We finished our 15-day tour just as we started it, with a walking tour through the most chaotic part of town. Looking at our photos from New Delhi and Kathmandu, you’d think they we were the same place. Honking horns, garbage, cows, decrepit roads, dust, and 8 bajillion people. Thankfully, along the way we enjoyed the sights and our tour group too.
Our guide, Navin, was a cool dude, not your typical Indian man. He would look more at home in a music club in Amsterdam. He was relaxed, worldly, and knew his stuff about India and Hinduism. The members of our group got along fairly well, thankfully, as we shared many meals and some long bus and train rides. Ken and I have been together nearly every moment for the past seven months, which has its challenges, and the opportunity to socialize with other people was welcome.
This tour covered a wide range of activities and styles: sightseeing, boating, hiking, sleeping in tents, eating at posh restaurants, visiting temples in mid-worship, and conducting our own puja ceremony.
The tour did exactly what we wanted it to. For two weeks, we didn’t think about finding transportation, booking hotel rooms, or deciding about where to eat. We were fairly insulated from the barrage of headaches that is part of being a tourist in northern India. Was it perfect? Not exactly. Having been a tour guide in the past, I have some pretty strong ideas about how a leader should communicate and conduct a tour. For instance, the pacing of some of our walks was a bit frantic. I prefer a slower pace- I wanted to have a chance to spot wildlife in Chitwan National Park, rather than power walking past it (though seeing that one-horned rhino was cool). I guess on the upside, we got some serious exercise.
Will we join a guided tour again? Perhaps. There were some places we were ready to leave much sooner than the tour did and others where we wanted to stay longer. That loss of control was a small sacrifice for the joy we felt shutting off our planning brains for two weeks. Thanks, Navin and our fellow travelers, for an enjoyable tour!