India – Day 8 – Orchha – Chaturbhuj Temple and Rajni’s Cooking Class!

Day 8 was a good one. One of the best! We were able to have a more lazy schedule today, which was lovely considering our beautiful hotel. It was nice to have a little pampering. And sleeping in for once was also nice. It’s often a grueling schedule, as most days are travelling days. When they’re not travelling days, we wake up early to ensure we see everything there is to see. But today? Sleep in.

After check-out we headed back into town, back to the restaurant by the fort. The masala omelette was fantastic. As usual, the masala chai was also delicious.

 

 

My expectations for Orchha were minimal, only because I didn’t really know much about the town. The more we explored, however, the more it opened up to me. The more I opened up to it! It’s a jewel. The fort was incredible yesterday, but Chaturbhuj Temple today? Such an unexpected delight!

Chaturbhuj Temple. Orchha, India

After a rocky start inside the Chaturbhuj Temple gates, where someone insisted we needed tickets (luckily an older gentleman from the restaurant walked us to the temple and was down below awaiting our return. When we left the temple dejected and he asked us why, he practically stormed up the stairs and inside to yell at the ‘ticket taker’. We made it!), we managed to get inside.

Once inside, the delights that awaited us! A ‘guide’ quickly led us to an old stone stairway up a dark narrow path to the second floor. He knew every single good camera shot, every angle. He guided us around that level, pointing out the fort across the way through arched windows—showing us the perfect way to frame the shot. Every sight more incredible than the last. And then he’d take us up another level and another level still.

We’d take our shots and look around, thinking that was the top. But still another level. Soon there was nowhere else to go but the rooftop of this old beautiful temple that has stood for centuries looking very much like the architectural cousin of Angkor Watt. It was breathtaking. And we were on its roof.

Our ‘guide’, Manaju, suggested the four of us (I was with Karen, Tammy and Kylie from the G Adventures group) do a jumping shot together with the town and countryside as the backdrop. Seemed like an easy task, but with much laughter and jumping we realized it wasn’t quite as easy as it looked. But he was patient with us. He got the shot. I’ve a feeling Manaju always gets his shot. Not only did he know all the best views and photo frames and shots, he also knew how to take them. He knew our phones better than we did. He zoomed in and out, he went into extra camera options some of us didn’t even know about, and he knew which phone model would take the best shot in every situation.

AND…we jumped!

I call him a ‘guide’ in quotes because he’s not an official guide, but really… the town should hire that man officially. He was just a young guy, but he was suave, entertaining, joyful, proud of his relationship with the ancient temple, and as friendly and as helpful as can be. He deserves the tips he receives.

I will long remember that tour. The steps inside the narrow stone walls were scary to navigate. For me, it was difficult… as the steps were a good foot and a half apart. I cannot imagine being a much shorter person navigating them. Treacherous, to say the least. But with phone torches, and a lot of help from Manaju, we all made it up to the top and back to the bottom safely. Everything in between was pure magic!

After a little free time for shopping, we headed back to the hotel. The whole group pitched in to keep one room for the day and share it as a sort of home base. Somehow, it worked. As we were all on different schedules of exploration and/or relaxation, we all managed to have showers, chill out, etc.

For those of us who wanted to partake, G Adventures (I HIGHLY RECOMMEND G ADVENTURES!) arranged for an optional cooking class. Michael and I went and it turned out to be a high point of the trip so far. Rajni was the instructor’s name. She was lovely. She had prepared some of the ingredients ahead of time, chopping up onions and garlic and okra, etc. She went through every ingredient, being patient with those of us who are slow to write things down (yes, I’m talking about myself here!). I get lost in the numbers when people start reading out ingredients. I’m hopeless.

We watched while Rajni made the ever delicious masala chai, our (okay, MY) mouths watering as the sweet aroma filled the air about us. From there, as we sipped our delightful chai, she made eggplant curry and okra curry. She invited us to come up and assist throughout different parts of the preparation. Yes, I did. You bet your bottom dollar I was up there sitting cross-legged measuring out teaspoons of spices and dropping them into the oil in the wok. With each dump of the spoon another heady aroma wafted up into the air to tickle our tummies and entice our hunger to an even deeper level of desire.

Rajni then taught us how to make raita, chutney, and two kinds of bread. And yes, I was doing the math. I knew it would soon be time to eat!

