India….I knew from the moment I decided to get on the flight, that this experience was going to be incredible.
After befriending many Bollywood actors and film producers on flights I work, nearly everyday someone saying to me…YOU WILL LOVE INDIA, knowing that yoga comes from this place, my love for curries, and New Zealanders now get a visa on arrival. Lucky us! Its seemed too easy.
I decide to take the leap and just go, and solo. I mean why not!
I take with me.
Wide angle lens.
Surfboard, in hope to find some Indian waves. I could be dreaming, but you never know!
A photocopy of my passport and some passport photos.
1 long dress.
1 pair of pants.
Warm water wax.
The White Tiger, written by Aravind Adiga. A great book if you want to know the “Real” India.
Toliet paper, (Which I take off the plane last-minute, always a good idea when traveling to India. A wise person once told me, you can never trust a fart in India….) haha
For the first time in my life, I get travel insurance.
And I carry on board a huge burst of excitement.
So I arrive in Chennai and after a delayed flight and quick disco nap on my surfboard with other locals who are sleeping on boxes, I head off on what looks like a toy plane. I swear even though I fly a lot, this flight had me clutching at my seat while trying not to throw up my airport chai, praying to the 36,000,000 Hindu gods that we would make it Safely to Kochi.
Touch down, and the first thing I notice about the South is how green it is, coconut palms as far as my eye can see, as well as the friendly smiles. Finding a guest house is easy, run by a lovely family, the kids go nuts over my board, and so the questions start.
I find being a single female traveling India by myself, The first question I am always asked is, Are you married? But now The surf board gets all the attention. Perfect! It becomes a great Ice breaker to any situation I find myself in.
What is dis lady? What is dis?
I always say the same thing back, just so that I can have a giggle at the response.
What do you think it is?
A fridge? (this one had me laughing for a while)
A small boat?
A big surf raft? (Getting closer)
Sleeping device? (Well, I guess they were kind of right, I did sleep on it in the airport)
So I head for my first morning chai, coconut water and dosa, while eating and drinking to the sounds of Bollywood tunes blurted out on radio phones, and the smells that seem to change around every corner, some delicious, while others you find yourself breaking into a run to get away from.
I spend the afternoon walking around Fort Cochin, talking to the local people, hanging out with the fishermen, who are oh so happy to show me their catches.
A crazy young South Indian guy who becomes my friend within 2 minutes takes me everywhere, while blaring out old school hiphop tunes from his rickshaw, it’s all about head bobble dancing while driving here, he tells me I am “Veri, veri good at it” and I should be a Bollywood actress, and did I know there is a famous Indian Bollywood actress named Nadia.
They seem to all like my name here.
As I travel with no plans so often these days, the next morning I decide to carry on heading south. So off in the direction of the train station I go, but just as I am about to leave the guest house, an Indian guy who knows a friend of a friend of someone who works with Emirates and I quote, “I can trust” rocks around and asks if I want to come and stay with him and his family a few hours south of Kochi, I know its near to the coast, so we go for a chai and I feel ok about this situation and he seems like a nice enough fellow, so I gladly agree and we pack my surfboard into his wee little red car and head off.
Now driving in India…Actually, I really can’t go into describing this, as I would need a whole page.
I have no idea how they do it, but there never seems to be any accidents or road signs, apart from the one I see every now and then that says, SOUND HORN, And boy do they understand that one well. Loud is an understatement. I wear my seatbelt at all times, (When I am in transport that has one available)
What happens next is incredible and like always I am so glad that I just decided to go with the moment.
We are now in a little village somewhere near Thiruvananthapuram. Try and say that ten times fast!
No one speaks english, apart from the basic english my new friend Manu knows.
I end up staying in Manu’s family house, with all 5 generations of family living under one roof. I quickly become the attraction in town, and one of the sisters play “Dress up” with me being the doll, Everyone takes photos on their phones. I wear the special saree and I am taken to the local Temple that has its own elephant. It is chained up at the moment…Feeling very bad for it, I ask why. Apparently it had killed its owner the week before. I am not quite sure what will become of that huge Indian elephant.
The grandson takes a huge liking to me, and cries when I have to put him down to sleep.
One Great Grandmother loves me, one does not.
I learn to eat with my hands, while everyone else watches and stands around the table within my bubble, aka personal space (Which by the way does not exist in India, I have learnt this already on boarding the aircraft with 330 people and I am happy to say, I am ok with the bubble being popped) I guess it’s just there are so many people in India, 1,210,193,422 (1.21 billion) and that’s just in the South alone. People just get used to being close.
