We arrived in Calicut (Kozhikkode) about 1/2 hour late at 9.30am and were met by the driver from the Ayurvedic Yoga Villa. He informed us that there was a strike and that any non private vehicle was not allowed to travel until 12noon. It had something to do with taxi fares going up and that they were “very problems”.

We went and had some breakfast at a very clean little cafe in the station and the staff were lovely suggesting what we should eat. The choice wasn’t large with two sorts of rice pancakes, rice rolls and fried rice patties with either a masala gravy or egg gravy. It was delicious and with tea for me came to about $1.20 all up.

We decided to change our next train journey out of Kozhikkode from 9am to a later one as the drive from the Villa to Calicut took about 3 1/2 hours and we didn’t want to have to get up at 4am. We had to take a number first of all from a small machine located behind the counter to which someone luckily pointed us, then fill out a reservation form then wait for our number to be called and then buy the ticket. You had to give your home address and age as well, so Maurice got a senior’s discount!

We suggested to the driver that we have a wander around town as we had an hour and a half to kill so we walked around and saw the local markets and then went to an amazing dress/material shop which had 3floors of every colour and design of saris and shalwar kamiz that you could imagine. I bought a lovely coral coloured shalwar kamiz (trousers, tunic and scarf) for $15. The staff sit you on a chair and unpack everything you might like and throw it out for you to see.

We walked back slowly to the vehicle and left Calicut. The scenery in and around the town reminded us very much of Bali only that there were more high rise buildings just out of town. We had been going about 20minutes when a group of men stopped the car and shouted at the driver that he should not be driving. He told us to say that we were on our way to the airport if we were stopped but they still made the driver pull over for 10minutes.

On the 3 1/2 hour trip we passed many schools and colleges and universities with students in their lovely neat uniforms walking back to buses to go home. Kerala apparently has one of the highest literacy levels in the world. A lot of people know enough to ask you where you are from and give you the names of some Australian cricketers.

We stopped for lunch about 2pm at the “Sky Palace Hotel” where we three had a delicious meal of fried chicken, chicken with ginger and mountains of rice and some parathas. The whole meal came to $12 for the three of us. It was a restaurant only but they seem to call the restaurants “hotels”.

About 10minutes later the driver found we had a puncture so we pulled over at a little local open faced shop to fix the hole in the tyre. The friendly bunch of men there fixed it in a short time and then we were on the final journey which was round and round and up the mountain and I wished that I hadn’t eaten lunch as I was sitting in the back.

We finally made it to the Villa at 4.30pm. The Ayurvedic Yoga Villa complex is about 2000metres from sea level and is located above a fast flowing river and you can hear the river flowing from the restaurant and front villas.

We were then assessed by an Ayurvedic doctor and shown to our room which was one of three in a large villa, one of about six villas in total spead out in the lovely grounds. There was a large inside/outside upstairs restaurant area and a large room for yoga as well as massage treatment rooms.

The whole place reminded us so much of Bali – the buildings, the vegetation and the staff, doctors and massage ladies who were all very friendly and smiling and did everything possible to make you welcome.

Maurice has his treatments geared towards getting rid of his arthritis and I am doing the weight management programme. Story of my life!

The food is Indian vegan vegetarian and we are given a herbal tea only to drink. A few mornings we had fresh coconut juice. They like us to rise at 5am but most people have been getting up at about 6am in readiness for the first yoga class at 6.30am which is quite energetic. Breakfast is from 9am and then daily sessions with the doctor are allocated as well as daily massage treatments. I have a daily head massage to improve my circulation and they do their best to try and rip my scalp off so I hope it works. There is another session of yoga at 11am and then at 5pm another yoga/meditation session. Maurice and I have been getting into the swing of things and even I make it to the first yoga session. We then go for a walk along the few roads in the area past the rubber plantations and fields of grain,crops of beans, banana, tea and coffee plantations.

We met a lovely old chap who spoke good English who was tending his rubber trees. He gave us an explanation of what he was doing. I said that it was wonderful to see and he replied “why wonderful, this is normal”. For him maybe.

