On our trip to Southeast Asia in 1999-2000, we met several fellow travellers who told us that if we had enjoyed the temples and ruins of Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos, we should visit India. We were told it would be 'hard travelling', so we decided we had better make this trip sooner rather than later. We had a great time and we didn't find the travelling hard at all, outside of the occasional small glitches. If you ever contemplate touring India, go for it. There is something for everyone. You can travel very inexpensively, as we did, or you can choose a more luxurious mode of travel by travelling first class, hiring a car and driver and staying in more upscale hotels.
We travelled relatively lightly, with backpacks from Mountain Equipment Co-op that have a zip off day pack, open up with zippers for easy access and convert to suitcases for airplane travel. We had a good map of India and using the advice of friends, a Fodor's India guidebook with a star system for main attractions and the Lonely Planet guidebook, we marked up places of interest with sticky paper dots. These dots got rearranged as our trip progressed. Some were eliminated and others were added as we read more in our guide books and listened to other travellers. For the most part we travelled by local bus or in second class coach in the train. Many times we were the only non-Indian travellers on the bus or train car. We stayed in small budget hotels and ate in roadside restaurants. We drank only bottled water and ate a mostly vegetarian diet, usually freshly prepared for us. Yes, we did suffer from 'Delhi Belly' a few times, but we recovered quickly after a day of rest. We found the Indian people friendly and helpful and quite conversant in English, which was a big help. All in all a great trip. We hope some day to return and visit some of the places we missed this time and to spend more time in some of our favourite spots.
After trekking in Nepal, Ray and Jeanne flew to Varanasi, India on November 6, 2000 to begin three months of backpacking throughout the country. We travelled west from Varanasi to Agra (of Taj Mahal fame), skipping Delhi due to the reported hassles, and toured throughout Rajasthan, including a three day camel safari. From Rajasthan, we travelled all over Gujarat and consider ourselves lucky to have seen so much of this state just one month prior to the horrific earthquake. We assume much of what we saw and admired is lost forever under piles of rubble. From Gujarat, we travelled to the Ajanta and Ellora caves, visited Mumbai (Bombay), spent more than a week in Goa, and explored the ruins of Hampi. We continued south to Mysore and the hill station towns of Madikeri and Uthagamandalam (Ooty) to do some hiking. After visiting the city of Madurai, we returned to the west coast to explore Cochin and the canals of Kerala. The finale before flying home from Trivandrum on February 11, 2001 was a week on the beach at Varkala.
link to our Camel Safari operator in Bikaner, Rajastan: www.vinodesertsafari.com
Jeanne sent emails home from the various Internet cafes describing their trip. There are eight Episodes for the trip and a selection of photos for each.
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