India had been a dream destination for me for many years when in 2004 I was invited to join a group that would be travelling around what is known as the Golden Triangle: Delhi, the ancient capital; Jaipur, famous for it forts and palaces and Agra, home to the Taj Mahal.
My friend Annie, who spent a lot of her time travelling around India, had organised the trip, finding the most exquisite hotels to stay in and hunting out the most interesting things to see and do, not just the obvious famous sights but also some more off the beaten track attractions too. It sounded like a trip of a lifetime and I longed to go so very much but there was simply no way I could afford it. Then something unexpected happened; I received a huge council rebate! Following a couple more strokes of good luck I unexpectedly found the funds to go. I had seen many stunning photographs of India that Annie had taken and I knew I was going to love it but it exceeded even my high expectations.
The hotels Annie had chosen for us were beautiful beyond belief – royal forts and palaces, colonial mansions, full of history and even a luxury hotel made of camel dung!
On my first day in India I remember taking tea on the front lawn (or in my case coffee, I can’t stand tea) of our very grand New Delhi hotel, watching small green parrots flit from palm tree to palm tree, hardly believing that I was really here at all.
Tamil Nadu and Kerala
I really do feel very lucky to have seen India and is such style! It really was a holiday of a lifetime, an experience that I will never forget. I’ll confess that I enjoyed it so much that when Annie invited me to join them the following year on a tour round Tamil Nadu and Kerala, I did everything I could to save the money to go and borrowed the rest. It was a good few years before my credit card recovered from the shock.
Both trips were well worth every penny. India is the most exciting country I have ever been to – a kaleidoscope of colours, a cacophony of sound, so much of life lived out on the street but peace and stillness was also to be found…. moments like those in the hotel garden, with just a whisper of distant traffic and the occasional flutter of wings.
My only regret is that I didn’t write a blog back then and my photos were all taken on film. I’d carry around three camera bodies, one with colour print film, one with black and white print film and one with Fuji Velvia or Provia transparency film. With at least two cameras around my neck, I’d switch from one to the other, changing lenses back and forth. Even the best of professional cameras (I now use a Nikon D700) in my mind can’t match the clarity and sharpness of the later but I am so pleased only to carry one camera body around now. I’m even known to use a compact camera with video on occasion as most of my photography is taken with this blog in mind. And what a passion this blog has become. I imagine when I’m in my golden years I’ll really enjoy re-reading these stories and looking through my photographs, a public diary of my adventures.