India: Yoga daze = no panic attack?

10th February

Yin yoga, Vinyasa flow, Hatha yoga, Ashtanga yoga, Iyengar yoga, Restorative yoga, meditation… we’ve tried and tested quite a few variations out here in heart-warming India.

We’ve also sampled plenty of the local food. Man, I love Indian food. Gimme something lentil based, a serving of freshly made naan, a questionable pickle array and I’m all yours. Only £1 you say? I’m definitely yours….

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AND THEN A 10p CHAI TEA THAT’S IN THE TOP 10 MOST DELICIOUS THINGS I’VE EVER HAD? WHY THE HELL NOT. (Below is our favourite roadside chai stall served by our favourite chai lady. She didn’t say much but she had such a kind smile and her chai making skills were award winning (according to my tastebuds anyway).

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Everything is so very cheap here. Although I didn’t expect to buy quite so much. The bedding and fabrics are so gorgeous out here… I may have gone a little overboard (think handmade kingsized bedspread, pillows, the lot!) So much so, I may have to buy another suitcase home. That will cost an arm and a leg. MY BAD. (But yay ‘memories’….right?)

***

Now I didn’t come out here to furnish my future home. I came here for yoga. Here’s an extract from my handwritten diary: “If I’m completely honest I’ve neglected the diary for a few days. That doesn’t really need to be a confession, does it? As it is pretty obvious from the dates. I’ve been in a blissful yoga daze, unaware of time. Unaware of time going so quickly. Unaware of my fears.”

From practising yoga so intensely out here, I have learned so much. Not in terms of perfecting the headstand or being able to open my legs wider or wrap my feet around the back of my head. NONE OF THAT. (seriously, can’t do any of that anyway). That’s what I have learned…..None of that really matters. You see, how yoga poses look aesthetically, really is secondary. Yoga is about you and how you feel inside. We are always feeling different, therefore each yoga practice will be a unique learning experience. You could be the strongest, most flexible person in the world – but that doesn’t suggest at all that you would be ‘good’ at yoga. You can’t really be ‘good’ at yoga. It is something that you practise. If you’ve never tried it before I cannot recommend it enough. Since practising yoga regularly my mental health has seen significant improvements. Decreased anxiety. Increased positivity. Through practising, I’m learning to slow down, appreciate things and learn what is worth putting energy into getting worried about, and what isn’t. (99% of things fall into the ‘isn’t’ category).

For me, words and advice are great and inspiring. But ALWAYS easier said than done as the mind is so complex. YOGA however, working with the body and the mind, starts to put it all into practise – much more so than a motivating meme on Instagram, even more than a therapy session can ever do.

Oh dear, I’m writing too much. I’m getting carried away. Let us finish on a light-hearted note. (I say light-hearted but it actually had the potential to be a near death experience).

Ehem. So, it’s the last day. The yoga in India has come to an end. I’m walking along the beach (alone) watching the sunrise. As I walk over the sand, I happen to be carrying my favourite black jumper in my hand. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a wild dog snaps his teeth onto my jumper. For a few seconds we pull on the beloved material back and forth, back and forth. He’s dribbling. His eyes are wide. His teeth are big.

*Enter about 7 other angry, hungry dogs.

I immediately let go. Catch my breath.

Maybe it’s the yoga daze, but I’m genuinely not scared. I just watch the pack of wild dogs fighting, snarling over my jumper (did I mention it was my favourite?) and ripping it to shreds.

Goodbye India. Goodbye jumper.

I really don’t want to leave but I think this will be my last blog post for India. I could write and write and just keep writing but I think more of a poetic summary is best.

the sides of our lips
move
upwards
towards the Indian sun

sparks alight our hips
spine
triceps
during the vinyasa flow

synchronised passions bloom & dip
up
then down

“we are beautifully imperfect”

the sides of our lips
move
upwards
towards the Indian sun

 

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Suncream required when sitting on the loo

5th February, 2018

It’s always a fine line with poo jokes as to how much detail I can / should go into on this blog. Being respectful of the more reserved, I’ll keep it fairly low key.

