Sunday, June 26, 2011

My Solo Meditation Retreat Near Babaji's Cave in Kukuchina

Solo Meditation Retreat Near Babaji's Cave

After three days of austerity at the Pandavkholi Dharamshala, at the top of the hill where Babaji's cave is located, I decided that I needed a bit more of comfort.

So I made my way back down to Kukuchina and stayed for more than twenty days, from the 1st of June until the 23rd, in a small cozy cottage at Joshi Guest House.

If you are visiting Babaji's cave, then Joshi Guest House is the perfect place to spend a few nights and to do your own meditation retreat in the Himalayas


My solo meditation retreat near Babaji's cave in Kukuchina


I had a fantastic daily routine during my stay at Joshi Guest House.

I spent my days doing meditation, pranayama, kriya yoga, hatha yoga, reading, and from time to time I would visit Babaji's cave which was just about one hour walk from the cottage.

The location was perfect for my sadhana and the good thing is that I was also able to have breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the guesthouse.

Every day I would get my meals at the same time so that I could continue with my practices without interruption.

But to be honest, the last five days I got a bit distracted during the evenings.  When I arrived there was a nice guy from Kolkata staying at the guesthouse.  He copied his 140 GB of movies into my hard drive.

The temptation was too big.  Lol.  It is is not so easy to be disciplined when you are not staying in an ashram.

So I spent a few hours watching, “How I Met Your Mother” (an American comedy show).  I watched the whole season one! And probably, if I would have had the other seasons I would have watched them all!  Lol.

I also watched several movies: King's speech, 300, The Incredible Hulk, Bourne Ultimatum and Star Wars Episode V.

I know, I know, not so “spiritual’ but it was fun, and watching movies also helps me to put things in perspective.  You know, I don't want to take life too seriously.

I also spent several hours on the internet to continue updating my blog.  I do consider that part of my sadhana though, since I am sharing my journey with other seekers.

But, like I said before, all this happened only during my last five days in Kukuchina.  The rest of the time I was really focused on my sadhana, spending most of my days on my own and in silence.

By the way, talking about movies...

There is a scene at the beginning of The Incredible Hulk where Bruce Banner (the Hulk) is training in Brazil with a Jiu-Jitsu master. 

This Jiu-Jitsu master is actually a real character, Rickson Gracie.  He is a worldwide famous Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu fighter.

Rickson Gracie is teaching Bruce how to control his breathing using the diaphragm.  By controlling his breath he could control his emotions, like anger, to avoid becoming “The Hulk.”

During this scene, Gracie shows techniques known in yoga as Kapalabhati, Bhastrika, and Nauli.

I think it's pretty awesome since it is actually real advice from a real person. That's my favorite scene in the movie.

So, what was I talking about..? Oh yeah...


About Joshi Guest House in Kukuchina


Mr. Girish Chandra Joshi
Mr. Joshi

Joshi is a very friendly Indian guy who owns a restaurant, Joshi Restaurant, though it doesn't look like a restaurant at all.

Joshi Restaurant

Joshi Restaurant


But behind and above, following the shape of a small hill, lies his guesthouse that has several nice and comfortable rooms for visitors.

Joshi Guesthouse

Joshi Guesthouse rooms


The highlights of his guesthouse are a couple of cozy cottages and the breathtaking view.

Amazing view of the Himalayas
View of the Himalayas

View after heavy rain


There is also a large meditation room with photos of the kriya yoga masters, Mahavatar Babaji, Lahiri Mahasaya, Sri Yukteswar, Paramahansa Yogananda and many other famous yogis.

The first three days I stayed at the cottage on top of the hill and then I moved to the smallest one. They are both really nice but I preferred the small one.... for a while.

There is actually a third cottage but it is out of use. It needs a lot of maintenance and I don't see this happening in the near future.

The small cottage, that you can see at the beginning of this article, has the shape of an octagon (I think this is the first time in my life that I use this word).  It's about 5sq meters in size. Well, that's just my estimation, who knows how accurate it is.

The outside walls are made of bricks and on the inside, the walls are adorned with cane wood.

The floor is made of stone and on the pyramidal-shaped wooden roof there are four small windows through which you can see the stars during the night, but when it hails you just cross your fingers hoping that the thin glass is not going to break.

There is also a fireplace, but I never used it. A Russian couple that stayed before me told me that it just didn't work, all the smoke stays inside.

The bathroom and shower are outside the cottage.

inside cottage

inside cottage


So yes, it is pretty nice but unfortunately, it is also very comfortable for insects.

