Lining up for the final leg of my 28 hour journey, I was accidentally jostled by an overexcited Indian girl. She apologised profusely and I smiled and replied with my signature, “No worries.” Then a group of European-looking girls fell on me in delight.

“Australian?!” They exclaimed. 
“New Zealander,” I corrected.
“OMG!” They screamed. “We’re from Christchurch!”

How amazing is it. On the other side of the world, lining up for a domestic flight to a small Himalayan town, and there are six Kiwi girls allocated to the seats in front of you on the plane. I can’t describe how much better seeing these girls made me feel; it was like a small taste of my normality. We chatted at both airports and gave each other big hugs on our farewell. 
On the flight I was seated next to an older Indian man, and I’m ashamed to admit my initial feelings were ones of suspicion, wariness and slight fear. I nervously shifted my passport pouch deep inside my skirt and took great care to avoid brushing his arm with mine, in case he took it in a suggestive light. How wrong was I.

He was lovely. Absolutely lovely. I caught his eye, and rather than hastily look away I smiled. He rewarded me with the sunniest beam, and extended an introduction. An ex-Army man now working for Mercedes Benz, he was off to his uncle’s 60th wedding anniversary celebrations in Dehra Dun. He was intrigued by my plans and spent the rest of the hour flight giving me golden advice and showing me photos of his beautiful wife and son.

The descent brought us down through the clogging clouds, and the landscape spread beneath was majestic. The humps of the Himalayan ranges, the snaking Ganges River, the colourful homes scattered throughout the vivid greenery. The man next to me bore a look of immense pride and nodded at me, satisfied with my gasps of wonder. 

Once again, my worries of lost baggage or my ride not being there proved wasted energy. Thanks to my charming check in operator back in Delhi, my suitcase was one of the first off the carousel. I headed out into the open air and My God, the humidity hit me like a smack in the face. And there was my taxi driver, my name announced in barely legible handwriting on a piece of A4. He grabbed my suitcase and headed off at a brisk pace to his car.

My heart was pounding again. What if this man was an imposter and was going to drive to a secluded location, whack me over the head with a spade then stow me in his boot? (Watching Criminal Minds whilst on the treadmill at the gym has done nothing for my trusting instincts). I blatantly took a photo of the number plate then fake phone called my dad when in the car. “Yes Henio, I’m in the taxi, I’ve sent photos,” I enunciated extremely carefully. “I shall be there in 45minutes, I’ll call you then.” 
Once again, I am extremely saddened that my first reaction was to completely mistrust this innocent man and skirt around him. He was the cutest man ever once he saw my wonderment and enthusiasm for his hometown. After awhile, he began pointing things out to me and I could tell he basked in my joy of all foreign to me. 

“Elephants,” he said, pointing to a sign depicting an elephant crushing a car. “In group ok, but on own danger to cars on road.” 

“Monkeys,” he said, when I shrieked in delight as a baboon waddled along the roadside. “Naughty and take things.”

Eventually, after navigating the winding roads, we pulled into a driveway where Maa Yoga Ashram was painted onto a concrete wall. My heart sunk and I was overcome with dread. I’d found this place online, after researching and contacting multiple ashrams around India. For some reason, I kept feeling a pull towards this one so had gone with my gut and booked in for the month of August. But the basic sign had me nervous.

Down this driveway we went. More and more painted walls arrowed on and on. It would’ve only been about 1km give or take, but it felt like 10. We finally pulled up at the gates of a marble building, and my worry about the authenticity and standard of the place vanished.
The driver aided me with my bags and i slipped him a $5USD tip which he grinned at me in return for. A tiny young Indian man of about 20 greeted me and gestured me into the office, giving me a silver cup of water. “Filtered,” he promised, and I downed it. He also gave me the wifi password and I immediately messaged my mum telling her I was well and safe. 

Then Dr Yogi Amrit Raj came in and I felt this great sensation of peace. Founder of the Maa Yoga Ashram, Amrit is a fourth generation Ayurvedic doctor who runs the Yoga Teachers Training Courses for which I’d signed up. I instantly got the sense that he was a beautiful soul and he was so excited I had arrived. 

After a brief chat with him, I called my parents and had a little cry. I was drained, unbelievably tired and extremely emotional. After I felt sorry for myself I unpacked my into my new bedroom for the next four weeks; my bathroom wallpaper has flowers that look a lot like poppies and my window looks out onto the magical Himalayan mountains. Just immense beauty everywhere you turn. I had a shower, calmed down and felt much better. 

Being at the tailend of the monsoon season, Rishikesh is not so overrun as it is in the latter months of the year. Thus, Amrit informed me that our course would only have two other students aside from myself. I was super intrigued to meet the other two future yogi swamis. 

First to arrive was Oce, a towering French expat lass living in Cambodia. I was instantly drawn to her warmth, crazy beauty and genuine personality. 
Second was Ava, a 41-year-old mother from the Czech Republic. Absolutely gorgeous-looking, she looked a decade younger than her true age and I also felt an immediate affinity with her. 
We had an hour long yoga class, Ganeesh Aaarti and an incredible Ayurvedic organic dinner before I collapsed into bed at 8pm. (More details on just mentioned in next post). Although still a touch on edge, I truly felt I am where I am meant to be. 

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