As another new year approaches, another year passes on our world travel adventure.
By the time we left India, we’d been there for just over 10 months in total – with a two month break when we went home to England for a visit (and to apply for another Indian visa). It’s only recently dawned on us how long we spent in undoubtedly one of our most crazy, exciting and culturally diverse destinations yet.
We arrived into India from Nepal a few days before Christmas 2011. Our first destination was Darjeeling, where we obviously consumed vast amounts of tea and rode the famous Toy Train. We then embarked on a slow southward course via the east coast.
We both got very ill in Calcutta, perfecting our squat toilet technique, stopped off in the old hippy hangout of Puri enjoying the stunning beach sunsets, hung out in Mamallapuram with some four legged friends while becoming professional mosquito killers.
We visited the old French colonial Pondicherry and its incredible churches, dropped into the western cult colony Auroville and had a quick stop in Chennai before heading to Kanyakumari, India’s most southernmost point.
Kerala was next, spending a good chunk of time on the palm fringed beaches of Varkala. We embarked on a backwater ferry trip, saw water-side villages famous for coir spinning, then headed up to the Hugging Mother Ashram for a touch of (slightly sarcastic) spirituality. We trekked in the tea plantations of Munnar, stayed at a wildlife park in Kumily and met the locals.
On our One Year Travelling anniversary, Eloise and I parted for a week or two, me heading to Goa and Eloise travelling alone to Bangalore to become a certified laughter yoga teacher. When we met again we firmly planted ourselves in Patnem for the next 6 weeks, lapping up South Goa’s best beaches and meeting up with fellow travel bloggers, hanging out with beach dogs and the crusties and staring in a Bollywood movie.
We’d originally planned to go home for a visit without telling anyone, and we nearly had to go home earlier as doctors thought I might have malaria – but luckily it past and we left back to England in May 2012 for our surprise visit!
We had an amazing time catching up with friends and family, our friends Rob and Victoria got married, and we used a washing machine for the first time in 6 months!
When we flew back to India at the start of August, we originally planned 2 months to explore northern India, before moving on to another country. Yeah right… A quick flying visit to Mumbai and Delhi before heading to Amritsar, home to the Golden Temple – The holiest Sikh place of worship. The north was calling, and we travelled to McLeod Ganj then up to Manali.
Around this time we travelled over some of the highest road passes in the world on our way to the remote Spiti Valley, visting remote monasteries before blasting up to Leh in the northern state of Ladakh. There we got some stunning travel photography which inspired us to write tips on how to survive Indian bus journeys.
During a month in Leh, we hired a Royal Enfield and rode to Pangong Lake with our riding buddies, then up to the far far north to the Nubra Valley near the Pakistan border – almost running out of petrol on the way back to Leh.
Braving the Leh-Manali Highway on the return south, we passed back through Manali and spent a totally unplanned long stint in McLeod Ganj. 6 weeks later we went to Rishikesh for the Diwali celebrations, before heading to Rajasthan for a final month trying to cram as much in as possible.
We visitied hectic Jaipur, volunteered at Animal Aid in Udaipur, meeting up with new and old friends, stayed in quiet and relatively unspoilt Bundi, stuffed our faces with vegan cake in Pushkar, zip-lined across Jodhpur, saw countless Indian weddings and got sand in all our stuff in Jaisalmer! Finally visiting the Taj Mahal, experiencing the ultimate religious craziness in Varanasi, then ending where we started in Calcutta.
So our India journey is over, as we move on to new pastures. It was a great year, one we won’t forget quickly – India’s sights and sounds are impossible to forget! We’re so lucky that we’ve made so many amazing friends over the past year. We have no idea where the time has gone! The old “time flies..” saying is very appropriate.
So where next?!
We’re spending Christmas and New Years in Thailand with good friends. In 2013 we’re continuing with our plans of becoming location independent, Eloise plans to become a vegan travel guru and we’re heading to Australia!
Happy New Year!