It was the best meal I had thus far in all of my Indian wanderings. Eight days of devouring the lovely and incredible dishes of India and it was in Orchha I found food heaven. The best! IF YOU’RE EVER IN ORCHHA, BE SURE TO VISIT RAJNI! HERE’S HER TRIP ADVISOR PAGE. You’ll cherish the experience!

I did a first today. At the end of the meal, Rajni brought out a tray with individual dishes of tapioca for everyone. So, basically for 50+ years I have insisted tapioca was disgusting. Without having ever taken a single solitary bite. Or even smelling it. It was a texture thing. Some foods I can’t even imagine eating. Well, tapioca is, after all, rather delicious. I’m so glad I went into this insisting I would eat all the things!

Right now, as I write this, it is the end of day 8…actually after midnight so technically the beginning of day nine. I am on an overnight train, in a sleeping bunk almost touching the ceiling. Two people are below me on lower bunks and three are directly beside me and two are across the aisle facing long-ways probably with a great view of the bottoms of my questionably clean feet. We are shaking and rattling helplessly and I’m praying for a safe landing soon. We are on our way to the holy city of Varanasi and the Ganges! THE GANGES!

 

Welcome to India. It’s different than what I’m used to and it’s more beautiful than my wildest dreams. This is where I imagined being since I was a little boy. I know I won’t see him or his chocolate palace any time soon, but in this moment I’m thinking of Prince Pondicherry… wondering how he’s making out these days. He’s now but a ghost of my childhood. I love you, India…like I knew I would.

Day 7 – From Agra to Orchha, the Heartland of India

We took our first train today. Around three to four hours. I’m getting lost in this time concept thing. Ranny warned us so much about watching our belongings, I became overly nervous prior to boarding. It was fine. I keep forgetting that I’m already a confident tourist. I’m always aware of my belongings as it is. The train ride was a lovely trip with breakfast served. The omelette was wonderful… spicy with jalapeno.

From the station, we had to travel to Orchha in tuktuks.

We stopped at a paper recycling plant on the outskirts. We were told it was run to employ local women.

After picking up a couple journals for ourselves (yes, I know I’ll never write a word in mine…I never do), we hopped back into the tuktuks and completed our journey to Orchha Palace. This is the name of the hotel. We were to stay in a cheaper hotel closer to Orchha’s core, but it was recently flooded out. Orchha Palace Hotel is a fortunate upgrade for our party.

The hotel opened only two years ago. Orchha seems to be just getting into the tourist trade. None too soon. It’s absolutely beautiful here.

After lunch in a local restaurant, we went to the nearby Orchha Fort.

The Fort went on and on. In our free time a guard caught up with us and offered to walk us about. We were able to see all the best views this way and got closer to the monkeys.

After the fort, and some free time, we made our way to a group of mausoleums along the river.

We capped off our evening in Orchha with a religious ceremony in the Hindu temple. No pictures were allowed. There was a ceremony performed by a high priest, followed by a time of offerings–flowers and sweets were given. The laneway all the way to the temple was filled with vendors of flowers and sweets.

Tomorrow will be lots of free time in Orchha, along with a cooking class which I’m overly excited about participating in! This will be followed by a 10:30 pm train boarding. An overnight train ride to Varanasi! This, I’m sure, will be a highlight in our adventures!

Day 6 – Agra and the Taj Mahal

Today we made our way from Jaipur to Agra. The road between is, for the most part, green and farmland. We detoured to see the beautiful Chand Bauri Step Well.

After touring the well and receiving blessings from the holy man in the temple, we re-boarded the bus for AGRA.

Once in Agra, we settled into the hotel and a few of us made our way to Agra Fort. It was unexpected and quite stunning. One hears about the Taj Mahal so much, the other attractions of the city become dwarfed in comparison. But Agra Fort is definitely worth seeing.

After Agra Fort, we visited, finally, the jewel in the crown! Taj Mahal. A mausoleum dedicated to love. Maybe.

It was worth the trip. You hear about the Taj your whole life… and then you’re standing in front of it and it’s nothing like you imagined. It’s a source of light and beauty. So glad we saw this! Onward to Orchha tomorrow. Day 7 is coming and this adventure really needs to slow down!

India, India! You have my heart and soul…

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India – Day 5 – Jaipur

Day 5 felt like a slower day. We began it in the beautiful hotel dining room. We were first up and had the place to ourselves. The first thing I asked for was masala chai. Such a rich, sweet, beautiful tea!

