Sunday, May 9, 2010

India - A Backpackers Paradise

India has been a backpacker’s delight for decades, maybe even centuries; invaders certainly loved traipsing past the sub continent. Travelers from as far back as the 60’s vouched for the ‘Indian experience’. For some it involved the wholesomeness of an ethnic journey and for others it was more chemically induced, either way they loved it. India never promised just the pristine and the bountiful because it had an innate raw, animal side that was an experience almost as enriching as the mountains of Kashmir and the oceans and seas. The streets had a smell, sometimes a fragrance but it was always unique to that one town, deep inside the heart of India. Travelers found a surprise at every corner. Yes, India was hot but visit anywhere between October and February and you were sure to have pleasant weather for a companion. Yes, India was dusty but so is the whole of the Gulf and Texas!!! Yes, India was poor but she was also always smiling, always giving and always a story. They gathered memories, snippets of Indian-ness and headed back home. Only to return again with friends that wouldn’t believe half the stuff they heard. has traveled far and wide in the last 3 years and seen every nook and cranny of this magnificent land. Met some amazing people, saw some amazing sites, ate some amazing food and most of all realized how amazing India really is. We had the privilege of traveling in the all Indian, all terrain, all weather vehicle, the Ambassador, some of us got into one after 20 years. Bumped our way across villages and forests, reserves we didn’t know we had. Let’s take a moment here to share a valuable link with you - Go there and you will be flabbergasted at the number of forest reserves we have and how accessible they really are. Good time to change from the artificial luminosity of shopping paradises and cloned concrete mall structure’s; take the kids to a piece of nature.

Few of the strange things we learnt about India weren’t from the years of school and college; it was all from being on the road, on the road in India:

1. We aren’t entirely clear on this but there is a law about RV’s (Recreational Vehicles) and not being allowed to lie down on the bunk when the car is on the road???!!! That’s was one main reason we needed one and we thought the whole idea behind a bed in a car was so people could chill while someone drove! We had a 2 month road schedule, so we settled for a minibus with a loo.

2. Smoking pot is NOT legal in Pushkar but if you are ash covered, dreadlocked, semi naked and emanating suspiciously thick smoke from your suspiciously bong like pipe, no one will notice!

3. Street food is delicious, wholesome and hearty. It is also extremely picky because not everyone in a traveling team gets sick from the same place.

4. People absolutely love giving directions regardless of their sense for it. People naturally draw to a car that has slowed down in the hope of learning exactly where it is and where it is headed.

5. Bargaining is one of India’s seven wonders. Stay out of the boutique shops, the high end stores and the malls, street shop in India and enjoy discounts all year round. Street shops are abundant all over small town India, selling everything from souvenirs to local arts and crafts. Each state has indigenous crafts that look wild in western homes. So half everything quoted at you and move from there. Please remember the guy isn’t trying to fleece you, he is doing what Donald Trump does best – giving it a shot, if it works well and good, if not at least something will come his way!

6. Yes, cows are holy and they are everywhere. They roam the land like lions and unlike lions they can be messed with but shouldn’t be messed with. They hold up traffic all the time and occasionally have been known to loiter on to air strips and graze on railway lines. Ditto for dogs. Stray dogs and cows are some of the friendliest creatures in urban cities. Feed them!!

Please don’t let this humor deter you, the journey is fabulous no doubt, why worry about the destination. So come on over and feel India, sense India, smell India, let her get under your skin, it will only make your soul richer.

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