There is a lovely open sided straw hut above the river where you can sit and enjoy the sounds of the fast flowing river and the women washing and beating the clothing in the river and see the small children enjoying the water. One of the yogis who is a lovely chap plays the flute there in the morning and the sound carries down the valley.

The men go down to a level further down and wash the cows and the cars and small auto rickshaws.

The whole complex is quiet and serene and there are no traffic noises. There are wonderfully coloured black and red butterflies, orange, yellow and irridescent blue ones flying around.

It is cool at 6am and quite misty and then it clears into a nice warm day with blue skies. The evenings got a bit cool but it is a pleasant temperature to sleep as there is no air conditioning. If it is hot there is a room fan but we are high up in the mountains so have not needed that.

At the centre they are drying Indian Gooseberries (Amla) which are quite bitter and sour and then the taste becomes sweeter in your mouth if you have a drink of water. They use it for the Ayurvedic medicine. The head doctor showed me around the workshop where they dry, chop and prepare the various herbal medicines that they use for treatments. Apparently there are about six ways to prepare (Amla) and each has a different medicinal quality.

I was interested in finding out about the Amla because the McCusker Foundation for Alzheimer’s research in Perth are doing tests with the product which they say does reduce cholesterol and now they want to see if it has an effect on reducing the effects of Alzheimers.

The people staying here are lovely and good fun. There are people from all over the world including England,Holland,Norway,Spain, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, USA and a few from Australia so it is a real league of nations.

Maurice and I do the more energetic yoga session in the morning followed by an hour’s walk then breakfast. We can then relax or read by the river or in the communal area or in our bungalow. We then have lunch and I have a massage treatment which consists of first a very strong head massage followed by being rubbed all over liberally with a medicated oil then pounded with a cloth packed with medicinal powder and rubbed with that, then the two massage girls sprinkle a medicated natural powder all over (front, back and both sides) and rub that in vigourously with their hands. I felt a bit like chicken being basted, rubbed and ready for the oven.

Maurice has his treatment for his sinus problem and arthritis and he felt that it was doing him some good so far.

I went while Maurice was having treatment for a walk along the riverbank to a double storey building with a ticket counter. I paid 200rupees (about $4) to cross the river to the island and for the use of my camera. Down the hill is the bamboo raft which is pulled across the river in a matter of minutes. A lot of school children go over to the island to swim and many Indian tourists go there to see the monkeys which are quiet and not aggressive at all and the hundreds of beautiful blue butterflies. There was a whole family of monkeys sitting on a large boulder in the river.

We both go at 5pm to another yoga/meditation session which is great and the yogi does a lot of visualisation while you are relaxing on the floor with eyes closed . That night he started saying imagine a family of monkeys sitting on a rock and I had said nothing about it yet to anyone. Scary!

Some of the terminology used in the yoga classes is very funny. Meena explained that the terms are translated a bit literally so the yoga instructor told us to relax and listen to the birds “crying” and before we relax we are told to go into the “dead corpse” pose which is lying on your back with legs and arms outstretched. We were told to touch our index finger to our “tongue” (which is what I thought she said) but it didn’t feel right and I opened my eyes to see everyone else have their index finger touching their thumb. They also talk about your “four feet” and I thought we only had two but they meant the upper side of your foot.

The next day Ajith the Indian owner of the complex arrived who is a local but married to a Finnish lady and lives in Finland a lot of the time. He is very unassuming, very gentle and is very dedicated to creating a peaceful healing environment using only organically grown produce. He took a lot of us to his house about 10minutes drive away to see his Brahmin cows which supplied our milk. He said that there were tigers and elephants in the area and that the previous week a tiger came to his neighbours property and killed five cows.

All the herbs and medicinal plants are brought to the Ayurvedic Yoga Villas and you can see them all being chopped and processed.

Sundays only are a special day for food where you can have seconds and there is more variety of food served on banana leaves. The other days you are supplied your food according to what programme you are on.