And such a gorgeous English formal dining room. We had a view of the pretty backyard and the too-blue swimming pool apparently there for no one to use. Don’t get me wrong, it was available to all. Just, no one among us partook…or, of course there is the other possibility. We were up first and were able to enjoy it to ourselves prior to the chaos of others. (-;

After breakfast, Ranny picked us up in the bus and we went to the Jaipur observatory. It was built, if I remember correctly, in 1727. Karen, one of the women in our group, said it best. “It’s basically a garden of clocks.” Exactly what it is! Sundials abound. And as we compared shadows on sundials with our own sun gods–Samsung and Apple–they all matched up to a tee.

We each also discovered monuments representing our own astrological signs. I’m still not quite sure what these fixtures measured, or how they worked… but they had their purpose to the ancient astrologers who erected them.

After the observatory we had a stop at a local jeweller, which is something we’ve come to expect with guided tours like this one. One isn’t exactly pressured to buy, but we get a little tour of their operation and then are brought to their showroom for an opportunity to do so.

We each bought cheap keepsake bracelets after seeing how the beads are buffed and polished to a shine.

Ranny then took us to an area restaurant where we had a buffet which included a Dahl I couldn’t get enough of. He arranged for a horoscope reader to meet us there and have our horoscopes read, if we so chose. I did not. Those who did enjoyed it.

I couldn’t help but notice the swagger glare on a nearby wall as we dined. I think you’ll agree with me when I say this guy’s got game…

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Dude with Swag…

For the rest of the afternoon, we all had free time. The two of us set out into the streets of Jaipur on our own. The streets are never anything less than overly lively. It’s a carnival of noise and sights and smells. One would never tire of such a cacophony of chaos! I can’t get over its beauty. I am drawn to it like a moth to a flame.

Last night, our last night in Jaipur, Ranny arranged for a gaggle of tuktuks (that’s the title I’m choosing to call a group of these wondrous green and yellow bubbles of fury) to take us to the more modern part of Jaipur for an a la cart dining experience. It was a lovely, harrowingly terrifying, but exhilaratingly wondrous romp through the impossible streets of the city (all the lys and ings are necessary whenever one discusses the movement of life through these streets, believe me!).

Today, we are up at 4:30 and we are slowly getting ourselves moving. 6:00 we board the bus and leave this vibrant city. Off to Agra, and the world famous Palace built for love lost—-TAJ MAHAL!

Goodbye to Jaipur, an exquisite jewel not to be missed when visiting India. Onward, we go…

Day 4 – The Road to Jaipur!

I feel like I should say the trip from New Delhi to Jaipur was harrowing, as the traffic is just as intense on the highways as it is in the city streets. But it did not feel harrowing at all. One quickly acclimates. The people running across six, seven, eight, ten lanes of highway traffic? I knew they would make it to the other side. Cows are sacred, so I knew they would be safe. Too many people on a motorcycle or scooter at once? None wearing a helmet? They had such faith in their safety that I too believed they would make it to their destination. The chaos has a rhythm that cannot be denied, and it is a beautiful dance to behold… to be a part of.

Not that I would ever consider getting behind the wheel, myself. I am not one to lead the dance, just as I am not one to shy away from its chaos.

The road to Jaipur is filled with beauty. Mountainous hills, though maybe not quite mountains, abound. So many times I felt the desire to stop the bus, to climb to the top of these rolling hills with what I could only imagine would offer breathtaking panoramic views of the countryside about us.

It was a long drive. Some four or five hours. But it was not in the least unpleasant.

Coming in to Jaipur, the streets immediately became bustling and thriving. I saw the magic the cows wield for the first time, as we entered the city proper. In a busy intersection filled with trucks, cars, tuktuks, bicycles, scooters, motorbikes, and more not a vehicle moved. It was as though the air had been taken out of the world, and a chaotic still-life preserved in amber had been left behind. A cow sitting in the middle of the intersection had orchestrated a moment of stillness that was incredible to behold. This is the power a sacred and revered being holds over those who revere them.

Once in the Pink City of Jaipur, our guide Ranny took the ten of us for a walk through the streets. They were filled with people and smells and vehicles. We had found another impossible dance to become a part of. So quickly the scents changed. One can go from holding their breath against the smell of rotting food being gobbled up by a group of wandering pigs while being careful not to step in any of the waste about them, to experiencing mouth-watering sensations upon smelling the most tantalizing aromas of street food being prepared right there amid the riot of noise and smells!

