カテゴリ:Dan in Mysore( 4 )

Christmas in Kovalam

How I Spent Christmas - Kovalam Beach, Kerala, Part 1.

In Mysore, there were rumors that the shala would be closed for a few days around Christmas... unforturnately, there was no clear information about the exact dates... several people asked Guruji and we all got different answers, but it became clear that the shala would close for at least 3 days right after Christmas, so I made plans to head out to Kovalam Beach, Kerala with a few friends.

The first problem was how to get there. Travel in India can be slow and tiring. The planes were all full with people returning home for new year, and we had no luck getting a train reservation either, so we ended up renting a car with a driver for one week to take us there and back. Fortunately, prices in India are quite reasonable, the total cost of the car and driver for one week was about 12,000 rupees (about 30,000 yen, or 280 US dollars); dividing this by the 5 people in our group was not so bad.

On Sunday morning, Christmas Day, after Guruji's led class, we boarded the car. Our driver was Chendru, the same person who took us to Talakadhu and Somnathpur. He arrived a few minutes late, but we were soon underway. Our vehicle was a large 4 wheel drive Tata "Sumo", quite comfortable.



It was generally in good shape, but some of the rear lights needed work-Mikko doesn't look too worried, so it's probably OK!


We all fit in quite comfortably.


Driving in India can be scary... actually quite terrifying at times, but our driver was generally very safe and did an excellent job. We did have a good scare when we were overtaking a large truck labeled "Highly Inflammable"; another truck suddenly appeared around a turn but we just missed it, otherwise "Highly Inflammable" might have been the last thing we ever saw!


At one point we passed a group of people walking along the road with what looked like pillows tied to their heads. Chendru explained that they were pilgrims on the way to a nearby temple dedicated to the god brother of Ganesh, and the pillows were actually offerings of honey and coconuts wrapped in towels.


Soon we were driving through the hills in Bandipur National Park, where there are a variety of wild animals including elephants and tigers. The air was very cool and pleasant, and there were large bamboo forests. We stopped for lunch here. Fortunately, no tigers! Just bamboo, tall trees, shade and fresh air...


After lunch, before leaving the mountains and heading towards the flat costal areas of Kerala state, we had to pass through some scary mountain roads with lots of hairpin turns and some spectacularly steep drops; but everything went smoothly.


The above two photos were taken from here, see the red arrows:


The only setback we had came at about 5:00, we decided to stop at Danu's Bakery for an ice cream. As we parked, one of the rear tires suddenly went completely flat. The flat was no match for our ever friendly and efficient driver, Mr. Chenru, who had replaced the flat with our spare before we even finished our break. Luckily, there was a tire repair shop just down the road, so we pulled in.


This man quickly went to work; removing our wheel, finding the leak, and patching the tube.


This nail caused our flat tire.


In the meantime, Antonia kept herself entertained.


When the work on our tire was nearly done, a local man pulled in to have his scooter tire repaired.

No one knows why, but he suddenly decided to start demonstrating his Uddiyana Banda and Nauli to us.


His nauli was quite impressive; in Yoga, nauli is usually done side to side, but he was doing it with and up and down motion.

I asked whether he practiced Yoga, but it was very difficult to communicate; as far as I could tell, he said what he practiced was not Yoga or Kalaripayat (a martial art from Kerala); he tried to explain what he practiced, but we could not understand him.

He tried to get Mikko V. to imitate him, but without much success; Mikko S. seemed unimpressed with Mikko V's efforts:


We set off again at about 5:00 pm with a repaired tire and a new appreciation of Nauli; but we were shocked to discover that after about 6 hours of travel, we had covered less than half the distance from Mysore to Kovalam.

Wait! The travel agent had told us that this would be a 9 or 10 hour trip! How could this be? Apparently, our travel agent calculated the time based only on the distance, but did not consider the relatively slow roads we had to use; our average speed was probably only about 30 km/h. We had no choice but to resign ourselves to many more hours in the car. Fortunately, our driver still seemed OK, so we went on.

By about 10:00 pm, a little past halfway there, we yogis were totally exhausted; we had been up since about 4:00 am for morning practice. Far more troubling was that our driver also seemed to be tiring: he said he was fine to continue all the way to Kovalam but we decided to stop at the first clean looking hotel. A gas station attendant told us about a good hotel about 20 km down the road, which turned out to be the "Prince Hotel". No, not the luxurious Japanese chain, but a local hotel which was quite nice, with A/C, running hot water etc. We were delighted! The mattress was the best I have used in several months, and we all got a good night's rest!


The next morning, Dec. 26, we left the Prince Hotel at about 7:00 and finally reached Kovalam Beach at about 1:00 pm. The trip was relatively easy, since the roads in Kerala state are definitely better than those in Karnataka.
At Kovalam beach, we checked into our rooms, and went straight to the shala for a light practice. After spening about 16 hours in a car, we were happy to be moving again! I intended to do a light practice, perhaps standing poses only, because I did not know how much my body could handle after that car ride, but before I knew it, I had done the entire primary series, and it felt good!

After practice, eating lunch at a restaurant with a great view of the ocean, it truly felt like we had finally reached our destination!


To be Continued
by dcaplan | 2006-01-03 00:18 | Dan in Mysore

Breakfast at Home, Part 2, Sunday 13/11/05

Breakfast in Mysore, Part 2

While Yasuko and I were working on the Chai, Ayuco worked on the food, which included bread, organic macrobiotic scones brought from Tokyo (thanks Kayo!), fruit, kesaribath and Indian sweets.

First, Ayuco sliced some freshly baked sourdoug bread.


Oh, and don't forget the assorted Indian sweets, from Bombay Tiffany's.


After that, the fruit: a papaya, a pineapple, oranges and apples, all bought that morning.


