For some time now I’ve had a longing to travel to India… the vivid colours, block printed textiles, saris, intricate patterns and incredible architecture have always appealed to me. After spending a week with Annie Wyatt at one of her Cape Town Retreats and hearing about her passion for India, I now have even a stronger desire to visit – in fact just putting this post together with all the gorgeous imagery has got my feet seriously itching to travel!
Annie is a Detoxification Specialist and Yoga Teacher and with India being the birthplace of Yoga, Ayurveda and meditation it seems the perfect place for her to hold her retreats. Annie will be hosting two transformational retreats towards the end of this year in India and has teamed up with Veechi Shahi, a Transformational Life and Wellness Coach. Together this experienced, mindful duo who will guide their guests through body cleansing, mental and spiritual upliftment and transformation.
The first retreat will be held at the beautiful SwasWara Retreat Centre in Gokarna, South India situated on Om Beach. You’ll get to experience the luxury of India in your own private villa facing a lake. Their second retreat will be held in North India in Rishikesh which is situated on the banks of the holy river Ganges at the foothills of the Himalayas. You can find out more about the two offers here and there’s an Early Bird Special if you book and pay before the 31st of May.
After attending Annie’s Tulbagh retreat, I know just how amazing and impactful these two India retreats will be. If you have the desire and time… just take the leap and do it – you won’t regret it!
Read on for a Q&A with Annie and for more inspiration…
Describe India in 3 words…
Ancient Wisdom Spiritual ….oh and crazy chaotic but that’s five words.
When initially drew you to India?
I always had an interest in spiritual philosophy and India represented these things for me. So by the time I was exposed to the idea of visiting India at the age of 21, I was already travelling through Asia having spent 6 months in Japan and 6 months in South East Asia, predominantly Thailand. I met some people there who spoke of India and their experiences there and that whetted my appetite to explore further.
When & why did you first visit?
I was living in London in 2005 when my sister, brother in law and I went to Goa on holiday for 2 weeks. From the moment I landed in India, I felt at home and knew that I wanted to go back. And then in 2008 after leaving London for good just before returning to South Africa, I went back to India to further my yoga studies at Yogapoint in Nasik. I’ve spent much time at my ashram studying Yoga and yogic philosophy and more recently Ayurveda. I have a love affair with India and the ancient knowledge. But it’s not just the knowledge that I love, it is the people and the way in which they bring spirituality into their everyday lives.
One memorable moment in India…
One holiday I decided that I wanted to go somewhere where I could experience yoga, see elephants, experience South Indian dancing and listen to live devotional music, all the while having a chance to rest and relax at the same time. I booked to stay at the Sivananda ashram in Kerala and in two weeks managed to experience all of that and so much more. It’s a place of manifestation. You think it and it happens. India is one memorable experience after the next. It is where my ideas for my South African retreats came from, I wanted to bring people to experience ashram life but in a Western way. Ashram life can be harsh often living in a dormitory with a single cot (single bed) and only a curtain (if you are lucky) to separate you from your neighbour. But the yogic lifestyle that one experiences in India is teaching one to temper oneself and look within. After my first month on an ashram, I left with friends who will be life long. I have had several friends from my ashram visit me in Cape Town.
Top tip for a first time traveler to India…
Book a government pre-paid taxi from the airport. The rest will come naturally.
Your top 3 things/places a first time traveler to India should see/experience…
Mumbai is a beautiful place to arrive at in India. It’s a crazy city in terms of the traffic but if you head over to Colaba and stay at Bentleys Hotel. It’s not the fanciest hotel but it’s old world colonial and the experience is in the details. Just the floors and the staircase in the hotel are worth looking at.
Another very easy place to visit for a first timer is Palolem in Goa. It’s beach holiday heaven. It’s clean and just beautiful with many amazing Indian restaurants. One of the best places to visit for food and relaxation.
Next is Rishikesh – you can’t help but love Rishikesh. It’s a vegetarian city and there is no alcohol allowed which makes it a special place. It’s situated on the Ganges river and in the foothills of the Himalaya and it’s the one place in India where the river is clean almost turquoise in colour. Be ready for the sights, sounds and flavours of spiritual India.
Your favorite place in India?
That’s hard. Rishikesh and Mumbai. Rishikesh for the ancient knowledge and wisdom and Mumbai is just such a cool city.
What do you never travel without?
– Travel coffee dripper. You can get silicone ones these days with a mesh so no need for a filter. Oh and coffee, I always take a bag of ground coffee with me.
– Hot water flask, you never know in India if you will have a kettle in your room.
– Water bottle
– Pocket knife
– Portable travel speaker for music. I have a travel JBL that fits into the palm of my hand.
Your favorite food to eat in India…
Bindi Bajia without a doubt. That’s okra or lady’s fingers in a vegetable curry. But how can I just choose one favourite Indian meal. I mean there is masala dosa – you have to google this one – and idly… oh beloved idly… beghan bartha (aubergine curry), palak paneer (spinach and Indian cheese), dal, aloo gobi (potato and cauliflower curry). And then what about the breads – paratha (flakey flat bread) or naan…. and coconuts! Fresh coconut water and flesh straight out of the coconut! How’s a girl to choose?
Your favorite places in Cape Town for Indian food…
Image credits: 1. Maria Marie | 2. Aussieactive | 3. Arihant Daga | 4 & 23. Annie Spratt | 5. Frank Holleman | 6. Ravi Sharma | 7 & 8. Tanya Cohen Kann of Pilgrimage Spaces | 9. Rani George | 10. & 18. Posh, Broke & Bored | 11. Atharva Tulsi | 12 – 15. Tanya Cohen Kann of Pilgrimage Spaces | 16. Elcarito | 17. Abhas Mishra | 19. Sukhpreet Lotey | 20. Mitchell ng Liang an | 21. Juan Marquez | 22. Tanya Cohen Kann of Pilgrimage Spaces | 24. Igor Ovsyannykov | 25. Jose Aragones | 26. Ashim d Silva | 27. David Kuba – via Unsplash