Our hotel here is a magic of its own. Bissau Palace Hotel. Gorgeous colourful rooms, a rooftop terrace where they will serve your meals from the restaurant below, and breathtaking architecture and furniture wherever the eye lands.

After the walk through the bustling crowds, we boarded our bus and we were taken to Amber Fort at night! A sight to behold. Just before we arrived we stopped for the last few minutes of daylight to see a palace afloat in the prettiest of lakes surrounded by rolling hills. Jal Mahal is a palace in the middle of the Man Sagar Lake. This sandstone palace is five stories, but when the lake is full four of these stories are underwater. It’s breathtaking to see the palace rise up out of the water and its mirrored reflection on the glass-like surface of the lake.

Before I take you to Amber Fort, which is very closeby to Jal Mahal, I need to at least mention the dance of kites. I don’t know whether it’s because we’re so close to Pakistan, or if it’s always been a custom here as well… but just before sunset the sky over Jaipur became alive with a cacophony of kites. What is a group of kites, anyway? Until today I did not consider a need for the term, but cacophony seems to fit. It was beautiful. Hundreds, no… thousands of kites dancing above the city! None were bright and joyous of colour. They were mostly just black. None danced arrogantly to show off wondrously intricate tails. None of them had tails at all. These homemade kites, flown by children, were there to send joy up into the sky above a city filled with struggle. The dance of the kites seemed to transform one’s thoughts on the city itself. So much joy in these simple black kites as they swooped and soared and dove and dipped. It took one’s breath away to see so many.

I only wish I could have captured them on film.

Next, the Amber Fort! We reached the base as nighttime arrived. We disembarked the bus and were escorted to open-backed jeeps…five to a jeep we poured into the back benches and held on for dear life. Squashed like sardines, we made the treacherous climb up the cobbled winding narrow street to the palace at the top of the world.

Once there, we met a lovely guide to took us to various parts of the remarkable huge and sprawling compound known as Amber Fort. It honestly seemed unending.


Another packed day tomorrow, which includes a daytime trip to Amber Fort. Ranny seems to have everything perfectly timed. There seems to be nothing he doesn’t consider when planning the itinerary. I’m looking forward to what comes next. And next. And next! And next!

New Delhi – Day 3 – All Life is Here

We began our day today on the rooftop terrace, where breakfast was served. Curry and chai perfection! After a quick cab ride to the hoho tourist office, we hopped on the bus, Gus. We saw some of New Delhi’s landmarks and hopped off for India Gate!

India Gate was built as a monument to honour the Indian soldiers who died in World War One. Their names are carved in the bricks of the arch. We drove through the chaos of New Delhi traffic once again. It’s a thrill ride I’ll never get over and never get enough of. I love the adrenaline rush it provides!

After a very uncomfortable last leg on the hoho bus (the guide on our second bus was a starer and bound and determined to engage us in conversation not pertaining to the hoho experience), we were on our own to find our way back to the hotel.

Tuktuk time!

As Graham said in the movie The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, “All life is here!” I now believe him. I now understand what he meant.

We will be meeting our tour guide this afternoon, along with the other tourists in our G Adventures group. Looking forward to it! And, as a group, we’ll be heading back to the restaurant we visited for supper last night. Kitchen With A Cause is a restaurant that gives back to the community. A socially conscious restaurant. And the food is incredible!

 

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Arrival in India! New Delhi Birthday!

After a 15 1/2 hour flight from Toronto, Canada to Guangzhou, China, a two hour layover and a 5 1/2 hour flight from Guangzhou to New Delhi, we are here! Bucket-list Item checked off! India, India!

Tour starts in a day and a half. We’re on our own until then. Started our adventure with a trip to the hotel rooftop, where they have a restaurant patio. Chana Masala was incredible!

The music of car horns is a constant reminder of the chaos on the streets below. The horn here is used to signal to others that you’re coming through, that you’re changing lanes and making lanes of your own. And, hey, that’s okay. Off you go! It’s a madness of tires and metal and mayhem and horns that seems to work like a well tuned orchestra. It’s horrifying and beautiful to witness. I saw babies on motorcycles, squished between Mommy and Daddy and smiling away. Everyone is an integral part of the orchestra. Everyone honks. Even pedestrians join in on the melee, walking through the impossible chaos with the synchronicity of ballet dancers.

This is day one in India. We are here. We join the beautiful chaos!