Every time that I switched off the lights to go to sleep at night it seemed that the walls came back to life.  Everything started moving around.  Luckily I had my own mosquito net to avoid any unwanted guests on my bed.

At least the fireflies were nice to see in the dark.

With the lights on, I saw many big black hairy spiders and even a scorpion.   I prefer the scorpion though.  It was always right on the same spot. 

The spiders are scarier when you see them, but the scorpions are scarier when you don't see them; if you know they are somewhere around.

The scorpion in my room

One of the many spiders


After the first week, I started using earplugs to be able to sleep during the night, the sound of the insects was driving me crazy. Lol.

Tiny alien
A tiny alien on my window! Lol


The other cottage, where I stayed for the first three days, is not so "exotic" but it is also very nice and comfortable, though from the outside it is not so attractive.

cottage


The inside walls are not covered in wood but instead with a nice red brownish color and the floor is just concrete so fewer insects to worry about.

There is a small bathroom with a sink, toilet, and a tap to take a nice cold bucket shower. There is a second level actually, an attic but I never used it.

Oh yes, by the way, there is no hot water available but if you really need it Joshi will heat up some water on his fire stove.

Overall I think Joshi Guest House is a nice comfortable place to stay.  You get everything that you might need to just relax, enjoy the surroundings and to do your own retreat.


Around Kukuchina


There is nothing in Kukuchina, just Joshi's place and a small tea shop at the beginning of the path that leads to Babaji's cave.

You can find only very basic things like soap, a few cookies, and water but if you need more things like fruits then you need to go to the Dwarahat market which is about 45 minutes by shared taxi.

If you stay at Joshi's place he will provide you with homemade breakfast, lunch, and dinner so nothing to worry about.

Since I like to have fruits for my breakfast Joshi used to buy fruits for a week for me at the market. It was all very convenient.

The homemade food was ok.  It has its good days and bad days, but after more than twenty days, I really needed a change.


How to reach Joshi Guest House in Kukuchina


This is the route that I followed from Rishikesh:

  • From Rishikesh take a public bus from the main bus stop to Haridwar. (45 min)
  • From Haridwar take the night train to Kathgodam which leaves every day at 00h15. There is only one train per day.
  • From Kathgodam take a shared taxi to Ranikhet (4 hours) and from Ranikhet, another shared taxi to Dwarahat (3 hours). The shared taxi from Kathgodam up to Dwarahat should be around 250 or 300 rupees.
  • Once you reached the Dwarahat market you'll need to take another shared taxi to Kukuchina (50 minutes) for about 25 rupees. This is the last stop by car.

Joshi's contact information


If you would like to stay at Joshi's guesthouse just call him to his number +91 94 11 318540 or reach him by email at joshipayingguest@gmail.com

Update 2019:  Today Joshi's son, Amit Joshi, is also working on the business.  Thanks to him, now they even have a social media presence.

You can connect with them via their InstagramFacebook page and even Twitter accounts.

And you can easily locate them in google maps:

Joshi Guest House
Kukuchina, Dunagiri,
Kukuchina,
Uttarakhand 263653,
India
+91 84749 65741
https://g.page/JoshiGuestHouse


A month between Kukuchina and Dwarahat.


In total, I spent about one month in this region.

First, ten days at the Yogoda Satsanga Sakha Ashram, from where I visited Mahavatar Babaji's cave for the first time.

Then three days in Pandavkholi and finally twenty-three days at Joshi's guesthouse in Kukuchina.

I made a video that summarizes all this journey in less than four minutes.  Don't expect too much though.  It's a very simple video that I recorded and edited on an iPhone 4.




Travel Tips for Kukuchina


Depending on the time of the year, the weather can a bit cold in Kukuchina and especially at Pandavkholi.  So make sure you bring some winter clothes and perhaps also a sleeping bag.

All over India, it gets warmer during monsoon season starting April till August.  Then it starts to cool down from September until March next year.

January and February are the coldest months, and June and July the hottest months of the year.

You already know my story with bugs, so you might also like to bring your own mosquito net as well.

For more tips, I suggest you visit my detailed packing list for India. This list includes every single item that you might need to travel around India.

To avoid spending too much money on credit card transactions or ATM withdrawals I always recommend TransferWise.

I normally use it to pay for my accommodation or yoga courses, and also for withdrawing money.  You might be able to use it to pay for your stay at Joshi's guesthouse.

