A Travellerspoint blog

Panchakarma- an Ayurvedic cleanse

awww yeah.

okay, so at the request of my friend at Yogaview, I hunted down Dr. Sambhu, an ayurvedic doctor. what is ayurvedic medicine, you say? hm. well, translated directly, it means 'the science of life'. it looks at health and life and longevity in a holistic way. i've been reading about it for the last few years and to consult with a doctor trained in this in the states is difficult and expensive. Kerala, the state in which i'm traveling, is famous for Ayurveda, so here i am. in the medicine, much of what determines how we can achieve optimum health is our balance or imbalance of the doshas. doshas are similar to the elements in traditional chinese medicine. we all have all three of them in different amounts, and the dominant one(s) are what need to be pacified. it's truly fascinating and i encourage you to read about it if you have the time. anyway, after a few years of reading about this, i thought i knew what my constitution was, but after seeing my doctor, i learned i was wrong. i actually have a rare balance of all three (niiice) as my constitution. but i still have imbalances caused by my age,the time of year, and my past.

i've decided to do a detox called Panchakarma ('5 processes'). there are 5 methods of detoxifying the body, which your doctor determines based on your constitution. some are more aggressive than others, so i decided to document what i go through. it will be 10-14 days, though after2 days in this place i'm only doing 10. i will update the panchakarma blog hopefully every day, as there's not much else to do here :) the hope is that after the 10 days all doshas will be balanced and my immunity strengthened, skin brighter, digestive system clean and clear. here's to hoping!

Posted by yoganini 06:00 Archived in India Comments (0)

First full week in India...


View pre-real-life hoorah on yoganini's travel map.

as it goes, the only thing to write about chennai is that there's nothing write about it.

madurai was the temple.

so, the train. i took a night train from madurai to kanyakumari, the southern most tip of india, where three seas meet. it left at 1.50am and was running late. i ran into the only tourist and chatted with him a bit, then a train came, i hopped on, found a woman in my bunk, told her she was in my bed, and slept on and off. i woke up an hour before my scheduled arrival time. i asked a woman near the bathroom how much longer to Kanyakumari. "Later," she said. "2 more hours," another said. i switched to a bottom bunk when it opened up and looked out the window periodically. then we got to whati was told was the last station. oops. had i missed my stop? no. i was on the wrong train. ha! luckily, it was daylight, and the 4 men traveling together in my section were headed to the same place, so we took a rickshaw to the bus, then a bus to Kanyakumari. i found a place with an ocean view (and, as i learned, a place right next to the road) and visited the temples. then i ran into a canadian at my place who was in search of a quiet beach. we met up with an indian guy (from the wonderful Chennai) and went to a quiet, beautiful beach. naturally, the first question out of the indian guy's mouth was whether or not i was married. ugh. we all had a conversation about women in India, as the masogynistic nature of their culture is becoming clearer and clearer to me, even in more liberated Kerala. he said, 'yes when women get married they are more like slaves than wives'. i asked him why he laughed when he said that and he got uncomfortable.

unfortunately, the canadian had to take a bus out of there, so i was stuck having dinner with the indian. i thought, great, here is my personal tour guide to tell me about indian food. within about 5 minutes it became clear that he thought it was a date and he was pushing to have beer or wine. gross. i brought up my imaginary boyfriend and said i had to go.

so, at this point, i would say i enjoyed only madurai.

then to varkala. i took2 buses and got there in the afternoon. BLISS. super touristic, but just what i needed that day. i stayed at this great place called Shiva Garden. i stayed in the dorm for $4/ night. on the rooftop of buildings, there were mats with mosquito nets and communal toilet/ shower. perfect. a lounge area, a yoga area, and good people of all ages. there was a beautiful cliff, along which was a path of shops and restaurants. it wasjust like thailand and i was okay with it. the beach was nice and warm, perfect and long enough for a run in the early mornings (running! finally!).

i spent most of my time with a german guy who ended up being the male version of debby downer, eesh. but i also hung out with a cool american woman from Utah and a Belgian, so that wasreally good. after a few days of beach and doing mostly nothing after 8am, i woke up and knew i had to leave.

so now i am in Kovalam Beach, which i knew was supposed to be more touristic, but this is where my ayurvedic doctor is. oh my, sooo many old people here! totally different energy here- way overpriced, way boring, not funky or hippy or backpacker-y at all like Varkala. i'm super bummed, to be honest, though maybe it's best that i take it easy anyway. more about Panchakarma in next entry...

Posted by yoganini 05:44 Archived in India Comments (0)


at last!!

