I’ve just spent a magical 24 hours staying overnight on the Ashram’s fruit farm near Jodhpur. The head of the ashram, Guruji, very kindly invited myself and the only other two people currently staying at the ashram to join him on a visit to the farm. The farm is 32 acres of fruit trees that include pomegranates, bers, lemons, oranges, bananas, sitafals and dates and is situated in a wonderful rural setting about 90 minutes from Panchla Siddha.
On the way to the farm we stopped off to check out a resort where you can take a camel tour and stay overnight in luxurious tents in a very beautiful, tranquil setting. The ashram offers this experience to its guests when there are groups staying. Guruji was impressed with the set up and decided that it was a much quieter setting than the current camp they have been using.
Along the way we passed fields of carrots, wheat, rapeseed, castor bean plants and farmsteads with roaming goats, sheep and cows. Excited children rushed towards our vehicle and waved as we slowly drove along the quieter rough tracks to access the fruit farm.
The land has been owned by the ashram for hundreds of years and much of it has been given to local families for farming. With the remaining 32 acres Guruji began planting fruit trees seven years ago.
We were greeted by the people who manage the land and who did everything they could to make our stay as comfortable as possible cooking us delicious food and setting up our beds and bedding.
We explored the farm when we arrived sampling the pomegranates and the bers.
It took us a while to find out that pomegranates are ripe when they have just started splitting, a good excuse to keep sampling. I’m blown away by how the flower turns into the fruit, it really is an incredible transformation.
A lady who is soon to be working full time at the ashram arrived with her mum and joined us for dinner along with some of Guruji’s business friends. We might have been in the middle of nowhere but the food was as good as ever and the ‘bedroom’ became the bhojanshala (dining room) for an hour or so.
Before dinner I laid outside mesmerised by the matrix of stars that shone of mystery and magic. I sought out different formations and for the umpteenth time in my life vowed to find out their names. I did notice however that the only constellation that I do know, the plough, was not to be seen and that the night sky definitely looked different to how it looks in the UK.
Facilities were basic and of an al fresco nature and thankfully the nights are now definitely warmer. Having said that we still had a proper bed away from the floor and plenty of warm bedding. Other than brushing my teeth the normal facial night routine was discarded having already decided that I would just live au natural for 24 hours. I could clean up once back at the ashram tomorrow evening. I made a point of heading out to water a spot of ground before getting into bed to avoid any such shenanigans during the night!
Lights went off (ie power cut) in a timely manner just as we were all settling into our beds and as Guruji was talking about tantric yoga teachings. I dozed for a little while and then decided that the nightlife noise whilst pleasant was probably keeping me awake. I slept until around 2.30am and then had that two hour stint where the mind latches onto any potential problem that it can think of. I’m more adept at recognising what it’s up to these days but still it can be very slippery and not at all interested in focusing on the breath or the body. Usually I distract it with listening to a talk or yoga nidra or meditation recording but I didn’t have my headphones and I was content to keep returning to now, noticing a sudden freshness in the air heralding a new day at around 3.30am. Even with earplugs I could hear rave like music in those early morning hours drifting across the fields and orchards from nearby villages. The 26th January is a public holiday in India and a celebration of Independence from British rule. It’s the anniversary of India drawing up it’s own constitution and a good excuse for some partying from what I could gather.
Finally I noticed the mind becoming calmer and felt waves of sleep returning and next news it was 7am and my room mates were stirring.
Before breakfast Katka and I headed out for a morning walk and to find some secluded toilet facilities. We set off along a nearby track for a while and then with a sense of adventure decided to leave it to climb a hill. Finally a hill – I hadn’t seen one of these for weeks, let alone had chance to walk up one, so off we went to watch the sunrise from the top
Please skip the next section if you really are not at all interested in toilet talk.
The last time I had to do a number two outside was when I went on safari in Africa about 15 years ago. However that had been quite a posh experience by comparison as a hole in the ground was dug for us and we had a little fold up stool with a hole cut out in it to sit on. This time the yoga squats came in handy and Katka, an expert in these matters, offered the helpful tip of taking in the marvellous views. One Western thing though that I was not yet ready to let go of was toilet paper, using your (left) hand and some water was one step too far for me this time!!!!!
Anyway less of the toilet talk, after managing to find our way back to camp via a circular route, we were greeted with a delicious cup of chai tea. This was followed by the most amazing and enormous breakfast I’ve ever had.
We were presented with a beautiful platter of papaya, banana and pomegranate seeds together with kitchari (rice, mung beans and turmeric), corn on the cob rubbed with lemon juice, salt and chilli (a divine combination) and sweet potato!!!! What an absolutely delicious feast and extremely filling.
A long walk was now necessary and whilst exploring some more we saw deer, wild boars with their young, an amazing fluffy white mongoose, many different birds (some of the sparrows shared our ‘bedroom’!) and thankfully no cobras!!! We found out whilst driving back that there are apparently cobras (mongooses can kill them), which of course would be deadly if you stepped on one by mistake. I might have taken a little more care when doing the al fresco toilet thing if I’d have known about this!!!!
Back at camp we chilled in the shade for an hour or so before suddenly the decision was made to head back to the ashram. I’m not sure why but it seemed that we had to grab our bags and leave immediately, not even five minutes notice – Indian time 😊. It wasn’t a problem just quite funny really. We threw our bags into the car together with packs of fruit and veg to take back.
We stopped off for lunch (yet more food) at a resort restaurant where sometimes Guruji and Shreejan take local children to play in the pool and learn to swim. We arrived back at Shri Jasnath just before 5pm, time to catch the last rays of sun on the guesthouse roof before a nice warm shower and then, yes you’ve guessed it – more delicious food!