They all wait for me to finish before the mother puts so much food on my plate for a second helping, they all think I am too skinny. I try my best to eat it all, I mean it’s actually not hard at all, the curries from the south are something out of this world, and I still dream about them when I am hungry.
My Brother Andre and Dad Fabian would be very pleased to see how much I could eat here.
I go to a tailor and get new clothes made, I wear tradition clothing out of respect and also because I want to. It looks badass.
That night, I find deep sleep on the ground with open windows, no curtains, 1 sheet, it’s very simple and just the way I like it.
I wake at sunrise, to the sounds of local insects, and bird song.
Before long I happily find myself on the back of a motorbike. (Dad don’t read this next part) No helmet or safe gear just me in my saree, with an Indian guy. (Dad you can read again) I think we look like something out of a Bollywood film. I sure do feel like I am making my own one by this stage.
I feel safe.
We head 6-7 hours inland and then up high into the mountains, even the clouds are up here.
I can only begin to tell you how beautiful India is on the back of a bike. Something wonderful happened to me this day, I will never forget it. I know now, I will always want to come back to this place.
I guess it was a day of firsts for me, starting with a stop at the local Temple to be blessed before we head off on an adventure.
I spend time with the tea ladies picking tea leaves in fields. This brought me a lot of joy.
Monkeys, cows and more elephants are everywhere.
Hang out with men in Toddy “Bars” Drinking this weird and wonderful drink.
Language barriers here are of a different type. I find I get by ok though, with my head bobble and a smile any barriers are quickly broken.
We continue on bike, and deeper into the jungle we go, getting lost is just part of it.
I find myself climbing hills and trees with school children who love to have their picture taken.
Then back on the train I get….with my surfboard by my side, getting onto the second class no air conditioning section (US $1.30) Down the whole coast with a surfboard was actually a whole lot easier than I expected. Again, everyone wants to help me.
I find deep and dreamless sleep on the top bunk wedged in between my surfboard and the wall. I wake to the smell of chai and samosa being pushed in my face.
I have to say there is something about trains I just cannot get enough of, I believe it has a lot to do with the people who I meet on trains. I always end up meeting the most beautiful souls on trains. India did not let me down.
I then spend the next few days doing Yoga, and incredible Yoga at that, blissful settings on roof tops amongst more coconut palms. I couldn’t have asked for more. Many deep meditation sessions and spiritually awakening talks with my yoga teachers.
I FIND WAVES!
I surf with children who have never seen a surf board before.
We laugh a lot.
They can stand up better than I can.
I find a place to stay as close to the beach as possible without getting wet, so that I can hear the waves as I sleep.
Surprised to Find a great book shop. Spend more time reading.
Then comes time for me to move on again, but not before one last stop back in Chennai. Which at first I tried to get out of so that I could spend more time right down south, but as things just so happen, my last day spent in Chennai turned out to be probably my most favourite.
To sum it up in not too many words.
I played with children who had more energy then any I have ever met, they took me all around their homes, which were part of a very poor village, and known as the slum in Chennai. They showed me how they have fun.
It was beautiful, simple and made me want to be 10 again.
I spent time with stunning women in colourful sarees, who could not speak any English, but held my hands, touched my face, swam in the waves that were crashing on the beach, smiled and nodded at me a lot. I think the feeling I got here is very much that I was accepted. Without having spoke any words to each other, there was an understanding.
The men stood all around the women, I guess to protect them. It was very moving.
That night I decided to just stay in the area, so I was taken to a “Hotel” on the border of the slum, where I found a shower that was more dirty than I was. Oh well what’s one more day with out showering. I was in India after all.
I find sleep, but only for about 2 hours, as I am woken to the sounds of hundreds are feral dogs barking and fighting in the slums. Then the unwelcome sounds of someone trying to do something outside my door, still not quite sure what it was.
I board the plane the next morning, to be taken back to Dubai and a trip for work to Japan. I can’t tell you how weird it was to change scenes so quickly, and be in a five-star hotel down town Tokyo. I have to say, I walked into the room looked at the king size bed with view’s of the city, and kind of missed my bed on the floor with no curtains or windows.
Made it all feel like a beautiful dream.
I guess there are just some parts of the world that get right into my heart and won’t go.
South India has defiantly become one of these places. Some kind of wonderful happened to me in India.
I made it a very mellow, chilled pace of travel, I was not disappointed at any moment.
Trying to define this experience is so hard for me, but I hope that this story has done it justice.
I just took a leap of faith and surrendered to the unknown. I only hope others will do it too.
For this is India. Really nothing or no one can prepare you for its mystery, vibrant colours, smells, people, Confronting, thought-provoking spiritual journey.
You just have to get on the flight and go,
Thanks for stopping by.