Close your eyes and image what a yoga retreat in the Cardamom Hills of southwestern India might look like, smell like, taste like.  What are your feelings, your inner sense as you sit looking out over the dense jungle vegetation, layer after layer of hills and mountains in the distance.  The local equivalent of crickets are buzzing, bird sones you’ve never heard.  The grounds are manicured by local Indian gardeners, Hibiscus, calla lilies, roses.

We took our shoes off to enter a simple building of grey rock, white walls, and orange roof tiles.  We each were offered a wet washcloth soaked in lemongrass oils.  Nest, we drank a “tea” of refreshing ginger, lime, and mint juice.  Our rooms are simple with a balcony and a view out over the tea and spice plantations below.

The food here is strictly vegetarian and the activities include yoga, bird watching, waterfall hikes, spice and tea plantation walks.  This is other worldly beauty, and a deep sense of peace.  We all want to stay for a week, but two nights and two days it is.  And, we will enjoy every minute of it.

Today, we also drove up into the mountains – from sea level to almost 4,000 feet, passing monkeys in the jungles, looking out over spice plantations and waterfalls, stopping to go on an elephant ride, watching women harvest the bright green tea bushes, manicured in rows on the hillside.

Our group is small and congenial – Kylie and me and Megan and David, a young couple.  Megan and David are friends from Southern California, Kylie is from Los Angeles, and I – from Utah.

Tonight we went for a walk through the tea plantations and our tour guide told us all about the process.  We had watched the women trimming the tea bushes, actually harvesting the top bright green leafy layer.  The remaining leaves are a darker green.  So the plant, even though it could become a tree, remains a bush by the harvesting twice a month and then the once-every-three-year pruning to keep the bushes in a bush form.  There are rows between the dense green foliage, where the women who harvest the tea can walk.  They make about $10-$12 dollars a day, which is actually a pretty good salary here for the lower class.  Caste systems, although abolished, still exist in the way people treat each other, the jobs they have, and who they can marry.

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