What can you do when you´re healing from a hernia rupture and are ordered to only lay down all day? Watching TV, exactly! That´s what I did, almost 9 years ago on said dull December day when I came across a documentary called Jeremy Piven´s Journey Of A Lifetime.
I was always intrigued by the idea of India. You know, the bold colors, spice markets, the Bollywood culture and Hindu temples. I even planned on going on a backpack tour with a college friend. One of us was always too busy, so we never made it during Spring which is the best time to travel to India. Right then and there, watching Jeremy Piven travel the country I always wanted to explore, I decided to just book a trip the upcoming year.
And that´s what I did. I found INTREPID TRAVEL, a British-Australian travel company that offers amazing small group tours worldwide. That´s exactly what I was looking for. A group of like-minded people who are looking for a very true-to-local-life experience. I booked a two-week-round-trip for March/April with the group and an extended few days in Goa just by myself. Such a badass, I know :)
Intrepid Travel doesn´t offer the exact same trip anymore but I will do my best to list every stop of the trip. From that moment on, I read every book I could get my fingers on about India, Indian customs and culture. Still, nothing, really nothing prepares you for the culture shock you experience as soon as you set foot on the Delhi airport. If not for the books that prepped me at least good enough, I might have returned right then and there. And when you already wonder about the crappy photos, I am truly sorry. At that time, I only had a small point-and-shoot camera and can only provide those little collages instead of large beautiful images. I guess, it fits the purpose though. India is rough and dirty and then again so very pretty and breathtaking…
Back to DELHI. I landed in Delhi, met the other group members and we had a meeting in the evening with our local tour guide Gaju. We went out for dinner afterwards and took a little walk, before we headed to the train station the next morning to go to AGRA.
The TAJ MAHAL is a must-see. I don´t care what someone else might have told you. Yes, it is touristy but it´s just a breathtaking monument. I enjoyed spending the whole afternoon sitting there with the crew, just staring at the white stone (it´s not all marble!) and taking it all in until sundown. If you ever go to India, you have to go to Agra. Do it!
From there we went on to Madhya Pradesh, to KHAJURAHO to be exact. Yes, that´s where you will find the original Karmasutra carvings and statues and yes it´s a UNESCO World Heritage Site as well. Other than that, I remember that Gill and Emelie – two girls from England – and I went out to buy sugar to mix our own sugar scrub. We felt so dirty from the trip and all the heat and dust. It really did work well. Let me tell you that!
Our next stop was ORCHHA and we were honestly just so giddy with the luxurious tents we lived in and even our own pool. The local cooking class was incredible too. I can never get enough of Indian food to be honest. It was quite a treat! But what I was looking forward to from day one, besides the Taj Mahal, was going to VARANASI. It´s the city located at the Ganges with it´s ghats and candle ceremonies every night…
But more on that in Part 2, tomorrow!