. . . which took 47.5 hours to earn, Dublin door to Varanasi door!
Before I even get into details on the ground here (and it was a relatively smooth landing), I can’t resist the temptation to lay out this mega-journey in black and white, leg by leg, minute to minute:
1. Cab ride from Dad’s (a teary farewell!) to the swanky new Dublin Airport: 30 min
2. Wait at the airport whilst snacking on strawberries and granola: 2.5 hours
3. Flight to London: an easy skankin’ 1.5 hours
4. Wait at the enormous Heathrow Airport: 3 hours (the only leg I wish were longer, so I could squeeze in a few moments with the homies, but alas …)
5. Flight to Dubai (where I indulged in Baileys, Midnight in Paris & a few episodes of the American Office – goddamn is that ICE Entertainment on Emirates gooooooood): 6 hours
6. Wait at the Dubai airport, which was fully open for bidness, electronic stores, chocolate temptations (avoided!), souvenir shops and more! 3 hours
7. Flight to Trivandrum (at this point I was so out of it, I’m having a hard time finding an interesting memory to share): 4.5 hours
8. Adventure in Trivandrum (unbeknownst to me, the international and domestic airports in Trivandrum are NOT connected, not even by a shuttle, so I spent my time here getting my bags, finding a cab & traveling 20 minutes, until finally checking back in at the other end!): 2 hours
9. Flight to Chennai: 1 hour
10. Errands in Chennai where I located my bags at the claims area then rechecked in for the next flight (yes, again): 2 hours
11. Flight to Delhi from Chennai, on which they served a lovely little lunch of chapatti, chole and dhal: 2.5 hours
12. Adventure in Delhi (called the travel agent to ensure I was no longer on the waitlist for my train, got on a metro to the train station, located my platform – which is a lot harder than it sounds! Train stations in Delhi are HELLISHLY CHAOTIC – and of course, waiting a wee while on the pee-smelling track. Though I wish I had a photo of this, and did think of it at the time, I just couldn’t make the effort to take out a camera – or risk losing it in the surreality of my travel-haze.): 3.5 hours
13. Train ride to Varanasi (where I was the only woman in a six-person sleeper section): 12 hours (originally scheduled to be 8)
14. Met with the lovely Alok who took me to an auto-rickshaw and finally to the hotel: 1 hour
So. Not the easiest trip in the world! I would have flown directly to Delhi (bypassing the 2 flights via Chennai), but booked this flight to Trivandrum months ago and when plans changed, could not change my ticket. So, 7.5 hours could have been easily avoided – a small price to pay for the bargain ticket, in the end! I mean, really, what’s the difference between 40 and 47.5 hours of travel anyway, right??
To ensure my body didn’t completely fall apart, that first day of travel I chose not to practice any yoga. Instead, I visited with my teacher and a few other friends from the last few times I practiced in Varanasi. Dinner was a lovely made-to-order vegetable curry, stir-fried bitter melon, and chapatti. The perfect end to a long-ass day!
Yoga Studies: Chapter 1
The next day I dedicated myself to practice at Om Shanti Yoga Niketan. The studio space is humble, but the teaching comes from a lifetime of dedication to yoga. Rajuji teaches from the heart, his classes the sole reason I’m here in Varanasi for four weeks. And you can’t beat the price: $2/hour of mostly personalized yoga training!
We spend 4 hours a day on practice, and one hour on writing a few handbooks on yoga together. I’ll be writing most of the science-based subject matter, as well as editing and designing the books. A most exciting endeavour …
A Temporary Abode
The yoga studio is only two minutes from the Hotel Alka, my home for the next 4 weeks. This is an extremely well-known place to stay, right on the river Ganges, with loads of clean rooms in various styles to suit a traveler’s needs. There are singles with shared bathrooms for $6/night, and en-suite doubles from $11 and up. I got a great deal because a friend who is also staying here has been a loyal customer for years and he booked our rooms. Sweetness!
Although internet cafes are easy to come by here, the facilities are sometimes less comfy than you might prefer, and the keyboards probably haven’t been replaced for a decade or so. It’s really not so bad, at 20 rupees (less than 50 cents) an hour . . . but I’m lucky enough to have 24/7 internet access using a Reliance Netconnect device. You pay 2000 rupees for the device and another 800 rupees or so per month, and you have access to the intrawebs at a decent speed whenever you like (with 18 GB for up/downloading), from the comfort of your room. If you’re going to be in India for an extended period of time (and you use the web regularly), I highly recommend it!
View From Here
I’m writing this blog, sitting at the edge of my bed, my laptop balancing precariously on the tiny ledge in front of my wall-mirror. I can hear the hotel workers cleaning the floor outside, my ceiling fan whizzing away the heat.
Three days into my trip (and full day of bed-ridden respiratory hell I’d rather not get into!), I’m starting to feel alive again. After a solid pranayama practice and short massage this morning, I may actually be starting to feel like me again!
This trip, I’ve had the great fortune of accidentally being in the holiest city in India for one of their biggest festivals – DIWALI! Watch this space for more on the festivities …