Ever heard of Delhi belly? I haven’t.

Literally, WHO gets constipated in India?

Who has a 3 day no show in INDIA?

(Me apparently).

 

We’re right on the beach. No floors – just sand. Open toilets and showers (brilliant for passers by wanting sound effects). Keeping my promise of holding back extravagant descriptions (for the more reserved readers amongst you) In summary,  I’m uncomfortable. I’m being careful though, making sure I lather my scalp in suncream each time I ‘try to go.’ Like I said – open air toilets….35 degree heat. That sun on my head and my thighs is HOT.

My little bloated belly and I are still getting fully immersed in all the yoga though. It being a yoga & meditation centre, that is what I’m here for.

Our afternoon / evening yoga session was 90 mins of Yin Yoga. I’ve done this style of practise only once before (in Bali). It is where you hold each pose for 5 – 8 MINUTES. Long. Slow. Deep. Feelin dat burn. 2 minutes in you’re like, this is easy, this is totally fine, this is, ow, ow, this is actually quite uncomfortable. (Then by 7 minutes, shaking) DEAR LORD MAKE IT STOP.

Unlike most yoga, when you need to be gentle with yourself and listen to your body, we learned with Yin, if it is COMFORTABLE, you’re not doing it right. (of course if anything is sharp or stabbing then stop!) But for the benefits of Yin: you need to burn.

It is the discomfort of Yin that is a blessing for helping to train your mind to deal with uncomfortable moments in life. Don’t give up. Hang on in there. Yes it hurts but you are strong. This pain won’t last forever.

Holding the posture for so long works your inner muscles and body so deeply to the point when your muscles actually give up and let go. This sensation of truly sinking into the floor is a-a-amazing. It is the feeling of the fascia (connective tissue) releasing that is really intense. The teacher warned us at the start of the class that because it is so intense, it is not uncommon that unexplained sensations or emotions from the unconscious may be brought up. After the intensity of some Yin poses (especially vulnerable positions such as chest / heart opening), some people may laugh, some may burst into tears and they cannot explain why.

“Ha! What a load of old rubbish” I thought. How melodramatic.

Apparently not. The joke’s on me. At the end of the session I was blubbering like a baby – trying to be discreet, whilst in child’s pose, dribbling dribble and streaming snot into my yoga mat, hoping that nobody would see. My tears after Yin were for reasons I can guess but don’t want to think about too much… However, after the 90 mins of Yin and fascia release, I felt lighter, more relaxed and genuinely happier, more positive and grateful about the future.

(Still constipated though….)

 

 

 

Having an ugly baby whilst travelling to India

2nd February 2018

A few hours ago, on the train to Manchester, I wrote the date in the top right hand corner of my diary. I then gave a long pause; stared out the train window, trying to look all wise, hoping that some profound, or perhaps witty introduction would come.

It didn’t.

I swiftly closed the diary and placed it back in my tatty rucksack.

Some 7 hours later, on the plane to Goa, my pen returns to the page.

Hi.

My 7 hour brain delay irritates me. Why could I not write something before? Why could I not just live in the moment and go with the flow – accepting whatever may arise onto the page – whether that be brilliance, or utter crap.

Then being irritated irritates me – this ‘obsession’ to achieve perfection.

This ‘obsession’ for things to be good, great, perfect. Why can I not trust what my Second Year Playwriting tutor taught us? (Sounds a bit off-piste, I know, but hear me out…)

You see, to prevent the dreaded ‘Writer’s block’, in class, she repeatedly told us, loud n’clear: ‘HAVE THE UGLY BABY.’

Have the ugly baby. Have the ugly baby. This translates to — For goodness sake just write something down. It will probably be ugly, messy and shit, but you can tidy it up later. Be brave, do it now. Yes it may be ugly, but it will be authentic and you know what? That is really beautiful.

