Travel inspiration - India

Audley owners at Chalfont Dene, Mr and Mrs Edwards, share their travel experience of India and all that it has to offer tourists who travel there.

"We love India and have visited this amazing country seven times in this century. Our last visit saw us returning back to the UK in March 2020, just in time before the lockdowns happened."

Thank you to Mr and Mrs Edwards for sharing their story and we hope it inspires others to travel in retirement or at any age.


Chapter One - first impressions count……maybe

So why should we ever want to travel to India? Having spent 4 weeks in Australia the year before, surely we had had enough of visiting the colonies who had continually beaten us at cricket in their back yards as well as ours!

Well, it all goes back to 1914-1918 when Jacqueline's grandfather served out in Burma and in India, staying in Meerut, a place that Jacqueline hoped to visit sometime. With the new millennium upon us, why not go to India in 2000?

Why not indeed, and with the help of The Imaginative Traveller we started on our journey into India on 15th April 2000, via Muscat and on to Delhi. Wow, how different India was to the UK or indeed Australia, Thailand, the USA, Canada and Singapore - our previous excursions out of Europe and Africa. The transit via Muscat was fine, a couple of hours in a basic but enjoyable airport.

Next came the real awakening... Delhi Airport. To be more accurate, Delhi Domestic Airport (no International Airport in those days). It was very hot, smelly and busy as porters vied to help you carry your cases (for a 'small' charge by western standards). Well, the heat soon got to you as we waited in line with our visa's and passports ready to be stamped by several Indian administrators. We survived and finally met up with our luggage and our taxi driver and guide, Ravi Mukash.

Our taxi took us via family gardens and past (almost through) their front doors as we started to see the squalor that India had been renowned for. Cattle ruled the roads and I'm not sure which side of the road you were meant to be driving on but it worked and we arrived at our hotel, Jukaso, in one piece. Albeit not yet quite used to the never ending sound of car, lorry and bus horns and the sight of all public transport over full with smiling Indian faces somehow managing to stay on board.

Somehow, there were no road accidents. How, I'll never understand but the chaotic traffic system seems to work for them.

Our hotel is still described as a budget hotel but it was OK. We stayed in New Delhi, B&B only, so we took the advice of the concierge and made for a local 'eatery' where we were introduced to Lassi - it stops all forms of 'Delhi tummy' and to be fair to this day it has always worked for us.

So a full day in Delhi, visiting many places including India Gate with its snake charmers and grassy areas covered with youngsters playing cricket. Then onto the Old Fort, Red Fort, Jama Masjidand, Humayuns Tomb and Qutub Minar plus the Spice Market and Connaught Place - shops!!

At the end of a day, a massage which really hit the spot to round off the day.

So the next day, still exhausted from the Delhi sight seeing and the flights of the day before, we had a very early start as we caught the 7:55 train from Delhi to Sawai Madhopur. 5 hours of interesting train travel, good food and many other goods being sold. Unfortunately our taxi failed to arrive - the hotel had forgot as they had a big wedding that day! We managed to find a tuk tuk, which needed our helping hand to get it over the railway bridge. The driver took us through various villages and we thought our end was nigh! We finally arrived at the Hotel Ankur - the owner was very apologetic.

Bird's nest on a chandelier

The manager, Dinesh Shukla, showed us our room, which was complete with hose pipe for the aircon and then he introduced us to the resident birds in the reception chandelier.

We were then introduced to the outside dining area, as well as our tour guide.

An evening of entertainment with local dancers was fun. We met some South African lads who did not line their stomachs with Lassi and suffered for it! We enjoyed the evening and felt fine the next day.

So, up at 4:30am the next morning, excitement reigned as we went into the Ranthambore National Park - we saw bears, deer (all sorts), boars and finally on our 4th trip out a tiger was spotted some 200 yards away! He was bloodied and did not move, just laid there licking his wounds.

Tiger in Ranthambore National Park
Domed temple, Ranthambore, India

Ranthambore has plenty to see, including the locals washing in the lake and monkeys playing havoc in the monuments and temples.

