Shoemans Trail

The quest for liberation

Month: December 2015

Isha Yoga Center – Getting started

The moment I’ve been waiting for so long has arrived, in the early morning I arrive by train at Coimbatore and an advertisement with Sadhguru on it is greeting me as I disembark, on my way to the ashram some 30 km out of town in a lush forest surrounded by mountains I’ll see his face on various shops, the Isha foundation is supporting the locals – pretty nice!

Here I am the Isha Yoga Center – if you want more info on the temples, structures the set up and the daily routines like food, have a read here:
http://wikitravel.org/en/Isha_Yoga_Center

Arriving feels very friendly although there was some issue checking in but Andre from the overseas office resolved them easily and I started volunteering the first days until my program was starting.
When I first went into the meditative space of Dhyanalinga, which does not ascribe to any particular faith and is open for everyone, I couldn’t believe the energy, just by sitting in the dome with the mercury based linga I felt the buzz, wow!
In the evening there was a special x-mas dinner for the overseas people. The food was delicious and so healthy as usual at Biksha hall. The first evening came to a perfect end when Sadhguru suddenly rolled past with his Segway wearing no Turban but a grey woolen hat. “You’re having a party without me?” and “Whats the occasion?” were his questions, on the answer “Christmas” he just turned his head and accelerated again. Somehow he felt like Santa Clause though…

I met Pavan who initially introduced me to Sadhguru and made friends with Sanjay from Nepal, who arrived the same day as me. I also came to know the ashram and its people a bit closer, Sanjay and me volunteered in Biksha hall where all the 1000+ guests, volunteers, swamis and brahmacharis are fed.

For pourinami the day of full moon offerings can be brought to Dhynalinga, so we offered milk and were able to touch the 3 m tall lingam, electrified I started my volunteering day in Suryakund a consecrtated bathing site and temple, telling at least 500 Indians to not touch the snake in the temple and basin and to remain quite as this is not a public pool without using words, clapping and hand signs were my powerful weapons 😉
The Ashram was crazy busy that day, so many people came to offer something, the moon is at its maximum illumination and in the evening we attended the ceremony in the Linga Bhairavi temple, 2 hours of traditional music, dance, puja, chants, and rituals, a fantastic unforgettable evening and the first opportunity to receive the feminine energy of the divine, after the Abhishekam the procession around the temples begins and also martial arts and fire play and important role, my eyes widened and tiredness was magically blown away that evening, indescribable, I was smiling all the time!

But the best was just about to come…

Gokarna – between temples and beaches

We decided to move on and see something new, for me another city, for Florian a bit of the real India feeling, as Goa is not India, it has the food and the people but the Portuguese influence and the relaxed atmosphere plus no bigger town and always the ocean vibe is still different to the rest of the country. So we went further south to Gokarna, it’s just a train ride away – easy.

At the train station we bump into Philippe from Italy a really heart-warming guy who already traveled Asia some 20 years ago. The track takes us along the coast crossing river outlets and lush forest, after 2 h we arrive in the holy city and Phillipe takes us with him to his friends place, a real tranquil oasis away from the city across a small hill, unfortunately no more free rooms, we still enjoy a chai and the easy chatter after going to Kudlee beach to spend the night. A couple of restaurants and bars spread across the whole beach, it felt a bit like Goa…

Reading about Gokarna beforehand almost made us not to go. Police men throughout the whole country are even paying to work here during main seasons to fine tourists with incredible high amounts for almost everything, smoking and drinking in public or on the beach, riding a motorbike without a helmet and so on, in the end we had no issues but were prepared and the police was omnipresent for such a small town. The main reason for this: The place should not become a second Goa, that’s why the drastic measures…

Gokarna has two main attractions, temples and beaches. Mainly tourists come for the beaches (Kudlee, Om, Halfmoon and Paradise) Gokarna beach is not nice and pretty dirty! The town itself hosts the temples, some more than 1000 years old but unfortunately no entry for foreigners and non-Hindus, we tried but got sent away soon after entering the compound 😉 The town itself is pretty small 2 main roads, both one way traffic, one leading into town the other out. All in walking distance, but the beaches are a bit further away across some hills, it’s a nice days walk from Kudlee until Paradise, we did it from Om beach though as we stayed in Kudlee for the first night but decided the morning after to move to town, enough beaches and the humidity was killing us.

