We happily left Delhi long ago to journey to the wonderful land of Rishikesh/Laxman Jhulla, located right on the banks of the mighty Ganga. Our first train experience was quite luxurious, complete with padded individual seats, air conditioning, and food service. Once arriving in Laxman Jhulla, we all dispersed for accommodation hunting. Carrie and Amy found a lovely guesthouse on a side street off of a somewhat busier main road. While in Laxman Jhulla, we enjoyed a thrilling rafting adventure on the Ganga (with our guide, Isaac from Montana, who later met up with us for both lunch and a nighttime pooja). The following day, we hiked up to a riveting waterfall where many of us took the refreshing opportunity to splash around in the water. Our time in the city of Laxman Jhulla was short, as we left the next day to travel to the Phool Chatti Ashram. The ashram was an amazing experience for all of us. It was situated right on the Ganga (we were often able to swim during our free time) and was simply a beautiful, tranquil place to be. Daily, we woke at 5:30 am to meditate, chant mantras, and participate in yogic cleansing, breathing exercises, and morning yoga classes. Although we were told that breakfast would be incredibly bland, it was the highlight of the day for many of us. We enjoyed unlimited porridge, bananas, and tea (with as much sugar as we could possibly consume). After breakfast, we went on daily contemplative walks to unbelievable landscapes such as waterfalls, streams, and beaches. Lunch was just as satisfying as breakfast, with buckets of dal, supte, rice and chipati at our fingertips. Following lunch, we had interesting discussions with the Guru, more breathing exercises and afternoon yoga classes. As darkness fell upon the ashram, evening prayer and song sessions occured each night, followed by another scrumptious meal similar to that of lunch. Evening mediation was our final activity, often preparing us for a restful sleep (with the exception of Eva’s insomnia). On our final days, we were graced with an evening bonfire and a morning fire ceremony. We said goodbye to our fellow ashram-ers and headed to the train station in Rishikesh. Our journey to McLeod began with a train ride (proceeded by downtime on the platform with cows and an obscene amount of flies). Our train was quite the experience: 10 hours with the 8 of us spread out throughout various compartments and seller after seller walking through the aisles offering cups of chai or small snacks. Some of us were able to sleep, some of us weren’t, but we finally arrived in Chakki Bank at about 2:30 am. We then stuffed into a jeep that took us up to McLeod Ganj after a bumpy, swerving 3 hour ride. Finally, we were in McLeod, home to many Tibetan refugees and the Tibetan government in exile. We each were placed into a homestay with a Tibetan family, which we all currently LOVE. Our homestay families treat us like their own children, as they try give us warmer clothes before we leave the house, constantly refill our tea classes even if we’re already full, and cook us delicious Tibetan meals. For most of us, this is just another amazing highlight of our trip. During the days, we are all participating in various internships and classes of our choice. The freedom we are allotted here is wonderful. Our days are filled with a wide variety of activities, such as jewelry making, cooking classes, art lessons, yoga, and volunteer work including teaching English to Tibetan refugees. We are all finding our time here extremely rewarding so far. We don’t want to leave at the end of the week!
That’s all for now…
-Ariel and Carrie