I truly love that advice from Poppy (the Second Year Playwriting tutor). The problem is, I heard Poppy’s advice but I didn’t really listen to it. It goes without saying that ‘having the ugly baby’ in terms of writing is likely to make you a braver, more innovative writer as it will nudge you to write more and more and thus, hone your skills. What I didn’t realise though, until sat on the plane to Goa 4 years later, was that Poppy’s advice of having the ugly baby can refer to… life.

To live in the moment

To feel blessed that what will be, will be

To accept your frequent mistakes, your frequent ugliness. For this frequent ugliness is real and authentic.

Authentic is beautiful.

Ironically, the desire to feel comfortable with the here and now is why I’m on the plane to India in the first place. I’m heading towards Patnem beach to stay at a Yoga / Meditation centre – something I have wanted to do for a few years now.

Like so many others, each day, I struggle but fight with anxiety. Yoga practice helps me – strongly and deeply helps. I’m heading to a retreat to develop my understanding of the practice and to help train my mind and body that all that really matters in life is THIS moment; even if it’s ugly…

(Speaking of ugly… Literally what was that plane food? Powdered egg and an indescribable sauce marinated in fart).

Underwhelmed with the plane food, OVERWHELMED at the fact I’m about to immerse myself in a week of no technology, no social media, no nonsense. Just yoga, sunshine, local curry, more yoga, more yoga, more yoga

INDIA UPDATES TO COME SOON

 

What the heck is Hygge?

Gently putting my lips to a steamy Yorkshire brew. The lighting is cosy. I’m wearing fluffy socks. My heart-rate has slowed down. This is hygge.

I came across this term about a year ago in various health mags / Instagram accounts. Someone I overheard said it meant ‘cosy.’ I wasn’t that interested if I’m honest. I just thought it was people being proud of their interior design and photo editing skills. I also read the word hygge in my head as, ‘hi-gee.’

Turns out, the word ‘hygge’ (pronounced hue-guh) is a Danish concept (and a glorious one at that!) In June, I was lucky enough to live and breathe the hygge lifestyle during a long weekend away in Copenhagen…

June 10th, 2017

I met Maja over a year ago, when we were both travelling independently in Australia. We met in Hervey Bay, explored Fraser Island together and then after continuously messaging and keeping each other up to date, we met up again in Cairns! (Read more about our first meet here)

We had shared so much together and got to know each other so very well in such a short space of time. Our humour, morals and life ambitions clicked instantly and it felt like we had known each other for years. It felt strange to part ways, but we both did the polite thing of saying, “you should come and visit me some time.”

In reality, that rarely happens, does it?

Maja lives in Copenhagen. Whilst our ‘every few months little catch up’ over Facebook messenger was taking place, I found out that return flights to Copenhagen from London Heathrow were only £50. Done.

Visiting Copenhagen

Alongside lots of girly squeals, hugs and catch ups, Maja helped me embrace the true Danish lifestyle!

Whilst we sat in her beautiful, minimalist apartment, she said:

“I don’t think there’s an English word for hygge. The closest translation is ‘cosy’ but I don’t think that is a very good translation. Hygge (pronounced huh-guh) is something that brings inner peace and happiness. It really can be anything as long as it is something that you crave / desire. Hygge could be snuggling up in front of the fire. Hygge could be eating a cake. Hygge could be meditating. Hygge could be laughing with friends. If you walk into a room and get good vibes you could say it’s ‘hygge’ … The Danes are using this word a lot lately and doing whatever they can to achieve it.”

How did we achieve hygge?

Experiencing Tivoli Gardens is a must when visiting Copenhagen. However, Maja’s top tip was to go in the evening, when the sun is beginning to set. The air was cool but not cold and the sky showcased swirls of pink, orange and indigo. Twinkling, dainty-lights surrounded our footsteps and laced the trees whilst our eardrums were filled with notes from the violin and the piano. We watched the world go by as we drank fruit tea from intricate tea-pots and pretty cups.

