Health, Healing and Hedonism on India’s East Coast

Beaches, GUEST BLOGGERS, HARVESTING NATURE'S BOUNTY, HEALTH, INDIA, Interesting Towns — By on June 5, 2012 at 01:05

Story by guest blogger Roona. Photos Copyright © Roona.

FOR THE PAST few years, floating along at the mercy of life’s capricious winds, I was despairing of ever bringing my life back to a sense of normalcy and my mind to a state of restfulness. When I set out for Vizag (short for Vishakapatnam City, in the state of Andhra Pradesh, India) with my husband Vj for a six-month stay due to his business projects, I had no clue what to expect—except that the beaches would be lovely and tremendously enjoyable.

What I got out of the experience was so immense, I’m still a little spellbound by its after effects.

Vizag comes across as a very unassuming city: laid-back but secretly keen to play catch up with the bigger, more advanced cities of India, but at the same time not at all devoid of its own sweet charm. A warm and sunny place with the greenest of hills, whitest of sands, blackest of rocks and bluest of waters, I had but one obsession when I got there: to find an apartment by the beach . . . and I did. A scruffy little place in a rather run-down apartment building, but with lovely sea views and the sea breeze blowing unobstructed into our home and keeping us cool on even the hottest day.

Sunrise from our balcony

Sunrise from our balcony


Beach sunrise, Bay of Bengal

Sunrise down on the beach

Although the property owner had done much to refurbish the place before they rented it to us, it still needed some massive cleaning sessions. I set about it with much enthusiasm, swinging the broom, mops and washcloths with a little too much drama! The result was a complete worsening of a niggling, right upper arm pain that I had been neglecting for the last two to three years. It became so bad it stretched up into my neck and down to my palm and fingers, even numbing them. At this point, I completely freaked out and ran to the nearest Ayurvedic clinic.

(Ayurveda is an Indian system of medicine. Treatments are administered with natural products, with no side effects or invasive procedures.)

Temple on the beach at Vizag

A temple across from one of the lonely beaches outside the city


Fishermen on the Bay of Bengal

Early morning sunshine glittering on the waters of the Bay of Bengal

An x-ray revealed that I had early cervical spondylosis and a degenerative disc in my neck. I was totally frustrated because that meant I had to curtail my physical activities and I had been looking forward to taking full advantage of the beautiful outdoors on offer in Vizag. Who knew it would actually turn out be a blessing in disguise?

Ayurvedic medicine—especially the body treatments for various ailments, including bone/spine related disorders—are a pleasure to go through. If you are the type who enjoys spas and massages (and who doesn’t?) then Ayurveda is right up your alley. So, when the doctors prescribed a fourteen-day body treatment package comprised of various kinds of massages and body masks, with an assortment of medicinal packs, powders, milks and oils, I was thrilled! I went ahead and added a daily head and face massage with soft decadent oils to this course of treatment to make it complete and well rounded.

Beach at Vizag

One of my favorite places to sit on the rocks and bask in the
morning sunshine, with the waves playing around my feet


On the beach at Vizag

After a nice, long walk I'm resting on a beached boat,
soaking up some more of the lovely warm sunshine

At the same time, we discovered that if we drove a few miles out of the city, the coastline was truly stunning in its isolated beauty. There were long stretches of water and sands untouched by the grime of public use (unlike the city beaches, which seem to be littered all the time) with small fishing settlements, gracious palms tapped for their palm wine—a deliciously fizzy drink!—maybe a beached fishing boat or two, or hundreds of tiny, salted sardines drying on the beach. 

Coastline at Vizag

The many colors of the coastline


Palm trees

Left: A gracious cluster of palms...just the right place to picnic out of the sun
Right: Had to capture this single beautiful flower framed by the palm trunks


Palm trees on the beach, Vizag

One of these palms gave us some deliciously fizzy palm-wine for a
morning drink, as well as to ferment some rice dough for a lunch dish

I wish I’d thought to take a picture of the guy clambering up and removing the earthen pot from the palm tree in the photo above. The pot would be left there for a while to collect the palm wine (toddy), locally called neera.

Every day, the early morning found us exploring one or the other of these beaches: I enjoying long, long sandy walks, while Vj walked, ran, practiced his yoga on the beach and figured out ways to work out on the rocks. (Yeah! The entire world is a prop for his fitness endeavors!)

