Monday, July 4

Now that I'm home...

To spare my parents, I wait until now to publish this post. This begins with my return to the ashram of the Beatles, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Ashram. It was past midnight and pitch dark when Jen and I set out with our new friends, Luis and Jamie. It was an eventful start. Jen dramatically slipped in a juicylarge fresh cowplop, painting herself in liquid crap. We continued to skirt along eerily empty streets where shifty looking dogs and the occasional lost drunkard considered confronting us. We made it without incident to the ashram and carefully climbed the wall, weighed down by a notable amount of provisions. Undetected, we scrambled silently up the path to Meditation Hut 1. Here we set up camp. We swept and tidied, threw down a carpet, laid out our sleeping bags, lit incense and a citronella candle, attached a speaker to my iPod and sat in candlelight listening to words of wisdom.

The evening was terrifying at times, given we had illegally trespassed into a forested area where aggressive elephants and monkeys are known to lurk. But overall the atmosphere was calming and bonded us closely. The next morning we all woke up early and raced to the bus station for our next adventure.

Meditation Hut 1
In Manali, north of Rishikesh, Jen and I caught the spirit of India's adventure capital. We signed up for a full day of canyoneering, the sport of rappelling down waterfalls. Our experience was incredible and with the help of two guides, we clipped our harnesses to a variety of ropes and slipped, slided, and semi-climbed through 15 waterfalls, two that were over 70m high. A highlight was zip lining when a free fall couldn't be avoided and later rocketing along the contours as though the waterfall was a slide. We came out mostly unscathed and very cold.

Also in Manali, I learnt to ride a motorcycle. Jen and I returned to our guesthouse totally exhausted after canyoning, a nice Jordanian man befriended me. We got to talking and before I knew it I had confessed a dream to drive a motorcycle, a dream I didn't know I had. To his delight he had a motorbike and knew 'the perfect place' to learn. We met the next day and before I knew it I was driving a bullet down a narrow rocky Indian road, avoiding rockslide leftovers and oncoming traffic. I even mastered shifting to second gear, a real skill for an automatic girl like me.

Path to Mt. Tiund
And just now, I jumped off a mountain and experienced the exhilarating pleasure of flying. Accompanied by chauffeur pilots, today, Jen and I went paragliding for the first time. It held the excitement of a roller coaster, motion sickness included, but also an incredible liberating peace as we skirted between birds for a quarter of an hour. We actually had quite the morning as we woke up early to see the sun rise from atop misty Mount Triund. After taking in the view and reading a few chapters of Harry Potter out loud, a suitably magical book for such an eerily lush and beautiful mist soaked view, we skirted down the 10km path racing to meet our driver for paragliding. Then we flew.

India is a safer than I imagined and even with the aforementioned risks, I have found that here there are always people looking out for us, but just as I was reading this post over, Jen came in with a bleeding foot. A ferocious driver in Leh ran over her tow as she was walking, but she seems alright, no broken bones.
Paragliding over McCloed Ganj