Whilst I’m out of the country on a trip to a mysterious undisclosed location, the daily blogging will be achieved through a series of travel-related posts, thanks to the kindness of my friends and family, and the wonders of post-scheduling technology.
This installment of The Travel Diaries is brought to you by Danielle Moore. Danielle, is 28, mum to two lovely little boys, and wife to Matthew. Those roles take up most of her time, but I also work part time at Proclaim It, helping churches get online. They live in Newcastle and we love being part of Christ Church Newcastle. In her spare time she tries to read blogs and books, sell stuff on ebay, bake brownies and plan fun things to do with the boys – but in reality she spends a disproportionate amount of time cleaning, cooking and sleeping!
Oh the freedom and folly of youth! To be fair, I’m not yet particularly old, but it’s all relative isn’t it. And when Ellidh mentioned the theme of ‘travel’ for her guest posts I was suddenly made aware of how long ago my travelling days seem, and how foolish I was back then. I am undoubtedly still rather foolish, and have many opportunities to show it off with two young children. But I can remember some shining moments of glorious freedom and awful folly back when I was able to travel the world.
It was the summer between my first and second years at Uni in Manchester and I and three friends decided to go backpacking in India. In all honesty it was never somewhere I’d have chosen for myself. But off we went, two girls, two guys, for six weeks backpacking around Northern India.
The first few days were blissful. We stayed in Delhi, with a family friend of one of our little party. It just so happened that this family friend was the Austrian Ambassador, and so we stayed in her residence, in beautiful beds, with heavenly air conditioning, eating delicious European-Indian fusion food cooked by her chef. It was extremely civilised, and really very homely.
But then we began backpacking. It was at that point that the ‘Delhi-belly’ kicked in. Just as we left behind the lovely bathrooms and entered a world in which a sit-down toilet was a luxury. We left behind the air conditioning, the laundered bedding, the clean clothes and bodies. We entered the ‘real India’ – or at least, our particular backpackers version of it.
Before the trip I knew very little about India to be honest. I’d flicked through the Lonely Planet guide of course, the necessary handbook of any self-respecting backpacker. But really I was relying on my friends to guide us around the country. And they wished to visit Kashmir. And so we visited Kashmir. I knew nothing of the ongoing political struggle that surrounded (and indeed still surrounds) the region. As we travelled there we crossed through numerous check points and saw countless soldiers. If I’d done my own research – and certainly if I’d asked for my parents’ opinions – I’m not sure I’d have ventured to such a volatile area. It was perhaps foolish. But it was also extremely beautiful and the setting totally unique – staying as we did on a houseboat on Dal Lake in the capital city, Srinigar.
Then came the hitch hiking. The boys and girls were to part company for a few days, to allow the boys to attend a friend’s wedding in a neighbouring state. So, being the wise and worldly girls that we were, we decided we’d hitchhike to some nearby monasteries. I had never before considered hitch hiking, even in the relative safety of England. And now, given everything we’ve seen in the news about women in India, I’m beginning to realise the full extent of our recklessness.
Other ridiculous episodes included; my purchase of 20 glass bangles, which I promptly snapped and stabbed myself with, leaving a sizeable scar on my hand even today; our possession of a number of Salman Rushdie novels in a country in which they’re banned (they mysteriously disappeared one day); arriving in the quiet Northern town of Leh at midnight, after a 24 hour jeep journey across the Himalyan foothills, with no room reservation; and embarking upon a three day mountain trek with no guide, pony or even a map. We were ridiculous.
And then came the icing on the cake of the trip. Which really had been a great experience. But we were all four of us very ready to come home. As advised, we checked with our travel agent the day before our flight home, and thankfully all was well – the flight was still departing as planned. We enjoyed our final night back at the Ambassador’s residence. And we set off for the airport. Where we found an eerie lack of passengers. It took us hours and hours to get any information. But eventually we were told that the flight had been moved forward by two hours. We’d missed it. And there were no flights back to England until at least the next day. We spent a full 24 hours in Delhi airport, sleeping amongst the scurrying mice, snacking on the questionable and overpriced ‘delicacies’ and arguing with airline staff about who should pay for our new flights. I think I may well have cried a little when we finally got back to good old Blighty.
We had a crazy six weeks. We were ridiculously foolish at times. But it’s an adventure I’ll never forget.
In summary: youthful misadventure.