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Tasha and Neil’s Travel Diary

Monday, 17 Jul 2006

Location: Dehradun, India

MapThis is our last stop off on our ‘official’ trip, we feel we have worked so hard this year that we have awarded ourselves an ‘un-official trip’…. also known as A HOLIDAY! Yes, that’s right, we are so tired from travelling we are going to spend a week in Madrid / Cadiz (southern Spain) with friends David / Pat & Carmen / Alberto to relax a bit in the sun before we finally come home to sunny England (may the sun last two more week please?)

After paying over 10 quid in ‘departure tax’ from Kathmandu we got our final ‘Jet Airways’ flight to Delhi. Flights in India can be and have been for us an ordeal. Only in India could they make the pre-flight part of your flight more harrowing than any turbulence that the weather can throw at you. What we mean is best described in the sequence you suffer before you board the plane, which is as follows:
show tickets / passport to enter the…..AIRPORT.
body search by highly trained ‘guard’ who looks very uninterested in the process
x-ray cabin & check-in luggage
pay departure tax….but must now leave the airport to get correct money from ATM outside airport terminal
re-enter airport, receiving another body search from same guard & putting cabin luggage through same x-ray machine as during first entry to airport
check-in, showing tickets / passport as usual (although showing passport can be at their discretion & I didn’t need to show mine apparently…feeling nice an safe indeed!)
go through immigration control, showing passport as usual
proceed to ‘security checks’, where cabin bags x-rayed for 3rd time & receive another body search by another highly trained ‘guard’ before taking your 3 times x-rayed bag to a table for another highly trained employee to open your cabin luggage and search inside it & have a good nose around asking you questions like “have you got any knives in there sir?”, Surely if I did you would have seen it during one of the 3 x-ray machines you knob jockey would be a justified reply at this time but not if you don’t want to get arrested!
join queues (one for males & one for females!) to board plane….at last you’ve almost made it….or so you think…
…but first you show an employee your tickets yet again….
….then just before you enter the tunnelling to meet the bus that takes you to your plane another highly trained official who looks inside your bag & another one who frisks you for the 4th time! By this point you are starting to feel likes its ‘foreplay’ & wonder if you should ask for their telephone number so you don’t look cheap & slutty after all this physical contact!

At last you relax as you can see the plane & you’ve almost made it when….you are greeted by a queue to the aircraft, well 2 queues actually, one for males & one for females again because guess what?
Yes, you show your ticket YET AGAIN to another employee in the queue before getting your bag search AGAIN at the bottom of the stairs leading to the plane & show your ticket ONCE AGAIN to the man who is checking your bag!!!!!

God only knows why even the most hardened terrorist would want to go through this process to attack a plane though as I’m sure by now they would have gone to the toilets & blown themselves up in a cubicle just to escape this madness. Even in these times of heightened security this is Indian bureaucracy & over-kill to the highest level, the worst organisation for any of our flights we have taken around the world by a long way.

So, we made it through the flight & Miss Gunner had another look at a Jet Airways sick bag, like the one she spent the flight to Kathmandu with her head in for old time sake before we tried to meet up with the driver that my friend Ramneek’s family had sent from Dehradun to greet us. After searching several exits we find him & we’re off on a 9 hour road trip from Delhi, driving past many young people all wearing orange t-shirts / shirts.

We arrive at 1.30am in Dehradun to settle into the family guesthouse and get into bed….before a knock at the door from Choutu, the family slave, to serve us DINNER!!! We get out of our beds in our jim-jams & tuck into some late night / early morning curry before getting to bed at 2.30am.

The next noise we hear is the rat-a-tat-tat on the front door at 8.30am & the man who never sleeps (Choutu) is there again, this time with a fresh pot of tea & some biscuits. At this point we are pinching ourselves as we have only slept less tan 6 hours after a long day & travelling but we seem to be being waited on like never before on our journey. This is the type of service we have needed for 11 & a half months but could never afford. I’m already looking at my blue bag of souvenirs to see I could dump them & stuff him inside for the journey to London as a ‘permanent’ souvenir of India!!!

After our ‘breakfast tea’ we walk around trying to find out where the family live & look to introduce ourselves. After a short walk we stumble across ‘a mansion’…..no word of a lie, Ramneeks family live in a mansion, complete with huge stone pillars outside & a marble floor inside. Very nice indeed. We now understood why Ramneek felt so at home in my house in Reading, as it too is like a …..well, nothing at all like her family mansion but hey, I’ve got 2 toilets!

Soon we say hi to Ramneeks family, which we’d heard lots about when the 3 of us were living in Francis Street, and meet more members throughout the day. After family breakfast, 10 year old Zorawar guided us around the day. Firstly we visited the family run Biomedical College, with a lecturer explaining some of the finer details of the college & labourites.
After touring the college, the mansion grounds, visiting the horses stables one of the families drivers drove the 3 of us round the local area, (sounds posh hey, well we are now!) stopping off to wander across some forest and walk through a cool clear stream. All was going well until our guide, Zorawar, fell into the stream & got quite wet. Luckily he laughed it off & was soon drying off in the baking hot sun.