I hope you've enjoyed reading this story and that you've also found it helpful to plan your next pilgrimage into this region.  Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.


Going back to civilization


I really wanted to stay longer at this amazing location but unfortunately, the bug situation was a bit too much for me.

As the days passed the weather was getting warmer and warmer.  We were right on the monsoon season.

It seems that the warmer weather was attracting more and more bugs.

During the day everything was absolutely perfect.  The problem for me was during the night.

I could see hundreds of insects flying against the glass of the window, trying to enter my little cottage because of the light inside.

Day by day I started to feel more and more tense when going to sleep.

A couple of times I woke up in the middle of the night and I imagined seeing big hairy spiders hanging inside of my mosquito net.  Lol.

So I decided that it was time for me to go back to “civilization.” Besides, I also needed a change of diet.

A bit sad to leave, I made the fourteen hours journey back to Rishikesh.

Once in Rishikesh, I stayed at the Parmarth Niketan Ashram where I joined a four weeks intensive yoga course.


Solo Meditation Retreat in the Himalayas

11 comments:

  1. Ha ha, my father said it looks like an insect from Star Wars :-)

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  2. how much costs perday in that cottage

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    1. I paid Rs 750/ which included , stay breakfast, tea ,a bottle of mineral water and dinner. It appeared Jossie is not very strict in money matters. He made nice Poha for breakfast , Roti 5/6 nos dhall subji. Since i was a south indian he made a special rasam which was heavenly. I asked Jossie where he learnt the art of cooking so delicious items he just laughed off.

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  3. Hi Sai Pavan, I think it was something like 500 rupees per day but I'm not certain.

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  4. Hi Marco,

    Thanks for all of the detailed information about your journey. I found it very useful on my own pilgrimage to the Babaji Cave. What an amazing place and vibe.

    Joshi is a very accommodating and charismatic host with a big smile permanently expressed on his face. In the beginning, the food was basic as you've written but with just a few purchases on my own from the market like beautiful fresh cauliflower and cucumbers with dahi for raita and the meals quickly became much more interesting.

    At the time I visited, August 2013, the room rates started at 500 rupees per night for a basic room with hot water bucket provided. I was very happy to stay there for about five nights and then I returned to Almora where I am renting a cottage by the month.

    Since you have shared so much of your journey, I will share my little secret, only once, only here. I have been staying in a cottage in Almora surrounded by trees in the jungle. It's a dream place for yogis looking for a quiet and peaceful place for meditation and sadhana in the Himalaya.

    Here is the link to the website: Tranquility Retreat -- http://tranquility-retreat.com/

    The cottages have well-equipped kitchens and are very affordable by month or by day. You can cook on your own or they can cook for you -- Kishan makes excellent pizzas and Armelle prepares delicious soups.

    The area is surrounded by wonderful walks -- I've just returned from gathering a little firewood to stoke in my fireplace tonight and viewing the reflection of a pinkish sunset on the majestic snow-capped Himalayan peaks. In fact, I do a lot of walking here as it's not too near to the main road, so it's one place in India that you do NOT hear horns or any road sounds.

    Tranquility is a great place for quiet retreat and not for those who travel with speakers or musical instruments to blast loud music. Tranquility is a place for peace and quiet.

    Thanks again for all of your useful writing -- what a great blog!!!

    Om Nama Shivaya

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  5. Oh thank you so much for sharing your little secret, I'm sure lots of people will find your information very useful including myself if I ever decide to travel to that area, sounds amazing really. Too bad you didn't share your name.
    Om Namah Shivaya!!!

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  6. Hi Marco,

    Sorry, I knew I left something out. My name is Ken.

    Hope you have a nice time in Sri Lanka and make some cool new discoveries to share with your readers.

    One last warning about Tranquility, once you check in, you may not ever want to leave. That's currently my problem.

    Peace.... Om Nama Shivaya

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  7. Hi Ken, there is some yoga teachers aroun almora?

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  8. Hi, Nice post but as far as my experience is concerned, to me Joshi appeared to be a selfish & greedy person. When I visited in 2012, he did not allow me to stay saying that accommodation is not vacant but he was accommodating others who were visiting without prior intimation. He also misbehaved with me in a threatening tone. May be, being a foreigner, you were given a nice treatment but he is not that good, which was also told to be by others who have visited between 2012 to date

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    1. I'm sorry to hear about your experience. I had no issues with him in the twenty days I stayed there, and I've never heard any negative feedback about him before. Regardless I hope you were able to visit the cave and enjoy your pilgrimage.

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