By Wendy G.
It’s amazing how quickly you adapt. At home you would be horrified and shocked if your taxi driver had to swerve to avoid a cyclist, pedestrian, oncoming traffic and a cow in quick succession, especially if you had no doors! After one week you apparently can take it in your stride without blinking.
Also you blithely risk life and limb by walking along the pitted road to avoid the holes, hawkers, cow poo and other excrement on the foot path. Happily weaving your way in front of trucks and buses confident that they will somehow manage to avoid hitting you. You even allow perfect strangers to cover you in powdered dye from head to toe, smiling and laughing all the while. This is the power of India.
When you open your eyes to the humanity you find a happy, patient, if not persistent, people who find joy in Bollywood movies, crazy festivals and welcoming the world to their amazing country.
Every day Amanda and I were there we had amazing experiences.
Our tour group consisted of a bunch of experienced travellers and we all enjoyed lots of fun and laughs.
- Smiling Penny and Cricket loving Margaret (with a very dry wit) , a daughter and mother from Bundaberg.
- Mick the atypical (in a good way) accountant from Newtown who had just finished a base camp trek and has now “racked up a ton” of countries visited when he travelled to Bhutan after our tour.
- Amber and Misty , sisters from either side of the US. Happy and funny who take everything and everybody in their stride.
- Chris and Chris who are an awesome couple from the US and Germany and now living in Hollywood. So much in love and so helpful in suggesting where to go and what to see.
- Lenora a pilot tester, aerobatic pilot and part-time sommelier (my drinking buddy), her daughter Kim and engineer who has just racked up a year in Qatar and nephew Mason, a landscaper from Canada.
- Mariana is also a Canadian from the East Coast ever smiling and easygoing.
- Kelly the invisible American from San Francisco and last but not least Francesca- always on the hunt for the perfect hotel room, incessant questioner and occasional photo bomber.
- All led by “Our Fearless Leader ” Varun. When I say fearless I mean he doesn’t give a shit!
Luckily our group had a good idea of how to find out where to go and what was worth seeing so we managed to mostly make our own way around and had lots of fun doing it.
The highlights in India were “Holi”, a free for all Colour Festival, in Jaipur. You have to run the gauntlet through a bunch of friendly (and some extra friendly!) locals and come out looking like a Streets rainbow Paddle Pop.
Amber Fort which is an amazing 16th Century Palace reminiscent of an Escher painting with lots of tunnels stairs and windows built for the benefit of the Emperor, his wives and hundreds of concubines.
The Taj Mahal (of course) WOW, what an amazing story of devotion and love with a little bit of sibling rivalry thrown in (some things never change).
Orchha was a respite from the hustle and bustle where the pace is slower and gentler. We had a great time playing cricket (badly) with the very cute village kids. I was lucky that the stumps (aka sticks in the ground) kept falling over so it was impossible to bowl me out! However the result was that India roundly defeated Australia yet again.
Varanasi is the India you expect, a chaotic , noisy ancient city on the Ganges which has evolved over the millenia. It seems to have more people, more insane drivers, more cows and narrower streets than anywhere else. It is known as the top place to come to die for Hindus and you get the feeling that they want to go out with a bang. I admit to succumbing to the charms of a silk merchant and have a large(ish) parcel being posted home. What can you do when the entice you with Silk and Sprite!?
Nepal was a breath of fresher but still quite smoggy air. It’s just easier … to communicate, walk in the street and interpret a menu. We had a great guide at Lumbini, Buddha’s birthplace who clearly explained the philosophy and history of Buddhism.
Chitwan was our nature fix. Despite a jeep, walking and elephant safari the tigers proved very elusive. The closest we came was finding some paw prints.I’ll leave it to Amanda to explained how she acquired Elephant Stubble Rash on her inner thighs! Every morning seemed to be a pre dawn start for one reason or another. Pokhara was no different when we drove up for sunrise over the Annapurna Range. I thought I’d choose the less adventurous “gentle” walk back down from the lookout. I learned that I’m in no fit state to do an Everest trek . I have decided that the jelly legs and the breathlessness as I struggled down the scrambled, rocky steps are a result of altitude and not my advancing years. You believe that, don’t you? The much younger,”20 something” Amanda also chose the 2 minutes of Adrenalin on a zip line followed by a celebratory afternoon in the lakeside pub.
A national strike (on a Sunday?) made the final bus ride to Kathmandu a lot easier and quicker. We had lunch in a quirky restaurant of many different levels perched on a cliffside overlooking the river.
The struggle for the final pre dawn rising was truly worthwhile. The flight over the Himalayas and Mount Everest. It started a bit hazy but Everest and Lotse were as clear as a bell. We even spotted a few Yetis ( That’s the story we are going with). One hour of pure awesome (WOW).
When I try to decide what I liked best I couldn’t really pick. Every day was a different experience and even the quieter bus days were a chance for a chat and a giggle. I loved it all, especially having such a great travelling buddy and occasional IT expert for her technologically challenged aunt.
Thank you so much Amanda for inspiring me, in your 30 challenge year, to complete a goal that I have had for over 20 years.
What did you think of Wendy’s contribution to the list? Let us know in the comments below!