It has been about four months since I have blogged and needless to say I have much to catch you up on.
My last blog ended with my travels around Rajasthan and Goa. At around that time I had about a month left in Delhi before we headed back to Australia for a desperately longed for and needed break, and to escape the growing summer heat.
About 4 days before the kids and I headed home we fit in one more adventure....
Rishikesh is about 5/6 hours away from Delhi. A five hour train ride to Haridwar, which was in full festival mode (a few million people had descended on Haridwar for a major Hindu festival- in fact 60 minutes did a report on it which I saw when I got back to Sydney). Apparently Haridwar is one of only a few places where nectar fell from heaven.
From Haridwar we had a 1-2 hour bus ride up through the mountains to our camp at Rishikesh. There were about 80 of us on the trip, mostly expats and a few locals.
Our camp was on the banks of the Ganga (Ganges) where the water is clean and icy cold Himalayan meltwater. We were in Rishikesh for a long weekend of whitewater rafting and hanging out. The camp was a great set up; tents with proper beds and buffet breakfast lunch and dinner.
We had two days of rafting. On the first day we would raft about 20 kilometers down the river to the main town of Rishikesh and then hop on a bus back up to our camp. It was a great day. About half way down the river we dropped the kids off before the river got too rough. They where bused further downstream where we would pick them up again after the adults and teens worked their way through the rougher rapids. It was a lot of fun. Even though it was about 40 degrees in the sun the water was about 14 degrees. It took your breath away when the waves washed over the boat. During the quieter stretches people would jump overboard and float down the river. I was not one of those people :)
Hunter and I skipped the second day of rafting. Sam and Ray went. This time they were bused up-stream and would raft back down the river to the camp after conquering 'the wall.' Only three boats went for this trip and I think only one made it over the wall without capsizing - that was Ray and Sam's boat.
It really was a fab weekend, but I think I would have enjoyed it more if i was not anticipating my trip home just a few days later. I was exhausted!
The last few days in Delhi were torture, the days dragged and I was spent. I felt like I had been on a year long camping trip, the weather was heating up and I just wanted to go home. I was at a point of not feeling like I ever wanted to come back to India.
The kids and I left Delhi to spend 2 months back in Australia and Ray followed two weeks later.
Everything felt so new and different when we first got home. So much had changed. It felt familiar and unfamiliar at the same time and for the first week I savored everything that I had missed... a comfy bed and bathroom in the next room with great water pressure. And the quietness...no blaring horns, temples blasting out their prayers or the noise of a billion people. And the most exciting thing... the food :)
After about 2 weeks it all felt the same again. It was almost as though I had never left and I had recovered, I could go back to India again.
The first month in Australia went quite slow. We had a great time catching up with family and friends and I went into the office to work, which was nice. It was great to reconnect with everyone.
The second month flew by. Ray and I ducked over to NZ for a week. Ray was catching up with a few people and organisations attached to the ashram and I had a great week spending time with all the NZ ashram volunteers.
We had such a great time with Ruth and Jake, Scott and Sharlene and the kids and Jenni. After living with people in such close community the bond you have is tight. I am sure we will all be lifelong friends.
I was not a great tourist in NZ. I had been there once before when I was ten and I really just wanted to hangout with friends. We made one touristy trip to Taupo, where we sat in a spring of hot water that came out of the ground... I still think that is so amazing, that hot water can just come out of the ground.
I spent a day in Auckland with Jenni where she bought me a 'green stuff' pendant otherwise known as pounamu or jade. Apparently you are not supposed to buy it for yourself, but rather someone has to give it to you as a gift.
NZ is such a beautiful country. It is so green... though it did rain everyday we were there, so that could be why:)
The other thing that was truly memorable about NZ was the food. I ate so much and felt constantly full. I think you would call that gluttony.
Once we got back to Sydney time flew by until it was time to leave. I had my birthday with friends and family and had a weekend away with the girls.
Getting ready to leave for India again was a mammoth task. As always I pushed my luggage limit to the max. When we got to the airport there was a problem. Each piece of luggage could not weigh more than 23kgs. So the lady at the counter made us do a reshuffle. In the end she let us though with five pieces of luggage and about 15kgs over in weight... woohoo. This kerfuffle paid off as we were then one of the last people to check in and there were no seats available together in economy, so we got bumped to business for the Sydney-Singapore leg.. YAY.
We were on a British Airways flight with the new business class flat beds. The kids loved it... ruined for life. I have never been able to sleep on planes, but on this trip I slept :)
Our flight got into Singapore late, so when we got off the plane there was a buggy waiting to race us to our connecting flight to Delhi. So much for perusing the July duty free sales :( We only just made it to our plane and were the last to board the crowded flight. We made it, but our luggage did not.
We got into Delhi at about 2am and was met by our driver Gurudial and one of the ashram guys. It was good to be back. It is strange having two cities that are so familiar too me, both feeling like home.
After a few hours sleep in our own bed we got up in time for breakfast and stepped out into a typical ashram morning. It was the same yet different. I was arriving back in Delhi on exactly the same day as I had the year before. The 1st of July.
It was interesting to compare the difference in the ashram from the year before. This year it was so ordered and looked after. Last year it looked like a bomb had hit it. I had assumed it was the summer heat preventing things from being looked after.
It was wonderful to see everyone again and I think they were all really happy to see us too. It was great to hear all the news and see some new faces and the old ones. It was also great to see the progress that people had made.
I still have about a month of news to catch up on, but I am going to leave it at that for today.
It was good to catch up :)