Of course, the next morning I had to experience a modern Scandinavian breakfast. Maja carefully prepared boiled eggs, luminous pink grapefruit and skyr yogurt. The Danes love to eat natural foods, rich in protein to fuel them for the day ahead.

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Fully fuelled, before we knew it, it was lunch. We had spent the morning cycling around Copenhagen (here: BIKES ARE LIFE). We explored nautical Nyhavn and I took some touristy postcard style pics to please my Mum and Dad.

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Lunch was a real treat. We made our way up to the top floor of The Tower to indulge in the famous Open Sandwiches whilst having a sweeping cityscape view.

Nutty rye bread, juicy king prawns, and a view across the water to Sweden. What more could a girl want!?

If no hate and no rules are what you’re after, then head over to Christiania (a tiny town within Copenhagen). Found on the island borough of Christianshavn, the Free Town of Christiania is a unique and somewhat controversial part of Copenhagen. It was established in 1971 when, in the midst of a housing shortage, squatters took over an abandoned military base and formed an alternative society. Best known for its Green Light District (filled with marijuana dealers and smokers – but it’s all OK, cos no rules!) The Free Town is also home to restaurants and bars, a market, artist workshops, and concert venues. There is plenty of street art to admire here, and residents live in converted army barracks or unique hand-built homes. It’s a fascinating place to catch a glimpse of a non-traditional way of life. I’ve never seen anything like it, it was like a dream. Maybe we breathed in too much air whilst walking around, as we both felt a little wobbly and giggly on our bike ride bike home.

Returning the favour

Summary: Copenhagen is a very happy city filled with happy people!

Hopefully I’ve helped to unpick the ‘hygge’ concept a bit for you (with thanks to Maja!) Again it was difficult to say goodbye to her, but I can’t want to return the favour and have her stay with me in the UK.

But what can I do to match up to her excellent Danish culture weekend feat. Hygge!?

Fish and chip Friday?

Keep your head down and don’t talk to anyone in London Saturday?

Get muddy, wet and cold in Yorkshire but ‘av a proper brew Sunday?

 

Anyway, hope to see you soon, Maja!

All the best,

Liv x

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Visiting Barcelona: Always a good idea

You could say my trip started when I asked myself the question: why have I never been to Barcelona before? It’s a city rich in culture with mesmerising architecture cradling you on every street. It’s a city that offers exquisite tapas, sangria galore, and it’s always ready to cater to your fresh paella desires. It’s a city for the fashionistas, the beach bums, the health freaks, the foodies, the history geeks and the artists. It’s basically a must-see and therefore a must-go. To top it all, it’s so close (just over two hours flight, and you can get very very very cheap flights). So to answer the question, WHY have I not visited before? I really don’t know. This must change.

Me: “Lauren (colleague*), what are you doing a couple of weekends from now?”

*I use the word colleague very loosely. We’re great pals.

Lauren: “Nothing. Probably an Aldi shop. Maybe going for a run. Why?”

Me: “How about going for a run up Montjuic? In Barcelona. Let’s go.”

We then both did that thing that girls do when you jump around a bit and dance excitedly but you’re too excited you don’t really make any noise. (Note: no one else was in the office at this time).

We’re both the kind to save, save, save, and the odd splurge on an exciting last-minute travel plan, well, I don’t see anything wrong with that. We were lucky and found very cheap flights and cheap hotel. We’ll barely be in the hotel anyway, we’ll be too busy having fun, seeing new things and trying new food.

***

(Sighs). The concept of time is mad. Like the blink of an eye, it was about to start and then it was over. We went, laughed, ate great food, took some photos, got blisters, laughed some more and then came home. We’re back in the office.

Weekend trips away certainly don’t give you as much space or thinking time as a big backpacking trip and there isn’t enough time to feel part of a new community, BUT, they are very special in their own right. If you’re subject to the chronic travel bug, weekend trips to a new city will give you that quick fix, a boost of travel pleasure, if you may. In some ways they actually trump long-term trips as they’re less tiring and you’ll constantly have that energetic wide-eyed enthusiasm. (Unless you’re Lauren, having a sense of humour failure whilst getting harassed by locals selling mojitos and a foot massage on Barceloneta Beach).

