all. He can bend his body like no other and has a strong presence. We do the same postures as before and salute the sun for one last time.

It is hard to prise ourselves away.

But we do, Delhi bound for one last night, sad the party's nearly over.

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