run through the jungle…

this song has not only been stuck in my head for the past week or so, but I’ve now decided that it’s Kerala’s theme song…if you could see the lush rainforest packed with palm trees that makes up Kerala, you would totally understand that it’s the most fitting song ever…now i just need to contact the department of tourism and let them know…

so after 4 days in Kochi (an extra day since i was waiting for friends to arrive) it was time to move on, so with my Belgian friend Emma we took the local bus down to Alleppy, home of the famous backwaters..we found a great little homestay guesthouse with a (so we thought) super friendly guy called Biju and his super cute dog, Jacko!

we spent the arvo walking around town and after about 10 minutes realised that Alleppy was actually a little dissapointing…after Lonely Planet’s description “Venice of the East”…there’s alot to live up to…now sorry, but just because there’s 2 canals running through town, doesn’t make it comparable to Venice…AT ALL! for one, the water was black and pretty nasty looking..and then the town, well it leaves much to be desired…after a super spicy and unidentifiable “special meal” at a place called Hot Kitchen (what did we expect really with a name like that) we walked about town and ended up being part of a procession (we were much of an attraction, they seemed more interested in us) so we took some photos and followed them into this hall where we thought there would be a talk on “The Art of Living” by Ravi Shankar…we were a little disappointed to find (that after waiting two and a half hours) he wasn’t actually coming…till February…so we took part in the celebrations and enjoyed the one thing happening in Alleppy..

Lana & Nick arrived early the next morning and we did a one day back waters tour in a canoe..now most people do the houseboat thing, and though they are really beautiful handcrafted boats, it’s a little too pricey for me, and being so big the boats don’t fit down the small canals, so you actually cover more ground in a little boat, plus canoe vs motor boat i vote peace and quiet rather than a bloody motor all day…there’s enough noise in this country! so doing my bit for the environment (yet another boat on the river yea) we all got into our little boat with our guide who spent the day paddling and singing as we relaxed by the water on the most peaceful day i’ve experienced so far!
our guide was a nice guy, but so damn hard to understand…halfway through the day i managed to crack the code…on top of the heavy accent, he was saying ‘and the’ in between EVERY WORD…so as he explained about the rice and the fields and the season and the water and the people and the life….we finally got what he was saying through hard concentration!

our day was pretty cool, with stops for breakfast, lunch, chai and a brief stop at a christian church where a nun dressed in an unflattering brown dress tried to force her christianity down our throats, reminding Nick (who made the mistake of telling her he was brought up Christian) that God was crying for him everyday as he’d lost his way…our day was well rounded…we fled the scene and returned to our peaceful boat…with apologies from the guide…
it was such a beautiful, peaceful day, something so rare in such a crazy country!

we returned to our homestay and had organised to make dinner at home, so after buying food at the local stalls we went back only for Biju to complain all night and the next morning about making food and cleaning! what a great host he was indeed…it was a bit of a shame as it completely changed our opinion of the place and we were pretty happy to be out of there the next day…

so on to Amritapuri by boat we went…for those who don’t know Amritapuri is the home of the hugging amma, one of India’s few female gurus…her special darshan is hugs, and she regularly spends hours (apparently up to 22+) at a time hugging people without a break!
after a cool 4 hour boat ride down the river (where we ran into Mat, an American we saw in Kochi, who also left without paying Emma money he owed for the room…she got it back!) we got off the boat, crossed the pink bridge and entered the compound of pink high-rises where Amma resides..it was alot bigger than i expected (not sure exactly what i was expecting, something smaller at least) and very imposing, with so so many people getting around dressed all in white, i thought we had joined a cult!

after checking in to our little dorm room and doing a welcome tour (where we learnt all about Amma, the centre and Embracing the World – the charity org) we went to take part in Bharjan (singing)…now i’m pretty good at picking up languages (this is something im quite proud of) but i must say that Malayalam (the language of Kerala) is bloody hard, and sounds nothing like it looks…this makes it pretty difficult to read and pronounce as it’s impossible to guess…oh, and there are letters that don’t exist in the english language…talk about a challenge…anyway i gave it a go, it was good fun and the atmosphere was serene and beautiful! unfortunately, taking photos is strictly prohibited, i was dying on the inside, wishing i could take some snaps to share it, but i respect that…so no photos for you…you’ll have to visit yourself!