There was so much to see.

So our first tiger, in the wild! An endangered species which the Indian people have tried to save. If only the Government would stop the poaching - all that satellite technology available.

Back at the Hotel Ankur we were treated to local dancers and the local cuisine - we kept to salads as the washing up facilities comprised of a hose pipe - yes a bit 3rd worldish but they made us feel very welcome.

On to Bharatpur, Keoladeo Ghana National Park, a bird sanctuary where we road tricycles. In April however, most of the birds had migrated - November next time!

Our hotel was a very old palace but was full of charm, character and interesting gardens.

We even had a walk out around the surrounding village and met the locals who loved being photographed.

A very nice meal was served up for us in the tower overlooking the village. A power cut occurred, so we had candlelight! The villages just enjoyed the darkness for some 30 minutes, then power was restored and the music, laughter and activity returned - kids still up at 9pm!

Travelling onto to Agra, arriving at the Mansingh Palace with a corner window where we could see the famous Taj Mahal which is based on the banks of the river Yamuna. First in, at 5am and some memorable photos - we met up with the South African lads that evening, who'd sampled the local Burger King and were paying the price, poor things. Agra Fort plus many Moghul buildings to also see during the day. So, being able to visit and admire the Taj Mahal at sunset too was so amazing!

April 22nd, boarded the train to Umaria - 12 hours! However, a very comfortable journey, good company and food and ON-TIME - something that some South African travellers could not believe - we photographed them under the clock..On to Bandhavgarh by taxi.

Small bungalow with tiled roof and climbing plants

Our first stay in a jungle hut which once we had chucked out the local wild life inhabitants proved nice. We were staying in the Bandhavgarh National Park - really the best way to experience India and the quest for tigers.

This tiger was spotted by a small lake but once 20+ jeeps had raced in, the tiger moved on. We followed him then got these wonderful photos as he marked his territory and pee'd his boundary warning to any nearby tigers.

Wow, quite an experience and we lived to tell the story.

Tiger in jungle
Driver standing by Ambassador car with open bonnet

Next onto Kanha National Park where we experienced our first breakdown.

We also visited the local 'launderette' and our next jungle hut - Kipling wrote Jungle Book in Kanha. Tigers regularly visited this resort so we stayed in at night although we did go out and see a 'sleeping' python in a local youth hostel.

Women washing clothes in river, Kanha, India
Older couple in seating platform on elephant

We boarded our elephant and made our way into the jungle and the savanna grass meadows. A resting tiger was spotted and we circled around it as the tiger was content having consumed breakfast earlier in the day.

Further tigers were spotted in Kanha but none as close as this beauty. Why oh why did poachers kill so many while India was under British rule - it still happens to-day but not as often!

Tiger lying down in long grass
Senior woman helping with work on a well

Kanha had been fascinating, the role of the park 'guardians' and the interaction with the tiger population. However, there was drought on the horizon so we helped out some locals who were digging their wells deeper.

They liked our donations of clothes too! The Indian people believe they are lucky, that life is a gift which they treasure. I think the farmers have the best life but the 'loan sharks' are a big problem when the rains are late and the crops fail..

Indian farmer wearing "Galway '96" t-shirt
People working outdoors in traditional Indian clothing

As we left Kanha on a 5 hour drive to Jabalpur where we boarded the overnight train to Nizamuddin, Delhi, a 20 hour train journey we had time to reflect on our experiences over the past two weeks. We had seen several wonders of the world, some amazing bird life and of course, several tigers - we had been so lucky and thankful to India for them sharing their wonderful country with us.

So we returned to Delhi ( purchased a rug - hand luggaged! ) and packed the rest of our bags for home this time stopping for the transfer in Bahrain and onwards to LHR! We had really enjoyed our 2 week stay in India - 15th to 30th April 2000. Poverty, yes we saw it but as the years progress so does the Indian Economy, so there is hope for this hard working nation of near 1 billion people.

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