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Thu Nov. 20th 2014

Nicola has just returned from her FIFTH trip to India in as many years - a favourite destination without a doubt!

Some excerpts from her blog as she travelled ...

Cars, Cows & Chaos - my thoughts have been racing, my senses have seen, smelt, felt and touched (well trying to do less of that!) everything. My taste buds have been soaring. But most of all my heart has been massaged beyond belief; racing heart, tight heart, happy and heavy. It has certainly become more expanded.
This country is a true paradox; unbelievable beauty vs shameful rubbish dumped everywhere. Smiling faces on the poorest of urchins. Tooting, hooting driving around the slow moving cow.
The easy head wobble of ‘sure – why not’ vs the scramble to sell you a memory card as you step out of the bus.
And I now have 8 other enthusiasts for this mind blowing confusing and yet fabulous country. We are all having a wonderful time together

Delhi was a wonderful introduction – sights, getting used to the traffic and the food. Bharat’s jokes started off easy. The Murghal Emperors, and Hindu Gods. The introduction of the masala dosa for breakfast.

Varanasi was challenging. Trying to understand the sacred river that they worship and yet can pollute it at the same time. Bharat gave us some wonderful words to think about

Flying to Khajuraho gave us our first chance to have a couple of hours of relaxation. Then we went to the temples to see the incredibly intricate carvings and the beauty that they could create out of stone. Starting in 950 AD many are still in perfect condition. It is incredible (over used word in India but what do you do – it is !!)

Driving to Orchha on Diwali day was amazing – everyone was out painting their front areas in bright colourful colours. We stopped at a home to say happy Diwali and then we stopped at a village to see if we could help with the painting. The few people standing by to observe our antics grew from 2 to 200 in about 5 minutes. It was such fun. I used my finger to help paint and that was deemed hilarious by the locals. We were painting on very nicely dried cow dung – great platform – you might like to try it!

Then to Orchha for some Diwali celebrations at the Temple – and some fireworks !

Then to Agra by train and the Taj. It may be my 6th visit but her beauty has never diminished. Her proportions and colours are incomparable. The road conditions were dreadful. The cows, camels, jugards, Massey Fergusson tractors, people, big trucks, carts – what have I missed – they were all out that day !!

Anyway we get to the calm, stunningly beautiful Sher Bagh Hotel and we are in sarfari mode. We take off in 2 jeeps looking for tiger. Our jeep saw something a little more rare than a tiger – a leopard. Our naturalist said best sighting in 24 years. He walked along beside us for about 10 minutes and the other group saw a tiger and her 3 cubs. Huge success. Buzzing was an understatement! We sat round the camp fire with a vodka lime and soda and talked safari stories!

Another big drive to Jaipur .  Jaipur was fabulous – some great shopping, the beautiful Amber Fort and a sunrise visit to the Ganesh Temple after walking up 300 stairs that will stay with me forever.

Yesterday we drove into the countryside of Jaipur to a place called Savista Retreat. Today has been our day of rest! A camel ride for some, a walk for others and some have had a cooking class and cooked the dinner for tonight !

India is wildly exciting but you do need to have a little time to download all those thoughts and emotions in a peaceful place. And Savista is just that.
So tomorrow we are off to Pushkar – no rest there – camels, people, dust, camels, Brahman Temple and did I mention camels
We have so much more to experience it’s hard to imagine how my senses will cope – but I know they will!

Well I am at Delhi airport.  What a trip, what a journey, what an experience.
The last few days just kept getting better – which was hard to believe could be possible.
Udaipur – with our wonderful hotel right on the lake (you could do your own washing out the bedroom window!)
The fine detail of the paintings and the peacock room of the City Palace
The city lights and the almost full moon lighting up the Lake at night.
Devi Garh – this magical hotel that was a Palace nestled amongst the Aravali mountains was a true home for the Princesses.
Sitting outside for dinner with our own musician was pretty special!
The 9 hour drive to Jodhpur didn’t seem that bad !!!!!! as we stopped at the unbelievable temples of Ranakpur, the Bishnoi Villages with a welcome drink of liquid opium, and the Most wonderful durrie rug maker!
Phew – then Jodhpur – with the massive Mehrangarh Fort towering over us as we sit at the sunset bar at our hotel feeling like we could almost be part of the Royal Family life