Only in India…

Hello from Darjeeling!  The last two weeks have been full of special India-only experiences.  We were in Varanasi for Diwali, India’s holiest holiday in India’s holiest city.  And then we spent three days on a tea plantation staying with a loving, welcoming family.  It has been more unique and beautiful than I can explain or than pictures can show.  But here are a few to give you a glimpse into what we’ve seen:

  • Girl selling flowers at puja
  • Lys on the ghats in Varanasi
  • Happy Diwali!

    Sunset over plantation

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    Yoga, Yoga, Yoga

    Namaste homies! Since I last posted Alysa and I have been happily camped in Rishikesh: the yoga capital of the world as the slogan goes. And we have been making that slogan our mantra. Speaking of mantras, we did a 7-day introductory ashram course where on a daily basis we did 4 hours of yoga, 2 hours of meditating, a ‘contemplative’ walk, ate endless chapatis and adhered to a 7-hour silence period. What a valuable experience! I feel totally refreshed, centered and grateful for having learned so much about the yoga way of life. I must say, however, that we are ready to move on to our next spot: Varanassi. We will be celebrating Diwali, the Hindu new year, in India’s most sacred city. We might have to stay up past 10pm for this one!

    Below, enjoy some pics I got in between yoga sessions and thalis.

    A couple offering prayer at the nightly puja on Ganga Mai

    Buddhist Manderas

    Prayer Beads

    Field of poppies on our trek

    India's favorite lime soda

    Cafe during frequent power outage


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    Himachal Pradesh: Valley of Gods

    Despite being more sore than either Alysa or I bargained for, I have loved the last week. Manali just got better (please refer to Alysa’s post about the BOLLYWOOD star BEGGING us to hang out). Then we arrived to McLeod Ganj– home to the Tibeten Government in exile and the one-and-only Dalai Lama. Although ironically the Dalai Lama is in the United States at this moment, we still felt his presence everywhere. While here we tried to learn as much as possible about Buddhism and found ourselves at a Lama teaching and a conversation class; both proved wonderful ways to get to know this town.

    The aspect of this trip that really defines our week here is: TREKKING. (Hence our soreness.) We ended up meeting and frankly depending on Heather for the majority of our time here. She was wonderful (thanks again!) and if she said “jump”, we jumped. So we tried the museli at Peace, we bargained down our adapter to 35Rs and, then, hiked two days straight up a mountain. For better and for worse, we tried. And we are both very proud of how far we got. About 17,000 feet UP for the record. Ok, so not quite to the top, but take into account my asthma, altitude sickness and stomach problems and Alysa’s basically-arthritic knees and never-ending head cold, we did alright! The pictures below just don’t do what we saw justice…

    People Cafe in Manali (we didnt try their sushi…)



    Lys and I walked the 10k to Slovang Valley... beautiful scenery!



    Fields on our way to Slovang Valley



    McLeod Ganj: the home of the Tibetan Gov't in exile (and the Dalai Lama!)






    Prayer Flags over McLeod Ganj



    Monk swimming next to a slogan we can all take part in...



    We trekked up to Triund and had a campfire in the clouds with some very wonderful people


    Snowling-- the higher campground in the sky :)


    Us and Heather, our fearless mountain guide (we love you Heather; see you on the AT :))



    Just me and the ole Himalaya



    Make a wish...



    us and our adopted dog!


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    On to cooler pastures…

    MANALI! The most spectacular stop yet!

    Hey peeps! Our Rajasthan circuit has come to an end, and sadly so has our time with Maire. It was SO great having her with us and we already miss her. Although now we can say things like “omg I totally bonded with that cafe” without getting made fun of. Good thing too, because I am totally bonding with Manali. After 40 hours of grueling transportation (tears were involved on several occasions– out of pain on the camel, as a result of the dust storm in my eyes on the train, and out of fear of flying off the cliff on the bus), we’ve made it to Himachal Pradesh! I should say one more time how fantastic Rajasthan was. After Udaipur we went to Mt Abu, Jodphur, Jaisalmer and the Thar Desert. We have been quite busy! Here are some snaps from our last few days…

    Maire taking a peak at the view out of our train door

    This man was spinning clay to make chai cups in the artist community called Shilpgram outside of Udaipur

    Cottonwood blowing in the wind with the sun setting behind it

    Boy sitting with Jodhpur in the background

    Paint used at the Art School in Jodhpur

    The "Art Man" drawing an elephant and a peacock on two pieces of lentil for Alysa and me.

    Hill Station Mt. Abu

    Tibetan Refugee Community at Mt. Abu


    Caught this beautiful moment while on the train




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    And now for your listening pleasure: the “it” song of India!

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    More from Rajasthan

    I have loved the past couple of days!  Pushkar was amazing.  We loved it so much we decided to stay three nights.   By the last day it seemed we knew all the locals, tourists and monkeys in the entire town!  From Pushkar, we took a 6 hour train to Udaipur, amptly named Venice of the East and known as the most romantic city in India.  It’s amazing!  Below are some pictures from both Pushkar and Udaipur.  Enjoy!  I know we are!

    Our first night in Pushkar-- beautiful full moon over Pushkar Lake

    Pushkar Lake-- according to Hindu belief the lotus flower dropped here and created all man.

    A hike through a farm town

    Lys and I took a bike ride through a national park, a monkey village and then got chai!

    Beautiful Udaipur

    Jumping Boy

    After our sunrise hike up-- Maire over looking Pushkar

    We took a boat to Pichola Palace and caught a superb sunset!

    We had time for a jam sesh at Mango Tree!

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    By the way, we’ve decided to spend the entire three months in India.  Sorry Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand– we’ll save you for 2012.  But India has captured our hearts this year.

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