View pre-real-life hoorah on yoganini's travel map.

i am finally, finally here.

i flew from kathmandu to delhi then straight to chennai (madras). what a dump! as the fourth-largest city in india, i shouldn't have been surprised. but after getting ripped off by the prepaid taxi (yes, apparently it's possible) and into my shady hotel on the busiest street in the city, i immediately made a plan to get out. everything was gray and the sound of horns honking became white noise within hours, as that's ALL you hear. i saw no tourists, which was fine, but i felt as if there were only indian men looking on as i walked around, so i made it an early night and had a quick dinner near the hotel, which, at $12/ night, was a fine rip-off. the next day, i tried mailing things home (but do i really need to keep all this trekking gear?? i still have it with me and can't decide), only to find that the stuff needs to be specially wrapped by a tailor, who was 12km across the city of dishonest cab drivers (according to lonely planet) and then costs $50/ km. no, thank you.

off to figure out the initially difficult and confusing train situation. after about an hour of wandering around and asking nearly everyone i ran into where the tourist ticket counter was, i finally found it and, despite having already paid for a second night there, booked the first night train out of there for $3! i met a nigerian-italian, John, who was excellent company. being more of an expert on the matter, as he'd spent the last 3 months in southern india, he informed me that Chennai was the worst city he'd been to to date. we wandered around all day, chatting about india and nepal (he's eventually headed there). it was very interesting watching the locals, as apparently they have a particular disdain for Nigerians, who are believed to be untrustworthy and bad based upon only a handful of wrong-doers. despite that, i still felt like fewer people harassed me than they would have had i been alone (though instead they harassed John... ah well, annoyance deflected. i'll take it). we ran into some people at a little stand where we had tea (for 7 Rs, about 10 cents and oh-so-good... this is the life) and, all men, they never looked at me and only asked me some questions after finding out that john and i were just friends. though they knew it was impossible for us to have been married as we both look so different. was very interesting to hear them all agree.

in the streets: dogs, cats, cows, and some goats. motorcycles, rickshaws, autorickshaws, pedestrians, cars, buses, cart of all sorts.

also in the streets: plastic, cow dung, men's piss (the world is their toilet, wow), spilled food, dust. i wore sandals and came back with black feet. so gross, but so gratifying to see the before and after washing.

at 8.50pm, we found my train (john is headed north) to Madurai, an 8 or so hour long ride. i got the top bunk and because there was no room for my bag under the bottom bunk, i had to sleep with it. for those of you who have been on one, there is NO room for a bag and a person. ah, well. i was so tired that i fell asleep by 9.30pm. i woke up and heard 'madurai' on the speaker at the station, and the man in the bunk nearby said it was Madurai, so i nearly fell off and knocked a woman out with my bag racing off the train. as it started to move again, i asked the man standing in the door of the train if this was madurai station. nope, heehee, it's in about an hour. HA! nice. i have learned to ask questions all the time.

i arrived in Madurai at 6.30am this morning. i've seen the most beautiful temple, so colorful and ornate and detailed. again, pics to come. it is 2pm and i feel i am ready to be in a still quieter place. so tomorrow i will take a train to Kanyakumari, the southern most tip of India, for a beautiful sunset and sunrise. the train is open seating, so i'm not sure what to expect from a train with benches in a country that has very different ideas of personal space. ah well, it is only 5 hours. until then, i think i will head back to the temple for some nice sunset peace and quiet. and street food. mmmmm

i have been so lucky thus far, meeting great people and feeling like all these minor setbacks are just that: minor. thank you, yoga.

namaste, until the next city,

Posted by yoganini 00:02 Archived in India Comments (0)


undoing all the good from the mountains

at last! the blisters could breathe, the belly could expand, and i didn't have two wear two pairs of socks to keep from getting too cold! Pokhara: the most laid-back place in nepal with stunning views of the mountains (again, so sorry i can't post pics!), aMAZing food options, and set next to a beautiful lake. i could get used to it. and i almost did. but 6 days of stuffing myself silly got old. the three of us- Tuomas (Finland) and Michael (Australia)- had a couple pastries to start the day, a few lunches, and then an average of two dinners a day. the space in between was spent wondering about where we'd eat next. gluttony at its finest.

