After another much needed night’s sleep, we had breakfast with the owner of the guest house, which seems to be the popular word in India. You don’t see hostels anywhere. He was a lovely man who my friend explained had done some incredible things for the community. For example, he helped build the local school in town and once saved 125 members of their village by scouting and preparing for a bad storm that came through, causing a landslide and demolishing all of their homes. He showed me the top hall of the building where I slept that has been rented for weddings and hopes could be used for yoga class one day if anyone brought people to his village for a retreat. I wouldn’t dream of telling him that although I do lead retreats in third world countries and have even hosted in locations without electricity, his modest place was not really on the Wendy Faith retreat map, knowing my U.S. students would definitely be expecting shall we say, accommodations of higher standards. For myself, it was perfect and appreciated. And I only paid 500 rupees which is $7.60 for the night.
Today’s travel was even more bumpy, windy and at times quite dangerous but also absolutely breathtaking. We were finally really climbing into the Himalayas. We were now being driven by Tashi in his foundation’s white stick-shift jeep without power steering which was the predominant form of transportation on the road. We left our driver to wait for us in the village for the next three nights which was apparently the best arrangement to make.
There were many places where rocks had slid off the hill side onto the road. And many others where they would have if they weren’t being held back by fencing. Tashi was also constantly blowing our horn as we’d careen around a curve at probably 40 mph to ensure we wouldn’t be collided into by someone coming in the other direction. He explained there was a way drivers often approached one another head-on purposefully, just to swerve away from each other at the precisely timed last minute. Probably not something I needed to hear. It didn’t matter though. You were pretty much taking your life into your hands just by getting into a vehicle on that road. Or perhaps anywhere in India. As my friend explained, most people in India used to hire drivers even if they owned their own cars. It has only been in recent years that many Indian people are now driving themselves. Not to mention all the places on this journey where there simply was not enough space for two vehicles to move past one another. Many times our drive was delayed just by one vehicle needing to stop and back up to make room for the other.
My new travel friends had even laughed when I put my seat belt on when I was in the front seat. I hadn’t bothered in the back. I don’t think there even were seat belts there. But when I did it in the front out of habit, they told me no one used their seat belts in India. And if it was going to be my time to go, I’d definitely be going all the way… not partially. I happen to wholeheartedly agree… at least with the concept that when its your time to go, it’s your time to go. I’m even open to the belief that it’s partially already been determined to a degree. It’s one of the reasons I don’t think twice about many of the dangerous situations (like this crazy drive to the Himalayas) I regularly put myself in when I travel. Or why I’m not at all concerned about traveling alone as a woman in India, or anywhere. I truly and completely feel protected. In addition to which, I have 100% seen or rather, felt the presence and intervention of angels protecting me in my life before. So although I do not intentionally or regularly put myself in harm’s way and take precautions like wearing seat belts when I have the opportunity, I also walk (and travel) though life without fear… no fear of harm, no fear of death. When the time is supposed to come, it will come. I hope it is painless and peaceful. But when it does, I will certainly be able to save I lived a life worth living.
We stopped a few times along the way at places we simply couldn’t resist. I took my first yoga photo along the drive with no doubt many more to come! Was this really just day two in India, surrounded by so much epic nature? Seeing a route very few would ever take?!? Witnessing the way the farmers (many women) continue to work so very hard all over the world. How lucky could I be?!?
We very safely arrived at our destination by mid-day, the small home in the teeny hillside village where my friend was returning to complete harvesting his ayurvedic herbs. He founded Dunagiri Foundation with a friend about eight years ago to help with the plight of the farmers in India losing their lands and crops to Monsanto. This batch of kutki was the first truly organic one being grown. We were there to witness it in its final drying stages ready to be weighed and sold.
We had lunch and dinner with the absolutely lovely villagers responsible for growing and harvesting not only kutki, but rice, wheat and other ayurvedic herbs. Aside from a couple people who spoke broken English, there was no real communication aside from sign language and smiles. Though I did learn my first words of Hindi on this trip, they weren’t all that helpful in the mountains where the people speak another language. Even Tashi who is fairly fluent in Hindi needs a translator in the Himalayas.
It was such a wonderful experience getting to spend time with the families, watching how they took care of the crops and sharing meals together. We’d eat lunch outside but it was too cold during dinner as it would cool down considerably once the sun went down. Then we’d all go into the kitchen of the home which was also where everyone ate sitting on the floor around a built-in fire. They would wait until after we ate and only then would they serve themselves, more traditional Indian hospitality. The food was plentiful and delicious, with roti’s (round flat bread) warmed by the fire, rice, dahl and a bit of vegetables.
We drove back down the mountain about 45 minutes that night to sleep at another place that was once again, no-frills but with a bed, blankets and bathroom — all you really need.