after another unidentifiable dinner (seems to be a bit of a trend here, don’t know what you’re eating but it’s pretty good!) we were off to bed for our early start…up at 4.30 for chanting…again in Malayalam, the 1,000 verses was such a cool experience…sitting in the temple in the early morning the resonating sound in the dark hours of the morning is a magical experience and is something that must be experienced to understand..after an hour of chanting followed by some singing it was over to the beach for morning meditation and sunrise…amazing.

after some breakfast we lined up for our tickets for darshan – we were the first in line as we were leaving that day, darshan starts at 11am and tends to go till about midnight or so…so if you’re leaving, you want to be there early right…we got there at 11 and were told to come back later! (Lana & Nick managed to get in with the first group) so we went away, came back, were sent away again and after about 2 hours they let us come sit down to wait….after waiting 45 minutes we thought this is ridiculous, we’re going to end up missing our bus! now, don’t judge me on this…but i had to lie…and i felt awful…but i must first explain something…since i’ve been in India (and it took me a little while to realise) everyone has been lying to me…EVERYONE LIES HERE…it’s crazy…and i’m sick of it…but they won’t stop, and to be honest, when we do it to, it works out better for everyone…i mean how many times a day am i going to explain the full story of where i’m from etc etc? they don’t really care…it’s just another question!
so to get us out of there, (and we were told to lie by one of the devotees working there) i told them we had a plane to catch later that day…that they understood and we were “rushed” through…so i’m a believer in karma…and i felt awful…but then i’ve been lied to so many times in the past 2 weeks, i feel i’ve earnt my right to lie back…and it’s only white lies really…i am french, i am also “from” australia…we did have to go…what can i say…

so i got my hug….it was incredible! to look at it purely from an outsider point of view, it was insane up on stage with her…there are all these devotees sitting around just staring at her in love and devotion…it creates such an incredible atmosphere..and i’ve never seen a guru upclose…someone so adored by everyone…all these people from all over the world coming together in one place to see and touch her, receive a hug from the hugging amma…what a bizarre place to be! so it’s a bit of a zoo on the stage, she’s sitting in a chair, under aircon (the only place in the ashram, and on the stage to have aircon) and people are crushed around her while she chats to some people on the side…then there’s a guy who pushes you into her bosom and someone who grabs you back out when it’s time for the next ‘hug’…cynicism aside, it was magical…unexplainable…just surreal really…

now i saw Amma in Brisbane in April of this year, i’d also read about her a few years ago and had since then wanted to come here and see her, experience the ashram and feel her energy…so for me, it was unreal! amazing, incredible, yet somehow so hard to explain…a combination of her and the energy she exudes, the adoration for her and what she does for the world along with the atmosphere of the ashram (apparently 2,000 people live there permanently, plus all the tourists who come every day..i tell you it’s massive) it is another world…
now a quick explanation of these devotees dressed in white…amma’s children…most of them who i met were american..now that’s great, but a little weird when you’re in India and all you hear is American accents…and for all the claims on being so spiritual, leaving the egos behind and all the rest of that…i overheard many little discussions between those residents…seems there are still politics in the spiritual world….what did i expect really…just because you leave your life behind (escaping reality for the safety of an ashram) don all white clothes and do some chanting in the morning, doesn’t make you a whole new person…
i will say that when i go spend some real time in an ashram ill pick somewhere a little smaller, where there aren’t tour groups going through daily…but that’s my preference…i will be back though..

finally after an interesting trip down the coast (one girl ran away when i asked her for directions to the train station…literally…she just bolted…) we are in Varkala, a little beach town on the coast set on some amazing cliffs…it doesn’t feel like India at all, and it’s a little wierd…all these foreigners in bikinis and skimpy clothes…tourism what are you doing? when will people understand that they are in INDIA..it is a conservative country…just because there is sand doesn’t mean you can ignore this…COVER UP PLEASE!

so Varkala for 2 days or so, i need to rethink my itinerary as im running out of time and there’s too much i want to see! will have to skip some places in favour of spending proper time in each town and of course, ill be back for more!

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2 thoughts on “run through the jungle…

    • ahahahaha you crack me up…she actually smelt like a perfumy powdery smell…kinda hard to describe! but lana saw someone spray her chest with perfume so that explains it!!!
      it WAS amazing 🙂

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