Over the Christmas and New Year period of 2013/14, my Mum and I embarked upon a three week backpacking adventure through India.
From the eye-opening burning ghats of Varanasi to the peaceful backwaters of Kerala, we travelled by bus, train, boat, plane, tuk tuk and taxi, spent five hours stranded on a freezing cold train station floor surrounded by ravenous rats and monkeys and had our fair share of near-misses with scammers.
However, despite these backpacking hurdles, my Mum remained wide-eyed and bushy tailed throughout our whole trip (I wonder where I get it from…)
Therefore, I thought it would be a great guest post for you guys to hear from my Ma Ma herself, as she talks about our time in India, her first impressions of this eccentric country as well as, the struggles of balancing travelling whilst of a… shall we say… older generation (soz Mum) and wanting to do and see as much as possible.
SO, without further ado, take it away Mother…
Whilst on holiday, without my Globe-Trotting Graduate daughter, disaster struck and my phone refused to take any more photos – memory full. I started to go back over my photos deleting the ones of my feet, the videos that were supposed to be stills, and so on. I then scrolled through my photos of India where I had been with Lydia a year and a half before and wished I could go back…
Lydia decided that she wanted to visit India again for her 21st birthday… and who better to take her than her Mother, who was desperate for some ‘real’ travel. I hate sun and sea holidays as I burn, get palpitations in the heat and more than anything get REALLY bored.
Due to being of the generation pre gap years as well as having a family, has meant that in my time, I have done more traditional European travel than budget ‘backpacking’. Thus, I wanted to experience the real thing – hostels, tuk-tuks and local trains but preferably with some 5 star treatment as well.
So, how do you meld the wishes of a 21 year old and a late 50 year old who only has a maximum of 3 weeks to spare?? (I still work full time).
Where to stay: we planned well and agreed on a mixture of hostels with a couple of stints in good hotels. My first and most important lesson learnt in India was to stay in recommended hostels (Lonely Planet Guide) or 5 star luxury – do NOT try the middle ground – that was the only time I had any stomach problems…
The hostels were basic but clean. We always had our own room (solid beds) and mostly had an en-suite ‘bucket-room’, which did the job. We frequently booked whilst on the road.
The 5 star luxury was relatively cheap and truly luxurious. Our two indulgent stays were in a modern hotel in Agra for New Year’s Eve and a beautiful ancient hotel that came straight out of the Raj in Jaipur.
How to travel: the main disagreement between us was about modes of transport – not because of comfort or privacy but because of the delays on Indian trains. I had no problem with sitting on the concrete floor waiting for five hours with my backpack wedged behind me and my handbag secreted under my blanket to prevent marauding monkeys from taking it (see below). What I did have a problem with was that following this delay and a thirteen hour train journey from Rishikesh to Varanasi, we had lost a precious day from our already, short trip.
So, a pragmatic view on time is needed.
I won the next leg of the journey and for under £50 (less than a taxi to Heathrow) we were driven five hours by taxi to Agra…We did have to pay for our driver’s petrol before he could take us but this was not a scam, we went to the filling station and paid directly for the fuel.
In just three weeks we did meditation and yoga in Rishikesh, visited the spiritual city of Varanasi, which to our western culture may feel unusual but was calming and serene, saw the Taj Mahal, which really has to be seen to be believed and spent five fabulous days in Jaipur. I was even lucky enough to meet the children that Lydia had taught when she worked in Jaipur during her gap year.
From Jaipur we flew down to Kerala and spent a few days relaxing by the sea. Although we spent time on the backwaters and in Cochin, there was so much more we didn’t have time to see such as, the tea and spice plantations, which I need to go back to experience!!
And on that note, as I approach my *uh hum* 60th birthday, I don’t find myself feeling as though I am now ‘too old’ to backpack. If anything, India has sparked my inner-travelling-child and now I feel more determined than ever to tick off as many of the countries, cities, sites and experiences that are on my bucket list.
So fellow oldies, pick up those backpacks, and let’s show these kids how it’s really done…