Beach footprints and crab

Left: Tracking Vj | Right: Tracking a crab running for its hole


Exercising on the beach

Only a few of the myriad ways that Vj uses the beach for his exercise regimen

After these beach wanderings and breakfast, we would shop for the day’s food: fresh caught fish from the fishing harbor close by home, or farm-fresh vegetables at the not too far city market, or freshly-slaughtered meat or poultry at the nearby butchers. We bought and cooked fresh food every day as we had no refrigerator in the apartment. Although it was a lot of effort, it was definitely worth it!

After shopping, while Vj went to work, I spent an hour in the morning at the clinic getting my massages and then back home for a shower, cooking, lunch and a nap. Evenings were for exploring the city, occasionally downing beers and grilled meats from the beach-side vendors while sitting on our balcony, or simply lazing on the beach across from home.

The Bay of Bengal shoreline

Rocky shoreline


Clinging to the rocks

Is that edible sea food, I wonder?!

The massages not only helped alleviate my aches and pains but also did much to perk up my mind and body wellness. Even after the completion of my treatment, we continued our healthy and enjoyable activities. When it came time to leave, I felt extraordinarily rejuvenated and intensely calm.

It was the calmness I had missed the most. In fact, it had been so bad that when I returned home to Ahmedabad, I waited for the sense of well-being to evaporate and for me to relapse into living in a constant state of restlessness. However, two months down the line, I am still waiting. . . .

———-

Roona

Roona

ROONA has lived and worked in India and the United States and recently moved back to India. In the process of settling down in her home country, she continues to miss her life in the USA. On the other hand, for the first time in her life she has an opportunity to focus on her one true passion: writing. She blogs at IndiaRepat and Aesara Says.

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    11 Comments

  • Estrella Azul
    Twitter: EstrellaAzul
    says:

    Oh wow, what an amazing place, Roona. I love love love all the pictures and your descriptions!
    It’s funny to read it right now after a day of bad headaches. I also have cervical spondylosis… and wish there was Ayurvedic medicine here as well. Going to Google search it now, maybe I’ll get lucky :)

    • Roona says:

      Thanks Estrella! I am glad you liked the article n I hope you get access to Ayurvedic medicines…CS sure is a pain in the neck…literally and otherwise!

  • Ann
    Twitter: AnnHolly
    says:

    What an incredible place and the treatment sounds delightful! Thanks for sharing such an out-of-the-way place in India (at least to me!)

    • Roona says:

      Thanks Ann…it was kind of an out of the way place for me too…doubt I would’ve ever made it there if it were not for hubby’s business!

  • Al McCartan says:

    Roona
    you’ve done it again – taken this armchair traveller away from the India of bazaars,Bollywood, crowded cities, cricket and elephants. I’m sitting here day-dreaming of me slurping on a Palm Wine and steaming some crabs. As a teenager and draftee, I used to listen to the stories from the ‘old sweats’ – ex-British and Indian Army vets from WW2. This was different and enjoyable – I hope Vj is fitter rom the experience.
    Cheers
    Al

    • Roona says:

      Thanks Al! Now you have me longing for palm-wine – some freshly tapped bubbly is sorely needed in Ahmedabad! – glad to write about the not so well known parts of India!

  • Betsyv
    Twitter: betsy_v
    says:

    Hi Roona,
    Wow! This place sounds like heaven on earth!.. Lovely photos.
    I wish my husband got sent to places like this, instead of Kansas City…lol
    Thank you for taking me to a place I may never experience without this beautiful article!

  • Bloggoneit
    Twitter: bloggoneit
    says:

    Ayurveda treatments sound like they would fit my lifestyle perfectly.

    I had the same issue as you with the pain in my neck, down through my arm and numbness in certain fingers. I was diagnosed with a pinched nerve. After taking the nastiest drug out there, I am cured but would rather have done things more naturally. I tried chiropractic care but it did not work.

    Your article makes me want to visit India. A childhood friend of mine goes there at least once a month — he goes there to work in Mumbai.

  • Judith Shaw says:

    Beautiful photos, great description. Another destination on our “Have to Visit” list. One question: What is the object Vj is waving over his head in photos of his workouts? At first I thought it was a snake…now I just don’t know.

  • Kayla says:

    I have been feeling really run down as of late and looking to get away. Having read this I think that somewhere like this could actually be the ideal place for me to go for a long month away to really recharge. I need to get myself rested up and am not one to use a mainstream option.

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