Om beach got its name because of its Om-symbol like shape, rocky ends and a couple small restaurants as we walk further on the trail some 20 minutes later and a few nice views from high above the water, we reach Half-moon beach, it’s getting more and more basic, electricity is generated by solar panels, no big restaurants and bars, just 3-4 small shacks some with attached wooden huts to stay, a perfect place to rest and beat the burning sun, it really gets hot and humid in the afternoon those days.
After a small nap we went on a rocky path we sometimes lost as there is no proper way marked, the only advise we had was just, don’t go up the hill try to round it and it was such a sweet walk / crawl on a rocky coast line with marvelous lookouts, after 15 min we found the path and went towards Paradise. No bars, restaurants whatsoever, just some people with hammocks having the time of their lives, we joined them for a bit in Paradise, perfect waters, although it was not safe for swimming it just felt natural to dip in.
A Jungle walk further south and a rickshaw ride brought us back to town – perfect timing for sunset – a great day!

The last day we spent with Philippe, he proposed to rent bicycles and ride to Honey beach up north and so we did. Riding the Indian Hero bike feels different but I got used to it, along small village roads and fields we went to a river crossing with a ancient ferry, a small boat for max 20 people and a 100 year old engine, of course motorbikes are taken across too, the ferrymen do the bike lifting from the jetty to the wooden vessel.
On the other side the terrain got hilly, we pushed up hill and went really slow down, our brakes could just handle the slope, only Florian’s didn’t, he needed to walk down to prevent any serious injury his brakes were barely working on the flat ground.
An hour later we arrived at a lonely beach, just 2 fishermen out on the rocks trying their luck, the former restaurant barricaded, there goes our lunch…
After swimming we managed to get some coconuts from one of the fishermen – yumm and the flesh inside so fresh and tasty, after all best lunch ever, if you think you won’t eat anything and out of the blue you’ll be surprised, that’s a quality of this country and I love it!
We took our time and enjoyed the good company talking about travelling, paradise travel destinations and so much more, we could have been sitting still there as the topics didn’t run out, but we had to leave, we wanted to be back in town before sunset, well as it goes we got late but the last 20 min in darkness were another adventure I won’t forget that easily! Another brilliant day, Cheers to Philippe hope to see you again!

Now’s the time, Florian’s and my ways will part, his vacation is over and he’s flying back, I’ll take a train further south and keep on going.
Cheers for the company and for coming along the path with me Flo, let’s repeat that somewhere else in the world!

Goa – Agonda: The relaxation

Arriving here was just a nice feeling, I knew where to go, Dersy was just great the last time, small huts right on the beach, an ocean facing restaurant for 30 people with one of the best chefs in Goa, so good food, very relaxed and super friendly staff made us stay for 4 days, but wanting to stay much longer. We were relaxing to the max, starting the day with a swim in the splendid waters of the Arabian sea, followed by meditation and a big fruit müsli, lassi and chai for breakfast – life can be very tough sometimes 😉
The day we arrived was also peak day of the Geminids meteorite shower, the moon – waxing crescent, setting early over the ocean left the sky dark – perfect time for observation. First we saw a couple here and there but it got more and more as the night commenced.

All of a sudden a power cut occurred, the surrounding lights and the ones from town went dark, but the lights in the sky were just blossoming, millions of stars out there, galaxies, nebula’s, the milky way what a show, I could just laugh as it was so beautiful!
We stopped counting at 101 shooting and falling stars, some were massive with a tail of smoke covering half of the sky, some tiny, just shooting for a millisecond, we saw two in a row and even tree in a row and soooo many more it was just an unforgettable spectacle those 8 hours, connected with the universe!

