Pushkar

Beautiful holy lake, trek up to the Savitri Mata Temple, Laughing Chocolate Balls, chill-out time, best falafel wraps, finding a fab yoga teacher, amazing Ayurvedic massage and getting our spines re-aligned – as you do! 

Oh Pushkar, what a wonderful place you are!

Arriving on the local bus from Ajmer we caught our first glimpse of the holy lake as we meandered along the main market road that led us to our next Moustache Hostel. Immediately blissed out and excited at the same time, our senses were treated to sights, smells and the prospects that lay ahead of us in this holy town where we were looking forward to relaxing and taking it easy for the next 5-6 days. Was so nice having loose plans and not needing to be anywhere or think about anything except where to go of food, for a while.

Unloading our bags in our new dorms I recognised a face who had also just arrived from the Jaipur hostel! (I will need to learn to not be surprised at this – it happens a lot). But what were the chances? So the three new besties became four as we strolled around our new surroundings, thinking about shopping and food and what to do with our days ahead. The hostel was (again) brilliant – although this time the bathrooms were typical dorm style (not like the plush ones we had in Jaipur) and in place of a rooftop restaurant we had a beautiful big garden, perfect for chilling out in.

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Moustache Hostel, Pushkar

Around town we discovered several good places to eat but The Laughing Buddha became a favourite, especially with the Laughing Chocolate Balls on the menu (I’ll let you guess what they are :D) as well as several vegan options to keep me happy. It was also a beautifully decorated little place with lots of artwork and comments from previous patrons who’d also fell in love with it, and it offered a view over the streets perfect for people-watching. The owner was very friendly and had interesting stories to share and happily joined us in a few games one evening. After the chocolate balls had been eaten 🙂  Was good to hang out with a local and hear, through tears, how he had ‘climbed’ from his original ‘untouchable’ status to become an established business owner, something that must have been extremely hard to do. His passion was strong, and together with his obvious tenacity he was now living his dream – although not without its struggles as many business in India seem to endure.

Some of the highlights of this part of my trip included:

Going to an Indian wedding! OK so we ‘sort of’ went to one. Next to the hostel was a venue that, seeing as it was in the thick of Wedding Season, was holding weddings every night and we decided one evening to stick our heads in seeing as we could hear it all anyway and everyone is always saying to go to one if you can. The idea is that there are so many people at these events no-one will know or are too much if you don’t actually know the married couple or their guests. And seeing as we were westerners we’d probably be treated very well! So standing at the threshold of the party, two of our four got cold feet, but Mati and I forged on in as though we were meant to be there. We stared in amusement at the colours and statues and piles of food as well as the bride and groom sat in the middle of the stage watching everyone have fun without them (well that’s what we thought anyway).  But soon the other two joined us and we started to get noticed and had some chats with the beautifully dressed women who invited us to the actual wedding in a few days. There was quite a bit of dancing going on on another stage which entertained us for a bit and eventually, yes you guessed, we got invited to join them. So up Miriam and I went for a good boogie to some great Indian pop music. Was such fun, a pure gem of an experience. (Of note, we didn’t make it back for the wedding as we were too blissed out in The Laughing Buddha – see below. But we did watch the procession from the balcony, if that counts).

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An amazing Ayurvedic massage with Deepak Sen (who also provides a short but very useful consultation on your constitution and how best to keep things in balance). No photos soz! But definitely check him out if you’re in the area and need a very good massage. He comes highly rated. We also got our spines re-aligned by Miriam, who is a newly qualified and very gifted chiropractor. Tears fell as she cracked a few back ribs and gave me her permission to release all the things I’ve been holding on to over the years.  It wasn’t painful, just a major release. With all this caring bodywork I’d received I felt like a new woman.

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Mate receiving treatment from the talented and spirited Miriam

A trek up to the Savitri Mata Temple (only 40 mins but the second half of the climb needed several rests it was sooooo steep!) But the climb in the heat was worth it – impressive panoramas of Pushkar and the surrounding desert-like barren area. Little families of cute monkeys lined the walkway and temple, with some very new-borns trying to learn to jump and climb. Was utterly awesome.

Finding an amazing yoga teacher, by chance, when attending a morning class at the Sunset Hotel (was within easy walking distance and cheaper than the other classes I’d seen advertised) with a different teacher. Hahrendra, who was to become my new, personal teacher, learned that I had recently received my 200hr teaching certificate but hadn’t yet taught – and was feeling rather unconfident about starting… so he offered to share some advice and handy tips if I practiced teaching him. (the former became the predominant way we spent the hour 😀 along with some playful acroyoga). But before that, he threw me in the deep end and got me to lead the beginning of our first class, which I’d turned up with two of my three new besties. Wow – I wasn’t expected that! Luckily the first 15-20 mins or so of a class I feel kind of ok in leading, so I decided to just go with it, remembering the feedback I’d received in my training to speak up and clearly, though worrying I’d not give the correct advice or spot if they needed help aligning. Anyway it went well and I ‘let’ him (read: begged) to take over the class once a few more people turned up! And for the next 4 days or so I headed to his studio at 4pm to work through good exercises for strengthening and improving flexibility and hear his good advice and – my word – it was such a help. I felt my confidence grow, confusions dissipate and ideas on how to lead a class become much clearer. I will be forever thankful to him for his time and generosity.

There were plenty of places to get vegan food and teas/coffees thankfully. One good find in particular was the falafel wraps on the main street (cheap, quick, delicious) and a few bakery stands that offered a host of flavoured vegan cakes. One evening we were stood around one such stall each taking our time to decide which cake to go for. I was focusing hard on which one to choose when the others started laughing… as I became aware of their giggles I turned to look at them and found a cow poking his head up the side of my arm checking out the cakes too! So the seller gave me some leftover cake to share with the cow who greedily took the whole thing in his mouth – paper plate included! Having witnessed the many cows wondering the streets and often eating all kinds of rubbish – plastic, cardboard boxes etc – I decided I couldn’t be responsible for one more non-nutritious waste matter ended up in this cow’s stomach. So I quickly pulled it back out, although the cow slightly protested, much to the others amusement.

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Watching the many tourists taking photographs of themselves by the holy lake, with signs behind them stating ‘no photography’. 😀

Catching our first glimpses of Nadu Sadhus (naked yogis) wandering the streets with their dreadlocked hair wrapped on their heads, bodies painted in ash.

Whilst we didn’t do too much (wasn’t too much to do anyway) it was fab having some down time and also hanging out with some lovely people who became my good friends. But from here we went our separate ways… two went to Agra, but on different days, the other headed up north to Dharamshala where the mountains were calling her name. My next stop was Udaipur, having decided to leave out visiting Jodhpur and Jaisalmer as I didn’t fancy all the extra travelling, preferring instead to spend more time in a few select places. Plus I had some time restrictions now as a good friend from the UK was due to be in Mumbai the following week, who I just had to catch up with as it had been a while, so it made more sense to start heading south rather than continuing west. But Pushkar is a firm favourite, reminding me of my blessed Rishikesh in many ways and although sad to leave I was also interested to see what Udaipur held in store.

Pics from the streets of Pushkar…. 

Aaaaand food pics for those interested…

 

So next, Udaipur