I've wanted to visit India for years. Patrick and I made individual bucket lists, and when we compared them, he said, "I don't want to go to India.". So, recognizing demographics, I just put that destination on my "eventually" list. He wasn't seriously ill at that point, and I figured we'd take the trips we both wanted first--England, return to Nova Scotia, maybe Greece or Turkey. One day, India might be an option. Then, after "one day" arrived, I started thinking about it again and ended up inviting Catherine to come with me. She's 22 (well, she turned 23 two days after we got home), and after talking with her friends who had traveled, told me that GAdventures was the company to contact. I did not want a high-end tour where I'd observe India through the window of a luxury bus; instead I wanted to meet people, walk through villages, see artists printing fabrics, eat what the real people eat, and get a sampling of the vibrant spiritual life of this large and diverse country. Catherine has an intense interest in the Hindu and Buddhist religions, the musical traditions of India, and just meeting new people. She's the extrovert, for sure.
We got what we expected, and more. I was, of course, the "Grammy" of the group of 15--young people from Ireland, Australia, the UK, Germany and New Zealand. We were the only Americans, although the New Zealand lady has been living in San Francisco recently. Our tour leader (CEO in GAdventures lingo) was a cheerful and knowledgeable Indian lady named Ruby Tabbsum, who somehow remained unfazed by the varying demands of group members. Once people made their desires known she made sure we experienced the things we most wanted: a spice market for some; for me, a visit to a block printing business and a chance to browse among their products. Some desires were already scheduled: of course, the Taj Mahal, a boat on the Ganges at sunset, visits to important Indian monuments. We stayed in modest but very adequate hotels, and occasionally in wonderful surprises--former palaces, now turned into lodging, in villages. I was usually at the back of the queue during a hike or a lengthy upward staircase, but mostly I held my own. I figured out, on day 2, that I had nothing to prove when it comes to stamina and so could stay in a courtyard and wait for the others to climb mighty towers without me. This provided me the chance to talk with others who stayed below: families with toddlers, elderly visitors and the like.
I wanted to insert some photos here, but cannot figure out how to get them to this place. Maybe next time. Blasted computer!