Early this morning we arrived back to Ongole from our seven week travel around India. The travel has been absolutely amazing and has made me love India even more. Each place is totally different, each with its own culture and things for us to experience.
We went to a total of 15 different places, on nineteen trains, five buses and two flights. Needless to say, it’s been busy! We have calculated that in total we were over 18 hours delayed (this is adding up the very dependable Indian railway, redbus service and one annoying flight).
We started off the holiday in a group with all of our friends and fellow volunteers (minus the Tangatur trio) in Hampi. Here we drove on scooters, swam in waterfalls and saw stunning temples. As we got to know a few of the locals it made me realise how conservative Andhra Pradesh is and they even made fun of us for thinking we should be in our Punjabs! We met two other boys who were also on their gap years traveling who ended up joining us along a lot of the rest of the holiday!
Then onto Goa for a few days before heading to Mumbai. This was the first large city we had explored and it was amazing seeing the energy of the city. Catherine and Emma fell in love with it and have plans to live there in the future!! We also went on a very thought provoking tour of India’s largest slum with a guide who showed us all of the business that happen and a little of the life there. After Mumbai our little group split and we all travelled in our pairs for some time, whilst sometimes overlapping with each other.
Next the two of us tackled Rajasthan in the hottest season of the year. First we went to Udaipur which was stunningly beautiful and ended up bumping into Jack and Archie for a day. After we travelled by a very long (made worse by Catherine being ill) sleeper bus to Jodhpur. Jodhpur – the blue city was lovely, if you ever find yourself there I would recommend the omelettes in the main square! Next was Jaisalmer, we went on a camel safari which was amazing. We trekked in the afternoon before making a camp where we were fed some lovely dal and fell asleep looking at the stars. But due to it being off season as it is too hot for most people to travel it was rather empty and a lot of the restaurants were closed. Our last stop was Jaipur before heading up to Manali. Here we went to a block printing factory where we were taught how to block print and then printed our own design. We tried and failed to get into a cricket match and explored the pink (which should really be called orange) city. Manali wasn’t originally in the beautifully organised spreadsheet which had our holiday plans down to every minute detail, but with temperatures of over 50°C in some areas we ended up changing our plans and heading north to hide from the heat as it was making us ill.
We went to Manali with Archie, Jack, and Harry – who joined us from his gap year travels in China. Manali was one of my favourite places and we ended up staying for 5 days, it was so green and the cold of 18°C reminded me of home when I had to wrap up warm in borrowed jumpers and even had to wear socks under my sandals. We went on treks, water rafted, Harry enjoyed some gaming and we all ended up sprinting a few miles back at night due to traffic, we even watched some of the royal wedding in a small cafe!
We then got a long bus to Delhi where we explored for a day and picked up Catherine’s friend from home – Sophie who came to visit. There was a lot of us in Delhi, as we met up with Luana and Katie who happened to be there the same time, we also got to meet Katie’s lovely Matt. Catherine, Jack, Archie and I went to India’s biggest mosque, but did not actually go in due to the extortionate price of 600 rupee entry fee, so explored a rather intense bazaar. Before all splitting up, the boys to Nepal and us leaving Katie and Luana behind as we headed to Agra to see the Taj Mahal. We also got the best curry of the whole holiday there! We then headed back to Delhi where I spent the day in hospital due to my very infected eye, but after an expensive consultation and a few more tests I got some drugs and assurance that it would get better!
Next stop was Rishikesh, the taxi ride from the airport was an experience, having to argue with the driver about paying for a bridge crossing, him only speaking Hindi and us English… We swam in the Ganges (we were told by a man who was in our hostel dorm that it was good luck to do so on this certain day), did yoga on the roof and explored one day. But best of all was Harry finally getting the hair cut which had been in dire need! Unfortunately, due to my eye and Sophie also being ill we spent one day in bed in the dorm room whilst the others explored. We also spent some time in Khajuraho which is know for its erotic temple art, it was slightly strange to see people carved into stone having sex, but there you have it.
We then had a hellish journey to Varanasi, turns out the train we booked to Varanasi from Khajuraho changed destination so instead only took us half the way, we then had to get three-hour taxi before we finally (12 or so hours later) we made it to Varanasi. Varanasi was one of my favourite places I loved seeing how much a part of life the Ganges are. We took a 4am boat ride which meant we could see much of the life around it, children learning to swim, women doing their washing, we also sore some cremations occurring. We had to say goodbye to Harry who had been traveling with us since Manali before heading off to Darjeeling.
Getting to Darjeeling was also not a smooth a ride. Due to a five-hour delayed train we missed the toy train which should have taken us a scenic route to Darjeeling. This resulted in three slightly moody girls, but all was ok as we got a taxi which ended up being a lot faster. We were reunited with the girls which was lovely, it was nice to travel as a group and catch up on all of our different travel experiences. We did end up getting into a little bit of hotel drama which involved Catherine, Sophie and I getting into a fight with our hotel manager, this was because of the toilet leaking all over the floor, damp walls and rude staff, so after being told to check out we left and ended up stay with Emma and Caitlin in their lovely hotel. We visited a tea plantation and enjoyed being cold again.
Last stop Hyderabad! We had to say goodbye to Sophie who had been travelling with us for the past few weeks as she had a morning flight. As we have friends here it was more a stop to see them over the city, but we did get to visit the biggest mosque there during Ramadan which was interesting to see – a whole market square was taken up by men praying. As we had treated ourselves to a Radisson blu we spend the majority of the first day in the hotel and the pool. But the second we got out to spend a day with our friends (Kalyani’s family), meeting all of the neighbours and even ended up at their local church.
We then got a night train to Ongole where we only have another 48 days. The new school term starts tomorrow so here’s to making the last few weeks amazing and memorable!