After a big lunch back at the house, in the late afternoon / early evening Ramneeks mum & family friend Bobby kindly took us to a Hindu temple which is situated next to the famous holy River Ganges for evening prayers during the Shiva/Patan festival. After walking over the wobbly Ram Shula Bridge to get to the right side we saw many people wearing orange tops. Bobby explained how this was all in connection with the festival & that these men had travelled & walked 600+ miles to collect holy water from the River Ganges to take back 600+ miles to their village to use to cleanse the holy Shiva statues in their village temples as an offering.

After almost being dragged into a procession as a festival float (a tuk tuk dressed up in orange!) went past me & being forced to dance whilst gripping my camera for all I was worth, Bobby explained these people are what he called ‘wild people’ from the mountain villages. They are ‘wild’ as they are mainly uneducated, unkempt, (unwashed at this point!) & are going crazy as with no work in the agricultural villages at present, are living a dream of being in a big ‘city’ with so many people. The more of them that there are, the more crazy they act due to feeling the power created by the strength of their numbers. Power over people is something these ‘wild people’ will not have often in their lives, so if they block the traffic on the roads due to their numbers & play very loud Hindu music off microphones tied to their trucks they are living ‘a fantasy’ as strange or bizarre as it seems.

At the evening prayers we gave an offering to Shiva’s Patan in the River Ganges as local Hindu children learning the scriptures chanted prayers out. After the prayers had finished we were driven back to Bobby & his wifes house for drinks before returning to the family mansion to discover that dinner was to be served at 11.30pm & we should drink beers on the lawn with Gaurav & Sheetal (+ 2 of their friends!) beforehand. After dinner Gaurav seemed to fancy his chances of drinking me under the table with Kuala liquor shots. His mate was first to concede & then the levels were upped to glasses of Kuala in wine glasses. Not to be intimidated or let my country down (as after 4 beers & many shots patristic tendencies takes over me!) I down the glass of Kuala & Baileys (a white Russian I think?) in one…leaving the other 2 making excuses about the whisky they had drunk earlier in the night. We might not be able to beat India at cricket but when it comes to drinking games the English can still carry their bat…..

The next day we enjoyed another huge brunch with the family before heading with Bobby & Zorawar to a hill station high up in the mountains known as Mussoorie. It was a long drive up to Mussoorie, past some more of the ‘wild people’ in their orange (now looking kinda brownish) t-shirts & unfortunately it was cloudy so the view half way up was better than at the top. After a wander round in the coolest climate we have known in Asia in 4 months we headed back to the family mansion for another huge dinner, a nice chat with Ramneek on the phone from England & retired with some chilled water & fresh mango shake courtesy of Choutu.

After our early morning call from Choutu with a cuppa rosie lee & big brunch we spent the day with Zorawar & Bobby in the Forest Research Institute of India. First stop was Dehradun railway station so Miss ‘train spotter jnr’ Gunner could take some pictures & write down the details of our final train from around the world. We have taken many train details down & photographed many more for the ‘spotters websites/books on our journey & look forward to taking our cut of the royalties from Dad G upon our return home (unless he’s wasted it on physiotherapy & loose women of course!). After calming down from that excitement we enjoyed our tour of the national forestry of India in a grand colonial British building, having a look at the flora & fauna of India in the midday sun and various museums dedicated to information on this subject. Bobby our host was keen to locate some plants for the grounds to be grown in the College but had no joy.

The next we were scheduled to visit the family farm but due to the fields being waterlogged as we are in Monsoon season that was postponed so we visited a famous Sikh temple just outside Dehraden with Bobby & Ramneeks mum. The Sikh temple seemed to be very jolly, with men reading the scriptures inside & after prayers we made our way to a place where all worshipers could take some food in humble lines seated on the floor opposite each other. The idea of this is that any worshiper, no matter what their status in the culture is can enjoy a meal. As we were worried about what we were eating since Tasha came out of hospital we 'passed' on the meal as we were worried it wouldn't be as clean as what we had been enjoying in the family home & Tasha was just enjoying a full appetite again. After seeing many Hindu temples it was an experience to see a different religion in the same culture on our last day in India.

In the evening we enjoyed a nice dinner with the family before getting ourselves ready for the trip to Madrid.

Although you might not think it, we have mixed feelings about our time in India. Our first experiences were hard going & the people we met in the tourist industry were not very nice & constantly trying to rip you off for any rupees they could extract from you. Having said that we saw some amazing sights in India, obviously like the Taj Mahal but also seeing the holy cows cruise the streets with no fear of retribution from angry motorists and many other such crazy daily sights you don't get anywhere else in the world. After our second visit to India with Ramneeks family we saw a different side of life & enjoyed our stay with them immensely. They were so friendly & welcomed us into their home, making us feel very relaxed in a country we had previously found hard to enjoy partly cause we couldn't relax our guard for a minute. They really helped to change the way we perceived India & left us with a positive feel towards the country.

This is the final stop in our trip around the world, with just a stop off in Madrid and via a weeks resting in Cadiz in the south of Spain before we head home to sunny England. We hope you've enjoyed reading about our travels as much as we have enjoyed....travelling!! It's been the most amazing experience of our lives and we will never forget it as long as we live.

Hope to meet up with you all soon & have a warm pint of English beer in the pub. Please keep in touch with us & have fun!

Adios Chicas!