Being Intrepid in India

Have you ever felt equal parts excited and nervous?

Yes? Me too, and I am now!

I am about to embark on a true adventure in colourful Rajasthan, India.

Varanasi Ghats Festival. Source: Intrepid

Varanasi Ghats Festival. Source: Intrepid

I am not expecting it to be warm and quirky like The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel movie, or genteel as portrayed by the many ‘raj’ movies and books. I AM expecting it be hot, noisy, and chaotic, and I can’t wait.

India has always been on my travel radar, but was bumped up the travel list after viewing a friend’s photos. The architecture was stunning, the colours vibrant, and the culture overwhelming. I could resist no longer.

Next week I fly to Delhi for a 22-day journey throughout Rajasthan. When dreaming of India, I just wasn’t game enough to take on this country as a solo, female traveller. Instead I have joined an Intrepid tour group. I realise that in previous posts I have shared my misgivings about group travel, but I am hoping it will be a good option to tackle India for the first time.

While waiting at Sydney airport the other day, I struck up a conversation with a man who had just that morning returned from a 10-day Intrepid tour in India. He loved it and also commented that 22 days in India was a ‘whole lot of India’! Fingers crossed I have the stamina to come out unscathed.

Flying China Southern, I land in Delhi on Tuesday 14 November, giving me a day to catch my breath before the official start of the tour. Over the next three weeks we visit:

Our plan for adventure. Source: Intrepid

Our plan for adventure. Source: Intrepid

  • New Delhi
  • Thar Desert
  • Jaisalmer
  • Jodhpur
  • Udaipur
  • Pushkar
  • Jaipur
  • Abhaneri (not Bharatpur as shown on the map)
  • Agra
  • Varanasi
  • And return to New Delhi

In many of these cities we stay 2-3 nights, so that should make it a tad easier to handle the pace.

This tour is classified at a ‘Basix’ level, so I imagine it will be fairly ‘cheap and cheerful’ – the way I mostly travel. It is going to be an eye-opening experience as we travel by train (including overnight/sleeper), tuk tuk, bus, on foot and camel. Don’t worry, Intrepid also offers a ‘Comfort’ option too, if camels do not appeal!

Jodhpur spice stall. Source: Intrepid

Jodhpur spice stall. Source: Intrepid

To prepare, I have:

  • Had typhoid and Hep shots, and purchased gold-plated malaria tablets,
  • Bought my body weight in hand sanitiser, disinfectant wipes, and Immodium tablets, and
  • Packed toilet paper, insect repellent, and five boxes of muesli bars.

I am probably being overly optimistic thinking that I won’t get sick, as everyone I have spoken to seems to have some sort of Delhi-belly story. Their advice has been plentiful about dining in reputable establishments and only drinking, and brushing my teeth, with bottled water. I will hope for the best.

Taj Mahal. Source: Intrepid

Taj Mahal. Source: Intrepid

I have also been warned to dress conservatively and not wear any sort of jewellery. Being ‘of a certain age’, dressing demurely comes as second-nature and it is the right thing to do to be sensitive to the local cultural standards.

The one thing (or one of many) that I am quite nervous about, and I have been warned about many times, is that hawkers will be constantly in my face and trying to sell me something every time I step onto the street. Apparently they are incredibly persistent! I am not a shopper at the best of times, so this is going to be a major challenge.

These sorts of warnings may make some people question why bother visiting India in the first place, but this unpredictability is what makes an adventure adventurous in my book. I am not saying I could live that way all the time, but for me it is good to move out of the same ol’, same ol’ comfort zone every now and then. In this case, I suspect I will be WAY out of my comfort zone.

Boatman on the Ganges at Varanasi. Source; Intrepid

Boatman on the Ganges at Varanasi. Source; Intrepid

Although this is a group tour, at each location we are allowed plenty of free time. When we arrive at each new city, there will be a walking tour (which I always enjoy) and then the rest of our time can be spent how we choose. If I need to retreat from the world to the relative quiet and safety of the hotel room I can, or head back out onto the streets and mix it with the best of them. I am hoping I can find someone with similar interests in the tour group, to provide a semblance of safety in numbers, as we explore the bazaars and monuments.

Perhaps I am overthinking this trip and overestimating the jangle and cacophony of the country, but I suspect not.

My plan is to blog ‘live’ as we travel, and I will apologise in advance now if my words are rougher and readier than usual. I will do my best to capture the energy and vibrancy of the place, technology-willing.

Happy to take last minute advice of the ‘must do’s’, must NOT do’s and must sees.

What would you recommend?

The Basics

What: North India Revealed tour, 22-days with Intrepid. Sign up to their newsletter and keep an eye out for deals and discounts. I nabbed a great deal at the end of June, saving around $300.

Where: Rajasthan, India.

When: The tour operates all year ‘round, except in the hotter months in the middle of the year.

Why: Maybe I will have a better answer to this when I get home!

How: Basix level means lots of various travel options from tuk tuk to camel, staying in guest houses, small hotels and camping.

Who: Recommended for people with a reasonable level of fitness as you need to be able to carry your own bag and jump on and off trains etc.

Related Posts: For a little dose of chaos, have a look at my posts about visiting Nepal in April this year.

Related Blogs: For a local perspective on India and her people, check out Faces of India.

Read About it: Don’t forget your Lonely Planet Rajasthan, available from Book Depository

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4 thoughts on “Being Intrepid in India

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