although, to be fair, we DID do stuff:
- took a paddle boat across the lake to see the World Peace Pagoda, which offered amazing views of the mountains we'd traversed (well, some of them). it was great to walk uphill again, albeit for one hour, not 5.
- Tumoas sails, so we rented a boat and spent the day using whatever wind there was to go around the lake.
- PARAGLIDING! it's allegedly one of the best places in the world for it, and while i have no basis of comparison, it'll be hard to beat. for about $85, i signed up for 30 minutes of paragliding, but got 45 minutes from the dashing nepalese tandem pilot we'd met the night before. we drove by jeep up a mountain, got set up, took a few running steps, and were airborne. it was so amazing, i can't describe it. surrounded by dozens of other paragliders, we floated over a valley, mountains, and the lake and landed with little more than a tap. i would do it again in a heartbeat if not for the price. but people come from all over the world with their own gear and just pay for the jeep ride up the mountain, sometimes doing 3 rides a day. Rahm, my tandem pilot, once did a 52km ride in 6 hours. with nothing but wind. landed in a little village who thought he was god, and then came back to do it again.
- met some crazy but fun people, namely Fleming from Denmark- an almost toothless 60+ year-old man who spoke nothing but nonsense as he played guitar around a fireplace. epic.

after our fill of Pokhara, Tumoas and i headed back, as his visa was up soon and i was planning on meeting a friend (who, alas, couldn't make it from Dubai). and michael wanted to stay for Australia Day before beginning Vipassana, the 10-day silent meditation that is very popular here in Asia... we saw a Monkey Temple, and then after he left, i got to see the nepal version of Varanasi, where people cremate loved ones and throw the ashes into the Ganges. here, at Pashtaputinath (thank you for the suggestion, Leah!), the black and polluted river eventually meets up with the also black and polluted Ganges.

i've loved nepal, the people, the language, the mountains, the daily mix of religions side-by-side.

onto india!

Posted by yoganini 23:49 Archived in Nepal Comments (0)

Annapurna Circuit

"we walk".

Finally! the energy and electricity and ability to use the internet and post about the trek! I met two guys in Kathmandu who had similar ambitions and timetables to partner up with for the trek: Thomas from Finland and Michael from Australia. we spent a day in KTM getting ready- permits, sleeping bags, snacks. then we were off. my initial plan included hiring a porter, but b/c the guys weren't going to, i thought i'd do without. it's a decision that i don't necessarily regret or feel glad about. all i know is that i feel way more badass for having done it all on my own.

Here is a summary of what we did, where we went, etc. I'll add more as I remember, but I wanted to post a general schedule... we trekked during the 'extreme winter', the label of which now makes sense to me. we saw only a handful of trekkers on the circuit, which i understand is not the case at all during high season of october and november, when you just can't get away from the crowds. for us, it was nice and quiet, though many places weren't open and even the areas that were meant to be bustling hubs were more like ghost towns.

Day 1:
Kathmandu to Besi Sahar, about 6 hours by bus.
we met two koreans, MiHwa and Cheol (who had also met in Kathmandu) on the microbus. we decided to hike together. they had porters, which was great along the circuit as we didni't have to think or make any decisions.
Besi Sahar to Bhulbule, 2 hours. felt excited about moving and walking and doing nothing but for the next while.

Lodge: Thorong-la Guest House
Elevation: 840m

Day 2:
hardly slept b/c i was so cold, which didn't make sense because the sleeping bag i rented for 30 rupees/ day (about 40 cents) was meant to be good for -20 degrees C and good for all seasons. naturally, there was a hole near my feet. so that was fun. luckily, when we pooled together our resources, a needle and thread did a decent enough job to stitch up the majority of the hole.
Bhulbule to Bahundanda, 2 hrs.
to Syange, 2.5 hrs.
to Jagat, 55 minutes.

most hiking was on an incline, though it was already surprisingly easier than i'd thought (though i still didn't seem to trust my feet on the steeper parts, especially going down). there were supposed to be hot springs here, but it just looked like a shady and rusty tank with cold water.

met 2 german guys, Christian and a guy whose name we forgot but nicknamed Smiley b/c he couldn't seem to stop smiling. when i asked him what their plan was the following day, he simply looked at me and said, "we walk" with an inimitable german accent.

Dal bhat was becoming the meal of choice: rice, watery lentil soup, and usually a curry and pickled veggies on the side. there are often free refills, so it was the most economical choice.

Lodge: ? don't remember name
Elevation: 1300m

Day 3: Jagat to Tal, 3 hrs.
to Dharapani, 3 hrs.

despite my walking all over flat wilmette and doing stairs and the incline at Lloyd in winnetka as much as possible, the inevitable blisters began today. hurting quite a bit, but no other complaints, so it's okay. it's getting COLD at night.

Lodge: Kangaroo Lodge
Elevation: 1860m.

