My last post about my travels to the East led to me delving into my digital photo banks and re-living previous experiences from some stunning parts of the world. Teaching yoga retreats has taken me and Debbie, and our students, to some incredible places and I’m reminded of something Danny Paradise always says: find somewhere beautiful in nature and practice in it. That we certainly do.
Teaching retreats is tiring and Debbie and I make a point of travelling on from wherever we have held our retreat to somewhere equally (and sometimes more) stunning for a holiday of our own. I wanted to share some of these parts of the world with you.
After our first international retreat in Thailand in 2009, we travelled to the wilderness of Borneo where we stayed in treehouses on the coast. I remember troops of monkeys frequently passing by our balcony as ocean waves crashed beneath us and trekking in the jungle in a scene that would have been at home in Indiana Jones. I remember seeing Edwin the orangutan in a sanctuary for these gentle apes. And I remember a hell of a lot of rain.
In 2011 we held a retreat at the Kandy Samadhi Centre, high above the mountains of Kandy. I had stayed there when I travelled alone to Sri Lanka in 2007, randomly finding it online when looking for a place where I could immerse myself in nature. I couldn’t have asked for my wish to be met in any better way. I spent a week there as the only guest, spending my evenings with the owner’s 75-year-old uncle who was looking after the place and who had a vast knowledge of the local plants and all their medicinal qualities. We would spend our evenings drinking arak, an alcoholic spirit made from the sap of the coconut palm, watching the fireflies light up the trees ahead and clouds drift up from the valley below. We found out on the last night that we were actually related – a distant and almost impossible connection but one that meant that he had stayed with my uncle and his family in the UK and had photos of them and his time with them in his room. I had always thought it would be the perfect place for a retreat and in 2011, we taught a 3 week retreat there, followed by a week in Galle on the south coast. The photo of the sunset below was the view we had during practice one morning as this was the view we had.
In December 2012 we travelled to Zanzibar, off the east coast of Tanzania. Absolute paradise. After the retreat we travelled to the island of Pemba, Zanzibar’s long lost cousin – a place with barely no infrastructure, lots of pirates, and the most breathtaking beaches and seas I have ever seen in my life. I spent a week being utterly captivated by the ocean, by the way it shimmered and glowed and radiated differently throughout the day. It made our run in with said pirates feel like just a slight annoyance if it meant being able to experience beauty on this scale.
Our last retreat was in December 2013 in Bali, a tiny Hindu enclave in the Islamic archipelago of Indonesia, and a place very close to my heart. We were both exhausted by a particularly busy and tough year and treated ourselves to a week in the stunning Gili Islands off the coast of Bali before the retreat followed by a few days in the cultural and artistic heart of Bali, Ubud. I am particularly chuffed with being able to capture lightning illuminating a cloud by the imposing volcano and deeply sacred centre to the Balinese, Mount Agung.
With all these far flung places it’s easy to forget the beauty that exists under our very noses… this photo was taken during our retreat in the Lake District, last Autumn.
Watch this space for details of our next long haul retreat…