Growing up in the west, the concept of monsoon is hard to fathom. It’s hard to imagine that it rains for months and then it’s dry for the rest of the year. In India, this is life, and the monsoon is a time to sow your seeds. While most would consider this time of year the off-season, I find that this is the best time to visit a place in its natural state. Whether it’s the mountains, the beaches, or even a quick weekend getaway, the Indian monsoon brings more than meets the eye.
Up in the hills, the sound of raindrops on the tin roof wakes me up. A rooster is crowing outside in the garden. I walk over to the window and see the moon beaming from behind the clouds. The sky is painted in fuschia coloured clouds and morning is on its way. I retreat back inside the mosquito net and drift off again. The melodic spatter of rainfall fades into white noise. When morning does come, I head downstairs to find that the rain has cleared but the ubiquitous fog has crept in.
It’s September in the mountains, and this is life in the clouds. The family I am staying with has made me breakfast on the fire. They’ve been generously feeding me with fresh ingredients from their yield. During the rains the hills come alive with lush foliage. While the vegetation thrives, life slows down a notch. I’m in a small village in Uttrakhand and the nearest road is a two-day hike from here. This is where glaciers turn into rivers and the water is safe to drink from the waterfall.
In the hills, the land beneath your feet is constantly moving. Landslides are a real danger in these parts, but rather than fear, I only see love. When a village is struck by the worst, neighbouring villages come together to offer support. It’s a true act of humanity to see what can be achieved and rebuilt. When it all comes undone.
Such an occurrence is a lesson in permanence. When the earth beneath you moves, it’s easy to understand that nothing is constant. While the world takes shape around you, it is still a time for stillness. Many flock to the mountains in search of spirituality and seek out havens for meditation. When I first arrived, someone told me, if you stay long enough, the trees will talk to you. I’m not sure if I stayed long enough, but I do believe the trees have deep-rooted wisdom.
While I looked at a tree on the edge of a cliff, with the backdrop of the snow capped Himalayas, I could only imagine what it might have experienced, a lifetime dancing in the wind and stretching towards the sun. This is the type of thought experiment that can bring you closer to your centre.
If you would prefer to be at seal level, Goa is tranquil during the monsoon. While Goa is considered one of the most liberal places in India, beaming with nightlife and sunny beaches, during the monsoon, it’s a different scene altogether. If you travel between June and September, you can experience Goa, as the Goans do. Imagine sitting and watching the hypnotic waves on a stormy day, from the comfort of a bamboo cafe. Though most beachside places are skeleton staffed or closed, you will be sure to find gems that are operational year-round.
Naturally, Goa has much more to offer than just beaches. Consider taking a trip to the Mandovi River. Far inland, near the Karnataka border, you’ll find Dudhsagar Falls. During the dry season it is not particularly spectacular. Yet, if you take a trip during the rains, Dudhsagar Falls transforms into a raging four-tier phenomena. If you are arriving in Goa by train, consider booking the Amaravathi Express, which passes over the falls.
In case you only have a short time in India, and you are only in and out of a major hub like Bombay, you can still find gems such as Matheran. It is a hill station developed during the British occupation of India as a place to beat the heat. Only an hour away from Mumbai, and one of the only places in India where cars are strictly prohibited, Matheran will offer unbelievable vantage points to soak in the beauty of nature. This is the perfect place for a weekend rejuvenation. Since vehicles aren’t used, the hills can be explored on foot or horseback. On a recent visit, I set out for a walk on the red mud trails in my gumboots. Eventually I shed my rain gear and opted to go bare feet. I don’t see why people would ever pay for a mud bath in a spa, when you can find the real treatment at the source!