Ayuco looks happy with her work.


And in the meantime, I prepared some kesaribath, sweetend semolina with nuts, raisins and spices. I cheated... used a ready made pack. Add water and ghee (refined butter) to a deep frying pan, add the kesaribath mix, and stir until ready.




And then we sat down for a great breakfast!


by dcaplan | 2005-11-13 20:22 | Dan in Mysore

Breakafast at home, Day 7, Saturday 12/11/05

Breakfast at Home, Part 1

Yesterday, after led class, we had breakfast at my place. A few friends came over and we prepared an excellent breakfast of chai, fruits, bread, scones, kesari-bath (sweet seminola), and indian sweets.

Here is how we did it:

1) The Chai

Chai is spiced indian milk tea-I love it, but since doing
a fast last August, I have not had any caffeine. Luckily, there is a good substitute for black tea. Rooibos tea, also known as bush tea, comes from a tree grown in South Africa, and has a strong flavor, but no caffeine, and is supposed to be good for digestion and to have a relaxing effect. My friend Michiel tells me that "rooibos" means "red bush" in Dutch. This tea has become popular recently thanks to the very charming "No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency" books by Alexander McCall Smith, a series of detective stories set in Botswana. So we used Rooibos tea to make our chai.

First, boil some water and prepare the spices: cardamon, cloves, cinnamon, black pepper, and ginger.


I usually open the cardamon, crush the cloves, cinnamon and black pepper, and finely chop or grind the ginger, and add them to the boiling water.


While I was working on the spices, Yasuko was busy preparing the ginger:


When all the spcies have been added, it smells very good!


Then add the tea, or rooibos tea, and allow to boil for about 10 minutes.


Then add milk, I usually try to use equal amounts of milk and water. i usually add some sugar at this point.


Allow this to boil for about 10 more minutes, and you have some excellent chai! Adding some more sugar helps to bring out the flavor of the spices, especially the ginger. Enjoy!

(Thanks to Mamiko Aida, who first showed me how to make chai, Alice Caldwell, for introducing me to the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series, Natsuko, for introducing me to rooibos tea, and to Yasuko and Ayuco, who helped to prepare the breakfast!)
by dcaplan | 2005-11-12 19:39 | Dan in Mysore

First few days in Mysore

OK, I'm having some trouble with my lack of blogging skills; every time I try to add a new entry, all the old entries get deleted. If you're still reading this, please bear with me, I hope to solve this problem somtime soon!

Below is a copy of my first entries, which were deleted by mistake.

Day 1-Sunday, Nov. 6, 2005

HI Everyone;

I'm now safely in Mysore and having a great time! This is my first ever try to write a blog, so sorry if it takes me a while to get the hang of it. I'll write all my entries in English, but of course feel free to write responses or comments in Japanese!

My first day was long, but lots of fun. My flight landed in Bangalore on Saturday, at 10:15 pm, and after a very long wait for my bag, I left the airport at 12:30, and reached the Green Hotel in Mysore at 3:45 am, put my bags down, freshend up a little, and then it was off to the shala for the 5:00 am led class. Guruji was in fine spirits, smiling a lot, and practice felt good, but after all that sitting in an airplane, the balance poses were wobbly. After practice, while enjoying cocounut milk in front of the shala, I caught up with many friends including Mae, Natalia, Ayuko, Kumi, Juha Javainen and many others, and also met Yasuko from Nagasaki, Maki from Niigata, and Sayuri from Tokyo. Practice was followed by an excellent breakfast of pancakes, upma, parathas, toast, pineapple juice and french toast at the Green Hotel, and then we headed downtown to buy sandals, food and other supplies.


There was a conference at 4:30 pm, and Guruji talked about the 8 branches of Yoga and explained that asana practice is the starting point and gateway to the other branches.

After conference, Ayuko, Maki and Yasuko and I had light dinner at Green Leaf, and headed out to Mysore Palace and got there just in time to see the illumination display. We capped off the evening with some traditional Inidan sweets, and a long talk about yoga and backbends... it was a wonderful day and a perfect way to start my stay in Mysore.


Day 2-Monday, Nov. 7

Today was my first Mysore style practice, and it felt good. I'll be doing primary series only for the first week. There are probably 100 or so people practicing now; the shala is full, but not too crowded, and the waits aren't too long. Guruji, Sharath and Saraswati were all smiling a lot and giving lots of ajustments.

Mae took several of us to the Gokul Chats for an excellent breaskfast, and the Dosa filled with Kesari Bath were excellent. Did some more shopping and caught up on e-mail in the afternoon, and after dinner, Ayuko, Yasuko, Maki and I shared some lemon ginger tea and chatted about Yoga.

Day 3-Tuesday, Nov. 8

One thing that really strikes me here is how intense everything is. The smells of food, spices or garbage, the explosion of colors one sees in the local markets, the differences between the rich and poor, friendly or rude behaviour, all seem much more intense than the relatively subtle variations I have grown used to in Tokyo. This can make a stay in Mysore much more interesting, but also can be a little overwhelming at first. This is not my first visit to Mysore, but it is still taking a while to get used to!

Day 5-Thursday, Nov. 10

After chanting this morning, Sharath announced that the shala would be closed on Sunday and Monday, because Gurji was traveling to Mangalore to receive a government award, and Tuesday is a moon day. Since the shala is usually closed on Saturdays as well, this leaves 4 days in a row without practice at the shala. I'm debating whether to hop on a plane an go to Kovalam Beach, for some self practice near the ocean followed by an intense oil massage, or head up to Bandipur national park to see some jungle and wildlife, or just stay in Mysore and do morning practice with my friends.
by dcaplan | 2005-11-07 23:32 | Dan in Mysore