Part One….the Yoga

After a 1.30am start, 18 hours’ flight time, two manic lollops through Charles de Gaulle and Sao Paolo’s Duty Free zones (scattering perfume and giant Toblerones in a dash to connect with ongoing flights), I arrive in Brasilia.

Let’s get ready to yoga.

I meet my fellow yoga gals and we pile into shared cabs for a three-hour long journey north to the edge of Chapada Veadeiros and our hillside retreat – a large adobe villa that comes complete with tarantulas and hippies. There is danger and tofu wherever I look. What there isn’t is alcohol, fags or twiddling about with the virtual world. I gird my loins for random sharing and possible weeping.

Get your hair out of my kitchen!

Everything in the retreat is open plan – we can wander hither and thither, thinking, sharing, being – yeah! But – we’re banned from the kitchen for hygiene reasons. If we do feel the urge to stick the kettle on at 5am in the morning for an invigorating mug of boiling water, we have to wrap our head turban style to prevent loose hairs getting into the cabbage. As I’m permanently moulting, I take this as a sign from the Gods of Vegan to keep the hell out.

The shala is where we do our yoga. Three sides of the shala are open to the elements which means we share our practice with the birds (in the morning) and the chicadas (in the evening). At our opening ceremony we gather in the shala to get ‘smudged’ with sage leaves and to burn our ‘intentions’. This is less painful than it sounds. We have a mini post-it note bonfire then join in a spot of low wailing, and then there’s a kerfuffle involving a disorientated cricket who has probably got blown off course by the didgeridoo and rainstick symphony that we’re all grooving to (I use the word ‘grooving’ in a loose way as we’re actually lying comatose).

‘You are exactly where you need to be’. Yeah, in agony!

Twice a day we converge on the shala for our vinyasa and yin classes. We omm a lot and sit in tangled agony while trying to ‘let go’. No one trumps. This I find surprising because during our retreat we are sustained by a lot of beans and wind-inducing plant life. The kitchen hippies throw in a few cheese balls here and there (cheese balls are big in Brazil) but it’s not real cheese and the ‘milk’ has been squeezed from a cashew nut. In between yoga, we explore the surrounding countryside, splash around in waterfalls and swim in deliciously dark water holes. There are toucans in the trees and snails the size of cricket balls slithering across the road.

One day, I ramble five kilometres to the nearest beauty spot. It’s pretty scorchio so by the time I get there, my head is a big, red hot blob and my pants need wringing out. There are a few Brazilian tourists hanging around laughing and splashing. They appear to be holding their heat better than me. They are very casual in their tiny briefs and flip-flops, even the lardy ones. One man is so casual he’s eating a sandwich and admiring the idyllic view while having his back spots squeezed by his girlfriend. Nice!

It’s a jungle out there

Down town is hippy town

When we’re not down at the waterholes admiring Brazilian bottoms, we’re sampling the delights of the nearby town. The whole area lies on a bed of crystal which apparently, gives it ‘special’ energies (there have been several alien sightings). We amble up the main street with its parade of shops selling dreamcatchers and cardboard cut-outs of ET. We marvel at the bank that has no cash in its ATM because it keeps getting raided by the crystal meth brigade, and compete to try and find a single shop assistant that speaks English. We fail. Thank the lord for Google Translate!

Every evening we do our yin which basically means bending bits of us backwards and then holding it until the point of dislocation. I spend most of this class with my nose squashed sideways into the mat while the sweat runs down my cheek into my mouth. After that, we gorge ourselves on a feast of green things and then retire to our forest chalets hoping that nothing undesirable has crawled into our underwear while we’ve been out.

By the end of the week we have bonded – there have been tears, screaming (at spiders mostly), and lots of deep, meaningful conversations. I have been ‘ridden’ by one of the retreat masseurs and let everything go in an episode of ecstatic dancing. Time to move on…..