The beach itself is not crowded, just a few restaurants and shacks, all closing early, going with the rhythm of nature, when the sun comes up again you’ll see people jogging, meditating or doing yoga, just a perfect spot for relaxing. On each side you’ll find rocks to explore and the northern end has a river mouth from where you can see the fisher boots moving in early in the morning – not that we got up that early but I knew from my previous stay as Katja was helping the fisher men to get their boat from the ocean into the river beating the everlasting current.
The last day we rented a scooter and explored the area north we went to Cabo de Rama and walked along the ancient walls of the fort, although the walls are the only remains from the place it’s still worth the trip and the lookouts were pretty spectacular, overlooking the cliffs and the wide ocean. Later on we found a perfect spot – Mi Amore a small restaurant that just opened this year – to beat the midday heat, so we chilled in the shadow for a bit and saw nothing but perfect catalogue like beaches around – what a beauty! Another challenge was laying in front of us, I really needed to convince Florian to trust me as he was sitting on the backseat of the scooter when we were riding the 20 min dirt road up and down to Cola beach, thinking of it now, yeah it was a bit dangerous with all the sand and rocks and the steep hills but it was a fun drive and it was worth it, we saw another perfect beach, the ocean a bit too strong for a smooth splash though.

2 weeks in total relaxation mode, interesting talks, amazing food and some beer & good Old Monk, a 7 year old Rum you just get in the south and Goa has the cheapest alcohol to offer as there are no taxes.

Goa has been good to us, just the perfect continuation of the Hampi feel after the Hyderabadi party times…

Goa – Anjuna:Hippie tourism & the remaining beauty

In Anjuna I met Florian my former neighbor in Wiesbaden, we haven’t seen each other since 5 years and he happened to travel south India right now, perfect timing brotha!

First we explored the beach area, a lot of things happened in the last 5 years so we sat at one of the many beach side bars/restaurants and had a beer enjoying the ocean breeze and of course everywhere you’ll hear music on the beach, mostly goa trance as this kind of trance music originated right from this spot. Sometimes you’ll hear house or more chilled electro tunes, reggae sounds reached our ears too but it’s not that common, the faster electronic music seems to govern here, it must be bloody disturbing for the locals and we haven’t seen any on the beach same as hippie like looking people – they all live away from the beach if they’re still here, many went to different spots as Goa in our days is quite touristy, foreigners as well as Indians come to enjoy the comparably mild climate and the almighty ocean and they want to wander on the hippie trail to get a glimpse of what it was like back in the days, well it’s different now, we met some guys coming to Goa since 20+ years, at that time the beach was empty, no bars/restaurants the prices were cheap and the western people often not as nice as today, stealing food and other commodities from locals and fighting as they hadn’t had any money.

The beach is rocky, when I went into the warm waters the first time I hurt my shin bone, I didn’t see the big rock in the shady waters, this is all a result made by humans, sand was taken away from the beach for decades and used to bind with other meterials to build houses. This has stopped now – tourism is the most important income in Goa and they come for the beach! As a tourist you’ll feel it, shacks that sell clothes, sunglasses, and many more souvenirs can be found all along the back roads “Come look my shop”, “You promise you come tomorrow?!”, “Cheap price, only 100 rupees!” – the prices vary though, the slogans don’t ;). “Walking shop ladies” roam the beach during the day times selling jewellery and the light guy selling lasers, glowing sticks and other blinking stuff  pop out at night, it’s a big business!

