As you can see this was a pretty hectic itinerary and I’m well aware that we only skimmed over the top of the country. Some of the journeys between cities took far longer than anticipated. The short flight from Delhi to Udaipur took all day rather than a morning because of flight delays and a ‘seven’ hour road journey took 13 hours to complete – mainly because the road was still under construction. But then most of the major highways seemed to be ‘under construction’ with high flyovers that stood in isolated splendour but didn’t come from or go anywhere.
Traffic was heavy on these highways – and then there were the cows. Certainly I expected cows in the cities (and there were plenty around along with stray dogs and pigs that looked like small boars) but I didn’t expect to see single cows or herds on the main highways. With docile arrogance, seemingly aware of their privileged position, they wander across the road, and onto the central reservation and everyone slows down to give them space.
Where do they all come from? Seemingly when they no longer provide milk cows are simply let loose to be fed on charity – and they were – we saw many examples of people feeding them. We also passed a number of huge cow ‘refuges’.
But back to the beginning. This was a supervised tour with just ten of us. The tour guide was with us all the way with local guides at the various stopping points. And they were all excellent.
We, that is my daughter and I arrived early in the morning, and spent the day wandering around the area near the hotel in New Delhi. New being that it is the area that was developed outside of the old city by the British and now houses Consulates from around the world. It also has hundreds of trees – all numbered.
Why? Delhi is well aware of its pollution problem – the last day we were there the pollution level was the equivalent of smoking 30 cigarettes a day – all around the city are huge advertisements proclaiming how the city was trying to improve the air. These trees are part of that effort: if anyone notices that they are in poor condition they are required to notify whichever department is responsible for looking after them.
What struck me as we drove through India was just how much of the land was populated and how tiny many plots of land were compared to the miles upon miles of huge fields in Europe and here. They are family plots, which are subdivided between all the sons.
On our last evening we were all asked what were our outstanding impressions of India. Mine had nothing to do with the magnificent palaces, mosques, and temples we saw – splendid as they were.
It was the colour, the vitality and the people. It was wonderful to see women of all ages dressed in vivid colours.
It is a nation of workers: yes, there were beggars but very, very few – mostly we were hassled to buy trinkets at ridiculously low prices – but not often very badly.
Everywhere, but everywhere people smiled and waved: people in buses smiled and waved and got their babies to wave; people asked us to share their selfies; young boys stopped their games of cricket to smile and wave; women in the fields waved; young and old alike surrounded by a handful of vegetables for sale in markets or by the side of the streets looked up and smiled although it was clear we were only sight-seeing or indeed sitting on a coach. We were invited to see the newborn baby goats in one village we walked through. And no matter how crowded it was I always felt that my personal space was not intruded upon.
I will be able to cross the road anywhere in the world from hereon and will never, ever complain about traffic jams again. It might seem that there are no road rules – but there are. If your vehicle can get its nose into a space – you just press the horn and go for it and move as fast as you can. And I never saw one instance of anyone getting annoyed.
I’m not going to go into long discussions of all the places we went. But I would like to share some of my photos – and comments in Part 2.