I have been to India before and fell in love with the people there; can not wait to go back. I felt so at home, the people are peaceful and no trouble is too much. Despite abject poverty in places, it is so spiritual and humble, the people want you to love their country.
Our adventure starts in the colourful ‘spice town’ of Cochin. We’ll also visit an elephant training camp (the kids are hoping to catch a ride on one of the gentle giants) and eco-farm to walk amongst fields of spices. Next we travel by train via ‘hill station’ of Munnar, to the one of India’s oldest cities, Madurai. BTW, did you know that the India’as national rail service employs over 2 million people? That is second largest employer in the world, second to the Chinese Army. Rail travel in India is by no means a picnic – so this will be interesting!
From there , we head to Periyar National Park which offers a complete contrast to the hustle and bustle of Indian city life, with over 300 square miles of lush tropical forests. We will explore much of the this area by boat. The riverside markets are apparently stocked with coconuts and bags of cashews (2 out of my 3 kids have serious nut allergies, so no real joy there, but I do see a lot of bananas going down).
Our accommodation for this leg will be one of these houseboats. At night it is lit with lots of little lanterns. We finish this leg of the trip in Trivandrum, where we will catch our flight to Mumbai.
In an attempt to educate the girls about what to expect when they get to India – we are all watching a heartwarming, timely, three-part documentary by Caroline Quentin called “A Passage through India” . She stays and cooks with local families throughout her journey. Below is a picture of our girls today, watching the part where they visualise themselves on the train leg of our journey. Look at their little faces as reality dawns that this is no London Underground! I had to take a photo, what an education is about to be had!
From there we will head to Mumbai to get a cultural fix of Bollywood. I want to spend time at the markets with my camera – and for sure, we’ll visit the slums. I was inspired by an un-put-downable book called Shantaram (apparently based on a true story) about life in the slums , where hope really does overcome adversity.
From Mumbai we will head out to Sri Lanka, where we will stay on a Coconut Plantation. A friend of mine stayed there last year and she tells me the resident cook is the only person in his village that has a gas cooker, as he fashioned one himself. He traps the methane gas from cow dung (not quite sure saying pooh is appropriate). I look forward to visiting his village with him. We’ve also been in touch with Janaka from Volunteer Sri Lanka, who is organising for all of us to visit an orphanage and a school to interact and play games/sport in English. The fee paid to be a volunteer goes towards disadvantaged Sri Lankan children.
Roll on 16th April, India – here we come!