Still Having Adventures in India in 2023 [en]

[fr] En 2023, toujours des aventures en Inde!

When I first arrived in India in 1999, I quickly started writing up my “Adventures in India“, as I seemed to be having some. Nearly 25 years and a dozen visits later, it seems India still has it in her to provide me with adventures.

My plan for these precious two weeks of holidays was to meet up with one of my very best friends and head off for a good week of walking and road-tripping in Arunachal Pradesh, after a couple of days of shopping in Delhi. Everything organised, comfortable, a perfect holiday for two middle-aged women who needed one and were “so over” managing everything themselves.

Unfortunately, barely 24 hours after my arrival, my friend had to head off to the USA for a family emergency. I needed a different holiday plan. I reached out to everybody I could think of who might be able to help me improvise something. After considering a trek in Nepal (something I will definitely do on some other occasion), I realised that given the circumstances, I needed a slightly different holiday than what was originally planned.

I ended up heading to Rajasthan (5 hours away by car) to settle in Apani Dhani Eco-Lodge – a recommendation by a friend’s brother who runs an Indian-centred travel agency in Lausanne. Apani Dhani reminded me a little of Hillview Farms where I spent so many lovely days in Mysore. They also had a little catalogue of activities you could choose for, and I figured that it would allow me to find the right balance of rest and activities. Also, I’d always wanted to go to Rajasthan.

So off I went, by car (not very economical but simplest and less stressful), heading into a rather rural area without a proper wardrobe (I’d left my Indian dresses in Switzerland given our programme), and realising that I had lost all sense of how much things are worth. My sense of money is stuck 20 years ago, and all my last visits (the last one was five years back) I have always been visiting friends or travelling with them, and not directly dealing that much with financial issues. Thankfully my friend’s husband quickly gave me some pointers regarding the cost of things and expected amounts for tips.

Upon my arrival, I was informed that there was another guest at the lodge (a larger party would be arriving a few days later). The other guest was a woman from… Lausanne! What a coincidence, I thought. But then, maybe she was also there through my friend’s brother’s travel agency – the owner of the lodge is a francophile so it makes sense that it would attract French-speaking visitors.

To my surprise, it turns out this other guest was an ex-colleague of mine from 20 years ago! She was also very familiar with India (more than me probably) and I really enjoyed our long conversations for the few days we were here together. After her departure, five French guests arrived: a couple who were visiting India for the first time, and a family (a mother and two daughters) who had spent two weeks in Ladakh followed by two weeks in Rajasthan, and were stopping here for a few days before going off their separate ways.

Talking to them, I realised how long it has been since I’ve come in contact with people who are discovering India, and how obvious some things are to me now that were not when I arrived. (I just read through the first chapter of my Indian logbook – gosh, what a trip down memory lane.) So, these last days I’ve been diving back into my experiences in this country and my understanding of it.

As far as activities go, I enjoyed a guided visit of the town of Nagalwarh and got a chance to visit two havelis – the traditional houses with two courtyards and striking painted frescoes. I also went out for a bicycle tour in the surrounding countryside. A punctured tyre gave me a chance to brush up on my Hindi by making conversation over a cup of chai with the daughter-in-law of my guide’s friend, as we stopped there to fix his bicycle. I also had a go at doing traditional tie-and-dye with the mother and her two daughters (we had quickly connected), and the next day we all went out to visit havelis in the neighbouring villages with a French-speaking guide. A great day out, but tiring!

As a new batch of travellers arrive tomorrow, I’m going to try and have a little more quiet time. I’ve taken quite a lot of bird photographs which I’m happily editing and cataloguing. I also want to take some time to write. And rest…

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