Goodbye India

Our last month in India took us on a whistle stop tour of Tamil Nadu and to ultimate relaxation in the Andaman Islands.

 Our final hours in Kerala were spent in between trains in Trivandrum and rather than carry our packs about in the heat we retreated to the cool of a cinema. The film was not really suitable for the boys (Tomas remarked that he “wouldn’t let his Nana watch it!”) and we couldn’t follow the whole plot not understanding the Tamil dialogue but it was a great experience to be caught up in the enthusiasm of the audience who cheered each time, the star, Ajith Kumar appeared on screen.

 Our next stop was Kanyakumari, the Southern tip of India. Whilst geographically satisfying to stand at this point there was little else to recommend it. Unless you like your hotel rooms decorated in the style of early ’90s teenage boy; black, grey and red colour scheme complete with Spider-Man ceiling fans.

We took a straightforward night bus to Kodaikanal in the Western Ghats where we revelled long walks in the cool mountain air and enjoyed the many playgrounds and town’s quirky tourist attractions. As well as the local street food specialities of roasted corn and bread omlettes.

Next stop Madurai. Home to the huge and fascinating Meenakshi temple and tastiest curry we’d had in a long time.

We spent a happy few days pottering around Pondicherry. From our fantastic guesthouse in the Sri Aurobindo Ashram we strolled along the seafront, explored the different markets and learnt about the beautiful Kollom that decorate the pavements here. Not to mention stuffing ourselves on the French delicacies this ex-colonial town has to offer.

 Chennai was pretty forgettable save for the fantastic food we found in a canteen near our dingy hotel. It was so good Nick had two breakfasts.

 An early morning flight took us to the Andaman Islands. Where we downed devices and savoured the lack of wifi. We chilled on the gorgeous beaches of Havelock and made our own fun with washed up paraphernalia. We walked through rich jungle and I got the pure pleasure of taking George snorkelling above a coral reef for the first time.

Next we shifted down another gear and cycled our way round idyllic Neil Island. G and T got up to mischief with the two resident boys whilst Nick and I enjoyed the company of other adults. Our highlight was a boat trip to a nearby island to snorkel and fish (and in G’s case jump off the prow of the boat into the deep water).

 For our wildlife fanatic’s fifth birthday we went hunting for snakes at Wandor on South Andaman. Much to his delight (and our relief) we found a particularly venomous one with the help of a serendipitous meeting with a reptile expert from Madrid Zoo. Our accommodation at Wandor was superb; peaceful and serene.

 Calcutta came as a bit of a shock. Full throttle, high volume India. The most unhelpful people we had encountered and the most frustrating bureaucracy. Plus I got a night time visit from a small rodent.

 Despite all this we really enjoyed our time there. The boys got to ‘play Holi’ with neighbourhood children. We soaked up the atmosphere across the city as we walked around the flower market and ghats. The boys particularly enjoyed Khalif Street pet market with its multitude of birds and fish.

We visited the marble palace, Victoria Memorial and Kalighat Temple. We marvelled at the Calctta traffic Police’s white uniform and had a great evening catching up with friends we had made earlier in the trip.

 So there we have it. The final leg of our Indian adventure. We got round a lot of the country in our 131 days. We slept in 22 hotels, 9 guesthouses, 3 night buses, 3 homestays, 2 beach huts, 1 sleeper train, 1 ashram and a desert.

 We learnt a little bit of Hindi and made a lot of friends. We got through several pairs of shoes and several more pairs of sunglasses. The boys had their cheeks pinched approximately 900 times. We ate a lot of curry. And we fell in love with India. Watch this space I’m sure we’ll be back.

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The First Post

Delhi

The process of packing up the house and moving into our 2.4 backpacks seemed to last forever. A week ago we finally departed Brighton (via Lewes and the hospitality of Poppy & Ben) and all those weeks of stress are now a distant memory.

Whilst the Indian summer we were enjoying in the UK during October had acclimatised us slightly to what was to come, the noise, sights and smells of India’s capital were an awakening!

We had planned our first stop to coincide with Diwali which has meant our first week in India went off with a bang, literally. Diwali night was spent with our generous hosts, Roop and Risal (Smiley BnB, Gurgaon), invited us to share their family meal, with gifts for the boys and festive fare fit for Lakshmi. Risal also invited Sam to watch her puja (prayers) to Lakshmi and Ganesha.

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After our feast it was a case of if you can’t beat them join them. So we headed out on to the streets to watch fireworks and firecrackers being thrown about, and if truth be known, in search of a hotel roof terrace and our first gin and tonic.

Hours of fun too on Delhi’s various forms of transport during our first week. From the leather clad seats of this AC’d car bound for Agra (and from which I am writing this post – first world problems, I know) to the four of

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us piled into a pedal rickshaw in Old Delhi, including the Red Fort and Spice Market. In truth, we prefer the latter. The Metro is also something to behold. It’s the friendliest scrum I have ever encountered however, with the boys providing some entertainment to our fellow passengers.

We have been really enjoying the food. From stuffed paratha at breakfast to mushroom shupna curry at dinner and all the delights in between. The boys are open to trying the delights of Indian cuisine although they are sticking mainly to plain rice and roti. On one occasion our efforts to get them eating curry were scuppered by a well meaning lady giving them a jam sandwich.

Our stomachs, thus far, are fine. I know you were wondering.

Lastly, highlights:

G – “the strange and interesting pig” that he saw outside our BnB. Diwali cookie and climbing at Emily’s house. Behind the scenes your of the reptile house at Delhi’s NZP although slightly to close to the angry cobra for our comfort.

T – gives us a typically incongruous answer, such as going to Nana’s house or something to do with poo (at two months shy of 3 T’s toilet humour is unique and relentless).

Sam – watching the boys take everything in their stride, all the wonderful food and finally having the time to think about what we will do with our year away.

Nick – seeing Emily and meeting baby Rohan, being in Delhi for Diwali and planning our next leg: Rajasthan, Punjab and Nepal here we come.