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India – Circa 2018 – Time to Commit to a Travel Journal!

Circa or Exactly 2018…To be precise. If the fates allow. We are scheduled to take off in 147 days(ish). Not that I’m counting (pssst…spoiler alert, I’m counting).

Every single time I go on a holiday I mean to journal the experience so I can cultivate from it at a later date for my fiction. Every single time I do not do this. Even when I had a novel idea for the Camino de Santiago before I set out to Spain on that adventure, I didn’t journal as planned. I carried a journal in my backpack, though. All the other useless stuff weighing me down wasn’t enough. I also had to make sure I was carrying a journal I wouldn’t crack open a single time along the Way of St. James. I was too busy splashing in mud puddles and meeting new people to bother with a journal. Next time!

I regret my inability to journal immediately after every journey I take. And yet the cycle never changes. So, I’m calling myself out. THIS TIME I shall attempt to journal once again. In September, when we embark on this trip to India, I will have a journal with me. This time will be different. This time I will not only carry a journal across a country. I will open it. I will write in it. I will bear witness to what it is I’m bearing witness to. I will make words every night and keep track of the smells and the sights and the sounds and the people and the animals and the tastes. I will prevail.

And I will scour Ontario for the ugliest journal known to man. This way I can’t use the highly popular excuse, “But it’s far too pretty to spoil” argument that renders me incapable of writing a single word in the journals I choose solely for their pretty factor. I will pick the butt-ugliest journal on the shelf and I will christen it with words before we even land. That is the goal.

As Exhibit A below suggests, however, I may fail in my goal. I carried the same journal with me to 3 consecutive Ontario Writers’ Conference conferences. Each time I planned to take notes in it. Each time I couldn’t bear to destroy it with the presence of ink. At the 4th conference I casually mentioned my dilemma to Wayson Choy. Apparently Wayson is an extremely pragmatic man. He ripped the journal from my hand, opened to a random page and jotted down the following:

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Exhibit A

My problem? Wayson is not coming to India with us. Maybe I can toss my ugly India journal into the street and run over it a couple of times with my car. Or maybe I can pound my fists on Wayson’s front door and plead with him to christen my new ugly India journal?

My problem with that is, ever since Wayson wrote in the above journal (Exhibit A) I have been unable to write in it. I mean, Wayson Choy wrote in it! So, no late night drive-by pleading for journal christening. The running-it-over-with-the-car idea is looking better by the second.

I need to journal India. I mean, I need to. I have always wanted to set a story (stories) in India. I don’t know what, but I know I want to do it. I’m hoping the story will come to me in my travels. But I’m afraid it won’t if I don’t diligently journal.

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Our Itinerary

I’ll figure something out. I did commit my commitment to a blog post, after all. That’s one way of attempting to police myself. If I blog about it, it has to happen. Right?

Edit To Add:

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Found a journal. This one from the Dollarama spoke to me!