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I hope that after reading this, you might consider saving the pennies to visit a new city in the near future! Or how about a national park you’ve never been to or a new museum in your hometown? Keep doing things that excite you.

But before you go, I’ll leave you with my tips on where to go / what to do in Barcelona, should you be visiting soon.

  1. Dine at Les Quinze Nits on the Place Reial. AMAZING food, great prices! It was so good, we went here twice and I had (big statement) the best dessert of my life. The Catalonian special was a magical concoction of coffee gelato, crème brulee and rich melted dark chocolate. (Video evidence of my foodgasm is available upon request).
  1. Trek (run if you’re a keeno) up Montjuic to see the Castell de Montjuic. Top tip: if you want incredible views, go early before 8am. No tourists.
  1. Rent bikes and ride along the pathway, parallel to the beach. It goes on for miles and miles. This was our favourite activity!

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  1. Meander around the Gothic Quarter and be in awe of the architecture that towers over you. Don’t plan too much, just get lost amongst it all and see what you find!
  1. Drink coffee in Els 4 Gats. It’s cute, quirky and has a great selection of drinks. To make it even cooler, it’s a café that Picasso used to hang out in.
  1. Visit La Boqueria market, one of the best food markets in the world. They say, ‘if you can’t find it in La Boqueria, it’s not worth buying.’

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  1. Of course, do the classics too! See La Sagrada Famila, Park Guell and eat tapas to your heart’s desire!

Shout out to Lauren: I’m usually a bit of a loner and I use this blog to encourage solo travel. But Lauren, I loved every minute with you. Thank you for such a special weekend. And thank you for walking all of those miles with me to get that sandwich that I really, really wanted for lunch.

The Snowdonia Adventure with Me Old Man

It’s been over a month since I returned from India. In order to soothe my travel addiction, something new had to be put in the diary. Of course, money doesn’t grow on trees and annual leave isn’t an eternal force, BUT, there are ways around this my friend; there is always a way.

Long Easter weekend: ideal.

Go somewhere new in the UK: easy on the ol’bank account

Go camping: even easier on the ol’bank account (plus, more fun).

I suggested going with ‘me old man.’ He has been guilt-tripping me for weeks about not getting an India-adventure invite. Of course, I’m not going with him out of sympathy. I want to go to Snowdonia with my Dad, because, if you’ve ever met my Dad, you’ll know that he’s a bit of a legend.

A blooming irritating legend, but a legend nevertheless.

Turning 68 this year (although he thought he was in his 70’s because, you know, memory issues)… he may not be able to run a sub 2.40 marathon anymore, or survive for weeks on end in a tent with temperatures dropping to -40, but in my Pappy’s little mind (and mine too) – once a Paratrooper, always a Paratrooper. But actually, if we’re being accurate, after eight years, he transferred to the Army Physical Training Corps.

I sent him a text earlier in the week, telling him about the really bad weather (rain and storms) that was approaching the Easter weekend in Snowdonia. To which he replied:

“Skin is waterproof. We’ll be fine.”

Looks like we’re going then.

He was a bit grumpy on the drive there, but certainly perked up when we started to hike up Mount. Tryfan. That guy can shift! I’m pretty confident in my fitness levels but even I was huffing and puffing a bit trying to keep up with his military pacing. To say we went off-piste is an understatement. Paths are dull and boring apparently and so our search for Heather Terrace had me scrambling through what felt like miles and miles of shrubs and ugly rocks. I think I annoyed him by being constantly indecisive as to whether I was taking my jacket off or leaving it on. It was extremely cold and I was wearing thermals, long sleeve, jumper, thin jacket, thick jacket, hat and gloves, two trousers, two socks.

Dad never has much sympathy and so there’s no point complaining, as you’ll probably get one of three responses:

“Oh shut your face.”