Day 4: Dharapani to Thanchok, 4 hours.
to Chame, 1.3 hours.

the usual idea is to start out early with tea in the morning, hike for a couple hours, then have lunch. then hike until the final destination and eat dinner. early to bed, early to rise.

met Roy, an energetic and enthusiastic Israeli who was so much fun. he was also more or less a machine and would probably had sprinted up the mountain if we hadn't held him back. he had a porter-guide who had lived in the states and had a nice smile and e talked a lot about Subway and other fast food chains with fondness.

Lodge: ?
Elevation: 2670m (900m up, 200m down)

Day 5: Chame to Dhukur Pokhari, 4 hours
to Lower Pisang, 40 minutes.

Lodge; Hotel Moonlight. so. cold. the first time we really needed a heater at night. we all sat around the fire with our feet as close as possible. i'm pretty sure there was an average of about an inch in between the wall panels of the lodge. luckily, they let me have two blankets on top of my sleeping bag. that and sleeping in my fleece-lined pants and coat and hat and three pairs of socks guaranteed that i'd have a fighting chance of sleeping through the night.
Elevation: 3200m.

Day 6: Lower Pisang to Braga to Manang, 4.5 hours.
the altitude was making things harder, as were the blisters and my knee, which hurt as a consequence of avoiding rubbing my boots over my blisters.

Lodge; Hotel Mountain Lake. used a ton of firewood to keep us warm. also used 'cinnamon rolls' for fuel (yak dung). had my first solar hot shower in Nepal, second shower of my trip (cold water is not desirable). liberating to not care about being dirty and smelly.
Elevation: 3540m

Day 7: to Milerapa Caves, 5 hours
Lodge: spent a second night in Manang to acclimatize. Roy went ahead, claiming it was for pansies. but a few of us were getting headaches and nausea and wanted to play it safe. what was the rush anyway? though not having Roy in the group was a bummer.
Elevation: 4200m

Day 8: Manang to Yak Kharka
Lodge: Gangapurna View.
Elevation: 4080m

Day 9: Yak Kharka to Thorong Phedi
Lodge: Hotel New Phedi. crappy service, crappy rooms, a toilet/ outhouse that had so many holes that it was just like being outside.

Day 10: Thorong Phedi to Thorong La, 4.5 hours (Elevation: 5,460m)
so. cold. we thought we were going to die. no joke. we left at 3am to avoid the intense wind that usually hits the pass around 9am. though then wahat we ended up with was intense wind at 3am, in the dark and freezing cold. it was so cold that my fellow trekkers believe it was -30 degrees C with the wind. i have never been so cold in my life, nor have i ever doubted the fact that i might live to see another day.
Thorong La to Muktinath, 3.5 hours (Elevation 3800m)
knees hurting, blisters burning, but soo sooooo happy the hardest part was over.

Lodge: Bob Marley Hotel

Day 11: Muktinath to Jomsom, 4 hours
Lodge: Xanadu Guesthouse. i stayed in the same room that Mick Jagger allegedly did over 30 years ago.
Elevation: 2720m

Day 12: took a bus from Jomsom to Tatopani, 6 hours.
getting onto the bus, Cheol slipped on a patch of ice and later found out he broke and fractured his ankle in 3 different spots. he ended his trip early and headed back to korea to have surgery. so crappy. though we were all glad it didn't happen over the pass...
walked from Tatopani to Shikha, 3 hours. pretttttty much straight uphill, the most dramatic and steepest incline of the whole circuit. We split up with MiHwa here, and Cheol continued on via bus to Pokhara.
Lodge: Travels Guest Home.

Day 13: Shikha to Ghorepani, 3.5 hours.
to Poon Hill (AMAZING views) and back, 1.5 hours (Elevation 3210 m)
Lodge. Fishtail. a really cool village, woke up to horses and bells and village life. didn't sleep as a result, but meh. such is life in the mountains, i guess
Elevation: 2750m

Day 14: Ghorepani to Tadapani, 3.25 hours (Elevation 2710m)
to Ghandruk, 1.75 hours
Lodge: Aama Lodge
Elevation: 1970m

Day 15: Ghandruk to Kimche, 1 hour, 10 min. limited by rain.
Lodge: Don't Pass Us By Lodge. well, we didn't pass by, but we maybe we we had. Michael kept calling it the manger. we were the three unwise men staying there.

Day 16: Kimche to Naya Pul, 2 hours
bus to Pokhara, 1.5 hours. rode with a couple goats in the isle. very local. very authentic.

POKHARA for a few days. more details, including paragliding, eating, and sailboats to come!

Posted by yoganini 04:04 Archived in Nepal Comments (4)

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