Writing Through a Crisis of Happiness

The following was originally published in the WCDR Wordweaver in the spring of 2015.
WRITING THROUGH A CRISIS OF HAPPINESS
It’s been ages since I’ve had a daily writing regime. I was fanatical about my sacred hour of writing before the rooster crowed. Then life changed. Drastically. I came down with a debilitating Crisis of Happiness™.
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A Lazy Trip through the Canals of Suzhou, the Venice of the East.
          I write from darkness. I’m a writer because of my misery-laden psyche. From darkness comes creativity. Remove darkness, and the urgency to write evaporates. Happiness equals a dry well.
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An Evening Stroll in Wuxi Shi, Jiangsu Sheng, China.
          While on my recent vacation to China and Hong Kong, I planned to re-institute my early-morning writing hour. I thought it’d be easier to get back into my regime while vacationing. But Beijing was breathtakingly beautiful. This made for great writing fodder, but also ramped up my Crisis of Happiness™.
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A Day of Shopping in Shanghai.
          We travelled almost every day. We went from Beijing to Shanghai to Suzhou to Hangzhou to Wuxi to Shanghai to Hong Kong. Most mornings I awoke in a different hotel room than the morning before. With 14 days to re-establish my habit, I persevered.
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Boating in Hangzhou Shi, Zhejiang Sheng, China
          Writing is a discipline. We must take it seriously in order for it to have importance in our lives. I had been using it as a crutch to prop up the rest of my life. One early morning in Shanghai, I considered a change of perspective. Write from a place of joy. Such an easy concept. If I could write from a wounded psyche, I could also write from joy. I embraced the pre-dawn vista of Shanghai spread out before me like a frenetic wonderland and I picked up my pen. I wrote. I was back.
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Tiananmen Square, Beijing, China (Selfie-Capital of the World!)
          I can’t, however, write about the place I’m in. Amid the unsurpassed beauty of Suzhou—Venice of the East—I wrote about how, atop the Eiffel Tower, the blinding Paris sunsets distort the views of the beautiful city below. Having spent the previous day boating through Suzhou’s beautiful canals, I happily wrote about Paris sunsets.
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A Tipsy Night in the streets of Hong Kong.
          This morning, I awoke with a vivid memory of a tipsy evening in a restaurant atop the peak overlooking Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour. I wrote about being down in the harbour earlier that day, and how water lapped at the hulls of the ancient heritage boats precisely the same way it lapped at new boats. The ancient ones were festooned with Chinese lanterns and decorous accoutrements, but their seaworthiness seemed questionable. The powerful new motorboats were sleek, sexy, and clearly capable of seafaring adventures.
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I see a ship in the harbour…and boats, too.
          I wrote about how perspective changes a person. I used to be one of those rickety old boats swaying in the wake of the newer models, always fearing that today is the day I sink. Oh, how I tried to write my way out of sinking. But I realized one need not be the shiny new boat to stay afloat. One need only move the pen across the page.
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Write. Bear Witness.
          Writers are witnesses not only on the days we’re miserable and tired. We must also be witnesses on the days we’re overcome with joie de vivre. We must bear witness every day.
          It’s 5:00 a.m. Can I get a witness…

Violently Happy – The Sedona Syndrome

“Violently happy
it will get me into trouble.
Violently happy
I’m driving my car
too fast
with ecstatic music on” ~ BJORK

The rush of emotions I felt while staying in Sedona was very real. And very intense. I can’t imagine living there and EVER getting used to it. Take a place like that for granted? Never! It’s funny…there was much talk about the vortexes that could be found there. But it seemed to me that the entire place was one big vortex of energy…and it made me feel in-sync with the everything in a way I had never felt before. I felt violently happy.

“Sedona spiritual vortexes are powerful and transformational energy centers that are located at specific sites throughout Sedona, Arizona. Vortexes are the intersections of natural electromagnetic earth energy, also known as ley lines.” ~ From the website SEDONA RED ROCK TOURS.

Day 5 – THE GRAND CANYON

It was a two-hour car trip from our place in Sedona to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. And it was a beautiful drive, filled with insane mountain twists and turns that brought us to a dramatically higher elevation. And with the top down in the early morning hours we came to understand just how cold it got in Arizona when the sun was not up!

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My first real glimpse of the Grand Canyon. South Rim from a lookout we came to after parking the car and walking towards the trailhead. This must be the place!

We set out fairly early in the morning, as we knew it would be a long day of hiking down into and up out of the canyon. To think I didn’t think I wanted to do the Canyon. I don’t know what I was thinking…having the red rocks of Sedona on my bucketlist, but not having the greatest hole in the history of holes on the same list?! From the moment I knew I was going to see the Canyon, my thoughts on it began to change. Of course I should want to see something so incredibly beautiful. As we put it on our list of attractions we would visit on the trip, I added it to my bucketlist…feeling slightly guilty that it wasn’t already there.

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I would say WE chose Bright Angel Trail for our excursion down into the Canyon, but if I did I would be lying. I chose nothing…I only thrilled at the trails that were chosen for me. I remained blissfully unaware of the paths chosen for me until we arrived each day at the various trailheads. Each one was perfect! Including BRIGHT ANGEL…

I’m not going to lie…GOING UP was difficult. But it wasn’t TOO difficult. I’ve been hiking and walking and jogging and running for a couple of years now…so I was ready for the hike up out of the Canyon. But it wasn’t a walk in the park.

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This sign kind of says it all. Go down only as much as you think you can climb back up. No further. And there’s no shame in resting along the way back out of the Canyon.

This was one of the longest treks we took and by far the most populated. There were a lot of people on this trail. I wasn’t the least bit surprised. Is there anything more beautiful?

The Bright Angel Trail was probably also the most well-formed of all the trails we were on in our week in Arizona. The trail was wide and clearly indicated all the way to the bottom…with two rest stops along the way for water and bio-breaks. It was quite impeccable and user-friendly, as trails go.

