I’m somewhere in the forests of Wayanad, India looking out to a lake from my own little villa. During my research for this trip, I learned that Kerala is well known for ayurveda. Those who are serious about de-toxing or have illnesses they want treated, they spend several months under the supervision of an ayurvedic doctor and follow a strict regiment. For me, I wanted to get a taste of what ayurvedic medicine and lifestyle had to offer. And after what felt like a whirlwind of traveling and taking in so much, I just wanted to settle down in one location for a bit and relax. I found this place, Ayurveda Yoga Villa, randomly online one night while I was on the Lonely Planet forum site. After a bit of digging around, decided that I could spend some time here. It offers two yoga classes a day, one ayurvedic treatment per day with a daily doctor consultation, three vegetarian meals, and I get my own villa (the furnishings are quite basic but it’s much larger than my apartment in New York, and has a private balcony where I can sit, read, and write). I also liked that it’s situated in Wayanad, just 115 kilometers from where I wanted to go next, Mysore in the state of Karnataka.
I arrived yesterday afternoon having traveled from Cochin to Calicut via the shortest flight of my life (actual flying time, ~20 minutes) and spending 5 plus hours in two different cars. I chose to fly because I didn’t want to be driving on bad roads for 10 hours, but I think Glancy thought I was crazy for flying such a short distance. Flying didn’t guarantee a smooth travel day since it is India, after all. I ran into a few small problems but I made it here OK. That’s just the way India is. I was up a5 4:45AM for my 7:50AM flight since the Cochin airport is very far out of the city (an hour plus at 5:30AM without any traffic). Even though I was flying from Cochin to Calicut (obviously a domestic flight), my terminal turned out to be international (Air India never informed me that this flight was a code share and after Calicut, it was going onto Salala). As only one of three passengers who flew from Cochin to Calicut and the Calicut airport having had no other flights in the morning, the baggage claim area was completely deserted and it took a while for me to flag someone down to see if I could get my bag. A small panic there. Finally, when I got out of the airport the driver from my hotel was nowhere to be found. I had double, triple, quadruple checked and confirmed for my pickup but still, no one was there to greet me. After waiting, looking, turning down offers for taxis, walking around back and forth, I asked a random Indian guy if he’d make a phone call for me on his mobile. Just as he was dialing, my driver showed up. He could tell that I had been waiting but instead of apologizing for being late, he looked at his watch and said, “It’s 8:57. My manager said your flight lands at 8:40.” That was the end of the greeting and we walked to his car. I should know that 20 minutes is being on time by Indian standards and there is no way for him to know what it feels like to be the only female foreign traveler at this airport and have everyone staring at you for half an hour. I just told him I was happy to he came to pick me up, and we headed out.
Mani, my driver from the resort, was the complete opposite of Glancy, my driver from the past week. Mani drove like the typical Indian driver leaning on his horn the entire time, passing everyone and everything in sight, and moving as quickly as possible. He also took phone calls (his mobile had the loudest and the most obnoxious ring tone) every 10 minutes or so. He explained to me that he coordinates rides for people in his town, I suppose like a dispatcher. He’s been driving cars, buses, and trucks for 22 years. During the off season in Kerala, he goes up to Mumbai and drives buses. Mani is a hard working guy trying to provide for his wife and a 10-year-old daughter whom he is sending to a nice school. We chatted about this and that, and stopped about half way through for some tea. I told him how much I was enjoying Kerala and would like to come back again soon. About an hour later he said, “next year you come back with your parents and your husband. And you stay at my house, with my family.” I thought “Wow, that’s very generous!” But before I could respond, he added “I run a homestay. I have a travel agency. You come and you stay at my house next time. You promise?”
I was exhausted even though it wasn’t the most difficult travel day I’ve had. I checked in, had a nice lunch, took a quick nap against ayurvedic guidelines (sleeping during the day is actively discouraged), and at 5PM I had my first consultation with Dr. Anoop. He is one of 3 ayurvedic doctors here and I liked him right away. He has a very kind and friendly demeanor, and spent nearly an hour with me answering all of my questions. But first, I answered a myriad of questions Dr. Anoop asked, including whether I am single or married. I asked him how my marital status is related to my health and his diagnosis and to that he answered, “Everything matters.” He also took my blood pressure (mine is very low), listened to my hear beat, and had me standing in front of him while he examined my shoulder blades, how I was standing, etc. He took my pulse by taking my left wrist and concentrating for about 10-15 seconds. I jokingly asked him if I had a strong pulse, and he said no. He said it was pretty weak but it’s probably due to my being tired from traveling all day.
In the end, Dr. Anoop agreed with the ayurvedic doctor I saw at the Sivananda ashram and declared me “vatha-pitta.” Based on my dosha and the amount of time I have here (11 days), he prescribed my daily ayurvedic treatments and the ayurvedic medicine I have to take everyday. He gave me a jar of ghee which I know to be clarified butter but this ghee has at least 20 other herbs and things mixed in. It’s quite thick and murky, almost like unfiltered honey but dark green in color. I am to take two teaspoons of it at 8AM and at 5PM with hot water. The next thing he gave me was a container of tonic, which honestly looks like swamp water. I have to take three caps of it mixed with six caps of warm water, 15 minutes before breakfast and dinner. The medicine is to help balance my doshas (he said the ghee with its thick/heaviness will bring down my vatha), treat my cough (I’ve had a nagging cough since New York and Europe two months ago), and help my digestive and stomach problems (a typical vatha problem). I’ve taken the medicine twice now and it’s not too bad. But the British couple I met last night at dinner told me about some of the other guests here who have been prescribed all kinds of yucky sounding things. I’m happy with what I’ve been given. I have my first ayurvedic treatment at noon today. It’s an oil massage and when the doctor first told me that’s what I have to do everyday, and that I should wear “old clothes” since they’ll get ruined I thought “crap!” I am traveling so light that I don’t have a single article of clothing to spare. I’m still thinking about what old thing I am going to wear to my oil massage… and how long it’s going to take me to get all the oil out of my hair (thanks George, for sharing your experience to me). I can just see myself sliding all over the place, falling, and cracking my head open.
More to come later!
The internet connection here is the slowest I’ve seen so far. So there won’t be any photos until I get to Mysore or Bangalore…