When contemplating trip to India there are plenty of people willing to talk to you cheerfully and in lurid detail about typhoid, crowds, dirt, poverty, tummy bugs and all round awfulness. I sometimes wonder if these folk have been to the sub-continent.
India weaves a spell that is so enchanting and magical, it is life changing.
Yes, all of the above exist but so does holiness, good humour, flavour, colour and design to take your breath away. There is delicious food and buildings of such splendour and magnificence they send your senses into a spin. You wonder why you waited so long to get there.
From the moment I got off the plane at Indira Ghandi airport in New Delhi, Judy was there waiting for me, smiling. A hug and a coffee in the cool air-con of the airport, then off we went. The pilgrimage had begun.
Judy and Karma took great care of us. All I had to do was show up, ready to travel, eat, explore, and be amazed.
Their combined experience meant we travelled easily, comfortably with good rest stops and food. I didn’t have to wrangle with booking tickets, rickshaw wallahs, accommodation – and all practicalities were taken care of.
This meant I could settle in, trust my guides and let my heart and soul open to the experience that is India.
The major bonus was that we went to places off the beaten track. Places of holiness and delight.
For example; we sat quietly in the Golden temple in Amritsar under a full moon, we had an hour with Jetsumna Tenzin Palmo at her nunnery, and we visited nuns in caves above the sacred lake in marvellous, mysterious Tso Pema.
There, one evening at dusk, I lit 108 butter lamps. This moment suspended in time, with the glowing candles, the smell of incense, the chanting of the monk, the ringing of the prayer wheels and the moon rising over the lake helped me heal the some of the sorrows and losses in my life.
We met a Tibetan oracle in the early dawn, we sat in a darkened cave and while Karma did a shamanic ritual, complete with thigh bones and drums, we visited the home of the Dalai Lama and met the Deputy Abbot of his monastery.
India is bonkers and it is intoxicating. It is a place that floods the senses and shifts the way you think. You find ways to see the world and understand yourself that, I believe, are not available in the (generally) ordered West.
The nature of the pilgrimage is that Judy and Karma know what they are doing and they do it so well and with such good humour, you feel very supported and cared for and free to enter the experience as fully as you choose.
My pilgrimage healed and inspired me. It sits with me still.