And I never tired of looking up, down and all around me. Every glance gave another gift to the eye and the soul. So much beauty…and to think I almost said no to this incredible force of nature.

The vastness of the Grand Canyon makes one simultaneously disappear into oblivion and feel more vital and alive and big than ever before. It’s the equivalent of a spiritual enlightenment if ever there was one…

DAY 6! BELL ROCK AND THE COURTHOUSE BUTTE! Our final HIKE day. We originally decided to have Thursday as a day of rest before our Friday all-day trip back home to Toronto. But I couldn’t imagine being there for a day and NOT hiking. There were two trails fairly close to home and side by side with one another that we decided to try on our last full day in Sedona. They were easy…so it would be sort of a rest day. (-;

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There were many places along the perimeter of Bell Rock where you could climb and explore. Such a beautiful place! This was only a skip and a jump up on a ledge near the bottom…nowhere near the top.

Probably one of the easier hikes we did in our week…it was a trail that circumnavigated the two attractions. One big circle of a hike with two beautiful formations in the middle…or so I thought. There was a third, much smaller formation that was no less beautiful. I never did find out what it was called, but it took my breath away…

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Is it weird that I saw these as four little witches having a little huddle? I swear, I felt their scheming and heard their cackling…

As with the notion that going down is voluntary but coming up is mandatory at the Grand Canyon, one should never bite off more than they can chew on ANY trail in the desert like conditions of Sedona and the surrounding area. On this trail (We actually did the BIG PARK LOOP TRAIL—which incorporated the two other trails on the site) we came upon someone in clear distress…someone who misjudged his ability to complete the trail. We stopped about a quarter of the way along the trail to help a man rise to his feet…with the assistance of his friend. And I scoured the brush just off the trail to find them a walking stick to further support him until they made their way back off the trail and to their car. It’s never a good idea to take to the trails if you’re not one-hundred percent certain you can finish it. This man was clearly in deep distress. I was glad to see them heading straight for the exit and not redoubling their efforts to push forward.

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We decided to bring our shadows with us on this trip. It’s always comforting to find them either trailing behind us or showing us the way!

Although this was an easy trail to walk, there were certainly a lot of things to climb and explore along the way. It was absolutely a FUN trail to do…and I would highly recommend it!

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This is the formation I mentioned earlier whose name I couldn’t seem to discover. If you happen upon this blog and know the name of this formation, please let me know in the comments!

 

I called that unknown formation THE MUSHROOM…for obvious reasons. My one desire, once it came into view, was simply to TOUCH it. I thought, ‘If I could just touch that awesome formation, my day will be made.’ The closer we got to it, the more I realized my wish would come true…but I had no idea just HOW thrilled I would eventually become!

As you might be able to see in the collection of photos above, I was not only able to touch THE MUSHROOM…but I was also able to climb to its very pinnacle and look out at the vastness of the area from its tippy top stepping stone right smack-dab in the centre of it! This little formation became one of the highlights of the trip for me. It just sort of took my breath away when we walked around the corner of Courthouse Butte and saw it sitting there all by itself all pretty and mushroomy and whatnot. ❤

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At the end of our trail when I heard, “If you want to climb Bell Rock, I’ll wait down here for you.” I jumped at the opportunity  and practically flew up that rock! If you see little specks of people down below me in this pic, they are actually ON bell rock…there are several layers of it below them and I’m several layers above them. It was such a fun climb…I just jumped from rock to rock, slope to slope until I reached the point I wanted to get to. What a beautiful vista down below. As I walked around up there, I was able to take in everything else in the area…including the highway and all the buttes and hills strewn about…

What an amazing day Day 6 turned out to be. A day of rest morphed into one of the most memorable days of an incredibly memorable trip!

After that incredible hike, we had one last afternoon at the pool followed by one last evening out on a beautiful Sedona restaurant patio. It was a revisit to THE HUDSON…one of the first restaurants of the week. We loved it so much, we rebooked before leaving the first time.

If you ever go to Sedona and you’re looking for a place to eat…please make sure that wherever you go, you ask for the patio! I’m quite certain wherever you land, you can’t go wrong. The town is literally surrounded by mountains.

Well, that’s it. Sedona and Arizona in a nutshell. It was literally one of the hardest places I have ever in my life had to leave. But I will definitely carry it with me always and forever. In fact, I’m quite certain I’ll be back. One day…

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This is 50! (x 2 = 100!)
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