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"The Unexpected Delights of Travel: From Sunset Views to Rocket Launches"

A chance encounter with the lovely Jyoti, a fellow Tapasvi, at OWA Sattva campus, asking me "why don't you come to the walk?" and I was set for a day of unplanned adventure.

We set off having in mind to do just the three hour walk on offer (well, at least I did...), but upon boarding the bus when asked whether we wanted to stay the day an easy decision was made. After all my flight was only leaving in the early hours of the morning and I had until 3am to pack my bags:).

The day started at the beautiful village of Santoshpuram, a village whose Education Centre had always drawn my eyes when passing by on our regular bus rides to and from Ekam. Its pure lines, simple beauty and the sense of community that emanate from the lovely building always bring a smile to my face. At last I was going to be able to peer behind the scene! We were greeted by the chaos of large smiles and little hands grabbing whatever simple toys were offered to them, the little children's eyes full of sunshine and warmth, and most of all trust, a trust I have rarely seen in the big metropolitan I live in. We then deambulated around the beautifully decorated village houses, whose walls we were told volunteers had artfully painted with a depiction of each family's history. How very thoughtful. We then got to experience the coolness and beautiful simplicity of the village guest house made of laterite stones, a local brown porous stone which acts as an insulating material, keeping the inside cool in the heat and warm in the cold. The beautiful carpentry, simple furniture and large windows overlooking the majestic mountains felt like Heaven and I could have easily set up anchor there and forgotten about my flight back to London! After a quick tour of the learning centre and the chance to introduce ourselves to the group, we departed having drank a delicious and refreshing lemon drink offered by the villagers.

Onto our next adventure! A short bus ride and we landed on a man made laterite track ready for our walk (the architect of these delightful paths a man by the name of 'Subburamayya'). A pack of teething puppies with wagging tails full of love and curiosity greeted us there - as well as Subburamayya's second wife (the first being the tallest mountain in the background whose name I do not remember).

Undeterred by the scorching heat we started walking and among the beautiful natural scenery the flow of thoughts became slower. Anandagiriji sat on rock in the shade of a banyan tree and set out to extoll the virtues of sustainability - a life where every decision takes into account the wellbeing of Mother Earth, not based on shame and a vague feeling of guilt for what Mother Earth has had to endure through human actions, but based on a true love for Mother Earth and a recognition of its value as the ultimate provider of everything in our lives, the ultimate Life Giver.

Next stop - the "Transcendental Express" - the hollowed out carcass of a 500 year old tree which provided endless wood supply to generation after generation of humans (hence its beauty, the scar tissue having formed various splendid and unusual shapes, scars of love). The tree has been erected onto a platform, like the work of art that it is and one is able to crawl underneath and stand within its trunk and experience transcendental peace. Jyoti was going to pass up on the experience as she was apprehending the physical exertion involved in the crawling and standing up but I convinced her that it was worth it. Feeling her peace as she stood inside the tree was my way of thanking her for a day that, but for our chance encounter in the morning, might have never happened.

Next stop - a delicious picnic followed by a trek at the back of a tractor onto the next village, Krishnapuram, where women entrepreneurs have founded various enterprises (from the ingenious creation of leaf plates using some sort of sowing machine and a press, to making their own soaps, shampoo and their very own face masks:)). All this in an impressive effort for the villagers to become ultimately self-reliant.

There were many other unexpected delights on the way, watching the sun set over a stunning lake surrounded by the mountains whilst the kids were perfecting their stone skipping technique, and filming the launch of a nearby rocket into space but just a few. Or relishing the taste of an impromptu Sevenup which the lovely Vinayak managed to track down in the village shop - but I shall stop there as I do not want to spoil all the surprises:).

Bearing in mind this was just one of the two days offered by "A walk to remember" I think it is fair to say this is an extraordinary adventure not to be missed.

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