“Stop being a wimp.”

“Pain is just a weakness leaving the body.”

As you can imagine, my childhood was really quite something.

As you can also imagine, the thought of bringing a guy home to meet my Dad – well, you just wouldn’t, would you?

Anyway, we reached the summit in good spirits. We sheltered behind a rock for a bit and had some snacks and coffee from the flask to re-fuel for the way down. A couple of other guys were on the summit too. One of them took out a bottle of water and a sausage roll from his back-pack, then, before our eyes, a seagull swooped down and snatched the packaged savoury pastry from him. Gone.

“F***’in seagull has taken me sausage roll! Still had the wrapper on! What an f***’in’ joke! Did you see that!?”

We all burst out laughing.

The summit of Tryfan is famous for the twin monoliths of Adam and Eve, a pair of rocks some three metres high and separated by 1.2 metres. Dad, wanting to prove that age is just a number, jumped from one to the other with great ease.

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We took our time on our way down and enjoyed the views. They were cloudy views, but views nevertheless. There’s something about hiking – even though it can be exhausting at the time, there’s something so therapeutic about it and I never really want it to end. It’s blissful not to have to think about day-to-day life, no diary, no problems, no anxiety, just climb, and keep climbing, and see beautiful things.

It’s not all glamorous though. You become dirty and stinky and this time, the cold, damp conditions had made my chilblains flare up. Ouch!!!

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Dad told me about a guy he once knew who described hiking like so:

“It’s like banging your head against a brick wall… It’s lovely when you stop.”

***

After filling our stomachs with tinned food, we continued to wear all our clothing (including jackets and hats), got into our sleeping bags and tried to go to sleep.

Didn’t sleep. Swear I was lying on a rock. And Dad’s snoring, don’t even get me started…

But when you get back to the comforts of the everyday – the heating, the clean fluffy socks, the bubble bath, when you get back to all of that, no matter how gross the situations were when you were ‘roughing it’ whilst travelling… I sure do miss it.

When back at home and flicking through some of the photos that were taken, this one of me (below) makes Dad laugh.

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“You look like a page out of that book, ‘Where’s Frank?’

“You mean, Where’s Wally?”

“Yeah, that’s the one.”

Trying to do a Half Marathon in Delhi

4th March

Today was long and hard work. We left the hotel in Shimla at 9am and did not arrive in New Delhi until 11.45pm.

Our local guide was a woman – that was a surprise. Smaller than me, big beautiful brown eyes and smudged red lipstick. She told me that she would not eat anything all day because her stomach hurt. She even refused the boiled sweet that I offered her. I think she said her name was Charylee. Whatever it was, it sounded pretty.

Charylee escorted us onto the Toy Train. It was old, small and quaint, moving very slowly and showing off the panoramic views of the Himalayan mountains. The old railway had many twists and turns and took us through over 100 tunnels on our journey Shimla > Solan, which took three hours. Something about travel seems to make my bladder weak… never have I been so desperate to use a stinky, filthy hole-in-the ground. And never have I been so desperate for hand sanitiser.

We’ve had some incredible culinary experiences on our trip so far. But today, it was a disaster. I wanted something bland and so ordered boiled eggs on toast. It was vile, disgusting, and resulted in a terrible sense of humour failure on my part. If you’ve read previous posts, you’ll know that I’m a spice lover. So why pick something so tasteless? I’m hoping to do a half marathon tomorrow… that’s why.

Two hours of bumpy roads and mad over-taking left our tummies feeling very turned – probably not helped by my bad eggs and Mum’s deep-fried cheese. (Why on earth did she choose that!?)