We even had a nice encounter with the police for smoking up on the northern hill during sunset, it was an awkward moment but it relaxed quite a bit as I calmly explained we don’t want any trouble and of course not want to be arrested we paid the baksheesh and went down to the beach, over there the police is paid by the restaurant owners so they don’t linger around and tourists are safe 😉

We enjoyed the easiness of life in Goa although it might not sound so.
One day we even rented a scooter and explored the beaches adject, Vagator, Calangute, Baga and Chapora none of them had the same look and feel as Anjuna, either they had no rocks or packed with all-inclusive tourists or they were a bit dirty, had no shade or sitting at the river mouth so you don’t want to swim in there… it felt like coming home when going back to “Our beach”

Whole Anjuna is a music festival, having 20+ bars/restaurants in any size, ranging from small wooden shacks to big 300+ people fitting concrete buildings, every spot is a stage, some more loud than the other, also some bigger festivals happen in between then the music won’t stop playing until the morning – usually the play until midnight. It’s nice to see and feel but after a week we just wanted to escape, the patterns were repeating and we had enough party, I knew that Agonda would be the antipode so we went, it just took 4 local buses and 5 hours to go 100 km further south…

Hampi – Golden rock city

After the glorious Hyderabad days I went to Hampi, getting back in the travel rhythm and exploring the old capital Vijayanagar founded by a Telugu prince in the 13 hundreds which became 3 centuries later one of the biggest Indian empires giving home to half a million people, times changed and the surreal landscape with its temples and boulders is a much quieter place now, tourists took over and rock climbers found a perfect playground.
Last time I’ve been here 9 month ago and stayed with Katja on the southern side of the river called Hampi Bazaar, a little busy village close to the temples, we explored the temples for one day and went away, that didn’t do justice to the otherworldly place! This time I wanted to see the other area north of the river called the island or Virupapur Gaddi, it’s more tranquil and close to some very fine bouldering sites with not that much temple tourism.
Siddhu and Chitra who’s wedding I attended in Hyderabad were born and grew up around here, so they know almost everything about the place and being on their honeymoon of course they came for a visit and booked me a small hut at Goan Corner, also Nivy and Lohit the other freshly married couple were there, what a nice surprise! Good times 🙂
When I arrived by bus I was still sleepy. Travelling in a night bus in India is an experience one need to make, it was not the first I took but I still prefer the train, much more calm and not that much disturbances during the night.
After the morning prayers with elephants also going for a wash in the slow currents, the ferry service was working and I could cross the Tungebhadra river to check in and have a rest. Lots of tourists again, I wasn’t used to it, hanging around mostly with Indians the last 3 weeks and now hiding in my room for some hours to adopt 🙂

I took it pretty chilled the first days, just relaxing and exploring the nearby rocks and watching the sunset. The next days I widened my circles, visiting hanuman (the monkey god) temple some 500 steps up on the Anjanadri hill. The temple itself is alright but the real star is the lookout, pretty much a 360 view over the valley with some of the most important temples across the river in sight – a perfect place for sunset, and of course meditation AUM!

Most convenient way to get around is renting a motorbike, first I was a bit afraid, but the automatic scooters are easy to handle, traffic is pretty calm, the drivers are super relaxed and everyone pays attention, so I took the bike to explore the area along the fresh water reservoir checking out random temples and around the river, pretty much every hill is climbable without rope and a bit of technique here, I found myself a nice spot to watch the Anegundi ferry crossing and the mellow lights across the rocks when the sun was about to set. Priceless!
I met a couple of nice people during my stay in Goan corner we even got our ears professionally cleaned by a guy who does it for 35 years, felt a bit strange and hurt just a bit, he operates with small metal tools, oil and cotton wool, some ears were dirtier then others, it’s a bit yukky watching him “digging” but the feeling afterwards was amazing, I could hear much more high sounds than before. With Justin from the states I spend a day driving to Gangavathi and later for a relaxing swim in the splendid waters of the reservoir – no there are no crocodiles! A good day with interesting talks, maybe see you around Dresden one time, the Elbsandsteingebirge is also a mystical place!

There was also a small party at night in the rocks with music, bonfire and a lot of bouldering, half of the group was German and the music felt like back home, travellers always go back to their roots but I want to progress…

The golden rocks were treating me so nice this time and I know there is so much more to explore, so who knows I might be back one day!

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