03 Oct

Written by Shem on October 3, 2012

India has always been one of those countries I have been salivating to go to because a) my mother’s family are originally from there and b) because every person I’ve met who has had the pleasure of visiting, has told me that India is… in a word… crazy. And I love crazy! But not necessarily crazy bad, just a land where all your senses are assaulted all at once! I thought I would be ‘getting my chi on’ and finding serenity and inner peace but after just a week in crazy India, my body was a broken mess!

I have been planning to visit this magical land for the best part of 4 years now but always finding excuses to put it off. However this year I was determined to go because I promised myself that before I’m 30 I would do it, and I’m 30 this year so my ‘travel extravaganza clock’ was ticking very loudly! I would be going on my own but figured that a tour group would be an easy option. If you’re a little lazy like me and struggle with navigating yourself around a new country, then booking onto an organized tour could be a winner. Yes you may pay more a little more than you would if travelling solo, but in my opinion you get a lot for your money. I have travelled with tour companies before and vowed on a few occasions to never do it again due to be amazingly ripped off in China, however after some research and weighing up pros and cons, I found G Adventures to be the best option for me.

I booked this particular tour for 15 days from Delhi to Kathmandu through STA Travel who I have booked all my travel holidays with for years now. I would like to say I am brave enough to throw myself into the middle of India and Forest Gump my way around, but I’m not. I needed someone to make me get up and move and dazzle me with the culture and history without having to worry whether my bag will be stolen on the 14 hour journey sleeper train! Some may argue that supervision takes all the fun out of the adventure and I would be inclined to agree with you. However don’t let my 90s styled Fresh Prince of Bel-Air haircut fool you, I am a fragile delicate explorer!

G Adventures made my trip. As did our tour leader Bhu! There should be an app for Bhu as without him we would have been lost, dazed and confused on many occasions. We were a group of 15 from all over the world spanning from Switzerland to Norway to Australia and to Ireland. Everyday was jam packed with activities with no rest for the wicked/sweaty faced westerners. The sights were incredible from the astounding architecture of palaces and forts to the horrendous poverty stricken towns we passed through. Jaipur was one of the cities where settling into a tuk-tuk for a trip down the road possibly meant you could also die! There are no road rules in India. Whoever beeps their horn the loudest gets the right of way, and watch out for the cows aimlessly walking in the middle of the road.

It was uneasy at times to ignore the requests and blatant poking from those less fortunate than us. At times I felt I was in a campaign ad for Comic Relief. You wanted to turn around and give them all your money because you couldn’t stand watching them beg, but it was also evident that this was not always helpful as the money at times wasn’t even going to those who needed it. There were touts and street hustlers trying to earn a quick rupee from the naïve tourists, but we soon toughened up and would find saying ‘no’ was a lot less hassle.

One of my highlights of India was of course the Taj Mahal. I have seen this image many times but being there was amazing. Of course I took my mandatory “Princess Diana” photo (that looked far from regal!) as well as posing for numerous photos with the local tourists. Apparently my Black skin and ridiculous hairstyle was somewhat of a novelty! At times the constant stares, shouts of ‘Bob Marley sister!’ and obvious video recording whilst I walked down the street would really wind me, but then I had to appreciate that it wasn’t intentionally done with malice or rudeness. Some folks in India have just never seen someone like me before.

The food was exquisite! The spices and aromas wooed me all day long, but my body was not immune to ‘Delhi Belly’ so McDonalds for one night only was a welcomed rest from the curries I had been sampling. The weather was indeed intense even in monsoon season. Stepping out of our air-conditioned hotels after a shower and fresh set of clothes was completely pointless, as 2 minutes later we would be dripping in sweat from the humidity and sun. My body was in a constant state of uncomfortable sticky heat but moaning was of course ineffective. I did it anyway. I am British after all!

Travelling as a group was fun but also the clash of personalities soon reared its ugly head! But then I guess you would get this travelling with most strangers for 2 weeks. However I did make some good friends and laughed a great deal as we trekked our way through city to city before we hit the border to Nepal. The must see’s in my opinion were Taj Mahal in Agra, the cinema in Jaipur to watch a Bollywood film, sleeping in deluxe tents in Orcha and of course visiting the holy city of Varanasi and taking a boat ride on the Ganges.

Have I satisfied my itching for the motherland India? Hell no! The country is so vast that there are lots more to see and do. If only I had the funds to shoot off again for a spot of vagabonding!

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