The train food was ‘interesting’ let’s say. In an attempt to protect my little stomach for tomorrow, I stuck to pre-packaged food. Mum ate a couple of fried things and a few mouthfuls of suspect curry. STOP!!! I told her. She reluctantly stopped. The only unpackaged food that I did eat was a huge naan, wrapped in foil (in an attempt to carb up for tomorrow). Due to the hectic journey, I’m worried that I haven’t fuelled up enough for tomorrow’s race. My carb loading today has consisted of cereal and porridge for brekki, two dodgy eggs, three slices of toast and jam, two slices of banana bread, cereal bar, muffin, four bread sticks, a huge naan and three bananas. Will that be OK? We’ll soon find out…

When arriving in Delhi (late) as you can imagine, the traffic was hellish. After near death Mario Kart experience number sixty-eight, we finally arrived at the extravagant Maidens Hotel. The men were dressed in white and gold and had the kindest of smiles. After checking in, booking a taxi for the race tomorrow at 4.15am, guzzling a complimentary hot cocoa, my head hit the pillow at midnight (too exhausted to even change my clothes). I set my alarm for 3.30am. What am I doing?

5th March

It’s dark. We’re lost. The taxi driver is lost. Nobody knows where the Yamuna Half Marathon start line is and I’m buzzing off my tits, at 4.30am, thanks to very little sleep, an energy drink, a power bar and pack of jelly beans with added electrolytes.

In broken English, the taxi driver suggested we call the race organisers. He offered me his phone. I didn’t think that there would be any point calling – it’s 4.30am for goodness sake! Who on earth would be in the office? Once again, India surprises me – a man answered.

“Cancelled.”

No explanation, just: “cancelled.”

Annoyed, deflated, but still wide-eyed from sugar and additives, I sulked back to the room.

I tried to go back to sleep, but couldn’t. I had stomach cramps instead. “Oh no!” said Mum, trying to be sympathetic. She was about to put her arm around me, but then ended up barging me out of the way instead, so that she could be violently sick in the loo.

My stomach pain passed as quickly as it came on. Mum on the other hand, wasn’t so lucky. Delhi Belly has struck. I repeat. Delhi Belly has struck. This is not a drill.

This meant I was to explore Delhi by myself. Poor Mum, she would have loved to experience it too. I was shown around by a local guide – Bubbu, who looked after me ever so well.

My hopes weren’t all that great for Delhi. ‘Smelly Delhi’ they call it. But wow, it was so much better than I imagined! Even with no sleep and feeling a little lonely without Mum, there were moments where my jaw would ache from smiling ear to ear, feeling so lucky to be seeing this colourful chaos, the madness of it all.

Bubbu and I rode on the back of a Rickshaw (a cart lead by a bike) through tiny backstreets and through the bustling spice market. We rode along a main road too and almost got clipped by other vehicles, including a bus. At first it was a little scary, but then after each near miss, I laughed out loud, feeling truly alive. It was electric. I could feel my heart beating in my head (although that could be due to no sleep). Who cares.

It was a surreal experience to wander around India Gate and see the President’s House. But it’s more of a palace than a house. In fact, it’s more of a city. The President has over 7,000 workers and the house has its own post office, school, hospital, tennis courts, football pitch… and in the garden, it is said to have every type of rose on earth.

I finished off my day by treating myself to an Indian head massage. The coconut oil that they used made my hair greasy for days, but the wonderful experience was worth it. Although, questionable at times. I closed my eyes in sheer relaxation, but then my eyes widened as there was definite boob cupping as he massaged my chest.  I’m pretty sure that’s not allowed, but I was too exhausted and relaxed to care. I thought what the heck, it actually felt quite nice.

Hurrah! Mum was feeling brighter and was going to attempt to join me for dinner. I couldn’t get over how beautiful she looked, even though she had been so sick all day. We ate outside on the garden terrace. The candle lighting and the warm evening air made the whole place feel like paradise.

I can’t believe our Indian adventure is almost at an end.

Before visiting, I thought it was a bit of a cop out when people said, “words cannot describe” in their response to, “so what is India like?”

Now I know what they mean. I don’t think we have the language to describe such decadence and such dirt, such beauty and such pain. My experience of India has been a constant, fighting juxtaposition between heart-fluttering madness and inner peace. It is a country that makes you feel alive. It is a country that makes you feel everything and nothing.