My Indian Journey
After a flying visit to Bhopal last year with the charity Sight Savers I fell in love with India. It was Monsoon season and a cloud filled sky threw out buckets of rain but It did nothing to dampen my spirits over my three day stay. I loved its energy and its people.
On my return home I did something I don’t normally do and booked a holiday for the following year to return and visit Rajasthan.
My mother is Anglo indian and was born there and raised in Gangapur City. My Grandparents talked of India every day when I was growing up, stories of ‘Back home’ filled the air.
I have always felt my Indian roots. I was brought up eating the delicious exotic food, my grandparents had Indian accents and their talk of Indian would bring the country to life.
I asked my friend Adam if he fancied coming with me and I was thrilled when he said yes.
We flew into Delhi airport in the morning and were straight into the thick of traffic to the Florence Inn to dump our luggage and go in search of lunch. Looking like out of our depths tourists we were thankfully approached by a Rickshaw driver who asked if he could take us around and show us some sites and find us a good restaurant. Perfect.
Satisfied by our first indian lunch we travelled to the India Gate, looked at the government buildings and went shopping for some clothing that might be more suitable for some of our travels.
The next day we had an early wake up call to catch a train to Agra, to see the glorious Taj Mahal. When I saw Adam at breakfast we were amazed to find out that there had been a huge storm around us over night which had caused devastation & deaths which we had slept right through! We would see the damage caused over a next few weeks of travelling.
The train journey was fantastic, It ran on time and was a brilliant service. Apparently we were spoilt though as we discovered through some fellow travellers that we were lucky and really that is not the norm. The trains can be delayed as much as 12 + hours.
We arrived at The Coral Tree a charming little colourful boutique home stay for our one night stop over. Incidently we enjoyed a home cooked meal here which was to be one of the best dinners I enjoyed in India.
Our first port of call was the Red Fort then on to the Taj Mahal which fills you with a sense of achievement that you finally made it there and awe at how magnificent it is! A gift given of love which holds such beauty and a gift to us all.
Then we headed to The Rathambore Bagh for a safari to see tigers. The journey was long so to break it up we stopped at Fatehphur Sikiri a deserted Moghul city. We were encouraged to lay gifts in the form of flowers and fabric in a small temple and make three wishes by tying thread called ‘Kavala’ one for ourselves, one for family and one for friends. The guide kept reminding us that president Skarkosi and Carla Brunei had been there. She had wished for a baby and was pregnant within the year. You can tell people of your wish only if it comes true.
Next and this was not part of our itinerary was to go Ganagaphur City. On our train journey to Agra we sat next to an Indian Doctor who helped us locate it on a map and work out wether it was an achievable detour and with excitement I found out it wasn’t too far out of our way on our journey from Agra to Sawai Madhopur. I spoke to my mum and she she said ask for directions to the church.
I have to say Gangupur city was one of the most poverty stricken areas we had been through or to. There was rubbish and dirt everywhere, a random bonfire in the street and a pig just truffling through the garbage strewn all over the side of the road. We passed the train station to a gated anglo indian colony which was mostly deserted to where my mother had spent most of her childhood. A haven compared to where we had just driven through. The church was closed so I asked a man who was in the garden area if it was possible to go in to this tiny church. He disappeared and shortly returned with the priest. He asked who I was and then if I would like to check the records of my mums baptism.
My emotions were running high anyway but nothing really could have prepared me for the sight of my mums name on the register from November 1950 and the names of my Grandparents beside her. The tears just flowed.
I am so happy I have now stood on the soil of my heritage, felt the heat and heard the birdsong of this small corner of India my mum and family once called home.
The morning after getting to Sawai Madhopur we were up very early on a stunning morning after stormy weather through the night to go on safari. We saw so many beautiful birds, monkeys, crocodiles, antelopes and all the wonderful fauna of this gorgeous part of the world. We did’t get to see any tigers though but we still had a great time taking in the landscape, the heat and the sounds of this peaceful place.
We travelled to Jaipur after our safari experience where we had a three night stop over. It had been a crazy few days and I needed a break from sight seeing and wanted to relax. The Alisisar Haveli hotel in Jaipur had an ornate swimming pool area and I parked myself there for most of our stay, only breaking for food or massages. Bliss.
We then travelled to Pushkar a town In the Ajmer district which is a pilgrimage site for Hindus and Sikhs. We stayed in The Pushkar Palace over looking the The Puskhar lake. The lake is surrounded by temples and bathing ghats. Ghandi’s ashes were also scattered here. It is A holy and calming place, but that said away from the lake it felt quite touristy certainly compared to where we had been so I just focused on the beauty and the peaceful vibes instead. Adam and I ate a lovely meal watching the sunset and rose early in the morning to walk around the lake. We got caught in a storm for a little while seeking shelter in a doorway.
This was a very brief visit but I felt an important one. We met a local girl called Tara who will forever be in my heart and experienced a serene sunrise by the ghats which culminated in a storm. Unforgettable. India’s vibes change from place to place but the people stay the same.They are kind, open and grateful, such amazing qualities and each place brought out something different in me.
Next was Deogarh we stayed at the Deogarh Mahal its a really impressive palace hotel. we were able to really settle here for a good few days.
Adam and I did the audio tour of the hotel which explains its centuries of history and it was great to find out about the life of the palace not just enjoy its atheistic .
We also took a trip on a vintage train from Khambli Ghat to Phulad. Our guide told us it was the train used in the film Michael Caine and Sean Connery movie ‘The man who would be King’ which seeing is now on my list of things to do. I absolutely love trains so this was just so fun for me. Another lovely experience was going on a safari in an old 1947 Dodge to the Neemjah Lake, we sat having coffee and biscuits watching a kingfisher diving for his dinner. Just wonderful.
Our final destination was Udaipur and wow it was worth the wait.
We stayed at the Udai Kothi a boutique hotel with a pool and a view of Lake Pichola. Again here was a mix of chill and sight seeing. We found a fantastic place to eat called the Hari Garh which sits on the banks of the lake. As the sun set we watched the fruit bats come to feed and hang in the banyan trees. The place is magical and so laid back, we were lying down between courses! For me the best food of our entire trip. Closely followed by the Hotel Pushkar Inn cafe where we ate and watched the sunset and the home cooked meal at The Coral Tree in Agra.
Udaipur has a cool vibe, great shopping and lots of history. A Palace visit and boat trip is a must.
On our last night we rode on a cable car up to Mansapurna Karni which has 360 degree views of Udaipur and was a perfect way to say good bye
I felt heartbroken when we had to leave and fly to Dehli for our flight home.
The trip was extremely fulfilling in so many ways. Its my heritage, its holds so much beauty and history, Its relatively unchanged in hundreds of years, one of the few remaining places like this on the planet, the food is an adventure in its self and mostly its the people. Their beautiful energy makes India the special place it is. I will be travelling ‘back home’ very soon.
Until next time India