It’s all so close, goodness me, it’s all so very close now. I can almost smell the runway tarmac. I can almost taste the soggy airport sandwiches. I can almost hear the grating rumble of 20-something girls insisting on dragging their miniscule suitcases over the cobbled ground– PICK IT UP FOR FUCK’S SAKE SARAH IT WEIGHTS ABOUT 15 GRAMS MY GOD –I can almost see the rooftops of Berlin shrinking majestically below me.
So I’m flying to Delhi on the 1st of March. My last day at work is the 23rd of February. Back to the UK for two nights to bid loved ones farewell and drop off any shit I don’t want to inevitably lose on the road, then a quick return to Berlin for two days of goodbye-ing, then away. That’s the plan as far as you know it thus far. I have since planned in a tad more detail.
Don’t get me wrong, things are still very open ended, and I’m pretty much down for any surprise alterations to my route. But at least in my head, I know have a general direction sorted out. I have utilised my advanced illustrative skills to attempt to divulge the route below. Feast your peepers on this map, swine!
(I don’t know why I called you a swine just then, you did nothing to deserve that. I’m sorry. I am sorry.)
So here’s the deal:
- Arrive in Delhi. Duh. I’ve got a hostel booked for a couple of nights, but after that, nada. Now, a girl at my office called Granthana heard on the grapevine that I’m fucking off East. She’s Indian herself, and offered to lend me her brain for a few hours. She gave me a wicked list of places to visit, and also told me little tips of local knowledge – things like how to not get absolutely fleeced immediately, how to not find yourself without toilet roll shitting your lungs out on a night train with 7 people banging on the door to get in; that sort of thing. So Delhi is the starting point. And then? NORTH.
Actually no that’s wrong. Sorry.
- And then? SOUTH. FOR A BIT. The Golden Triangle is comprised of Delhi, Agra (home to the Taj Mahal) and Jaipur (The Pink City). Trains to Agra/Jaipur are around 6 quid. SO: A brief pop over to the Taj Mahal. POW.
- A quick jaunt over to Jaipur. WHAM.
- Please note that all times and destinations on this map are very, very approximate. We’re talking ‘I will probably be within 500 miles of here’ and ‘I will be here roughly within the month of March’. In the foothills of the Himalayas, I shall don a warm jacket for the breezy temperatures, and visit Leh, the high-desert city, and cruise the Spiti Valley. It looks so majestic I want to vomit just looking at photos of it.
- Now we turn around and start lurching SOUTH. Amritsar, holiest site of the Sikh religion. Pilgrimage site 28km from the Pakistan border. There is a huge golden temple with a beautiful lake around it, and according to Granthana if you pootle down in the evening and sit, food is dished out that is purportedly incredible.
- The trip gets a bit vague from here on out, as I will slowly make my way down the country at a leisurely pace. I would love to visit Jodhpur, a city made up of gorgeous blue-painted homes overlooked by a huge castle. Nearby (well, 200km away) is Udaipur, a pretty lake-side city.
- Now, I’ve spoken to a few people with Indian roots over the years about travelling in the country, and I’ve heard mixed reviews. The whole Delhi/Mumbai feels a bit Stone/Beatles-esque. People who love one invariably hate the other. Granthana loves Mumbai and loathes Delhi. However, I remember an old friend of mine from Sheffield, Barkha, much preferred Delhi and told me Mumbai was boring. So who knows; I suppose I’ll soon be forming my own opinion.
- Again, heard mixed things. A lot of people flock to Goa for the beaches, and people who travel to places for the sole reason that there is a beach and water are not usually my kind of people. That said, after the chaos of Delhi and the intensity of travelling the breadth of India, I imagine a week or so spent lounging and partying with the hippies in Goa will be a welcome break.
- Hampi looks pretty cool. It’s an ancient village some 8 hours train ride from Goa – which really puts the size of the country in perspective when viewed on a map, dear fucking lord. Hoping to see ancient Indian temples and ruins and be dazzled to the max.
- Now, I think Kerala is a state, so merely heading there is a bit hazy. But the Kerala Backwaters look astonishing and I’d love a night or two on a houseboat (I’m just hoping it doesn’t cost the earth).
- Step 11 in my journey is the most formless of the lot and, let’s face it, none of them are very detailed. Chennai is around here, as well as Bangalore, Madurai and Pondicherry, which Granthana recommended. It’s gunna be hot, too. Temperatures rise to 40 degrees plus in late April. In all honesty, I imagine I’ll just wing it for a few weeks as I travel back up the country, all the way to…
- Varanasi! Home to Shiva, destroyer God of Hindus, and one of the holiest places in the Hindu religion. Apparently, Hindus believe that if you die in Varanasi, your soul skips the queue and goes straight to heaven – so the city is full of people just kicking back and waiting to die. There are dozens of burning ghats on the river Ganges, where bodies are cremated. Ashes are then scattered in the river. Varanasi is one of the oldest continually inhabited cities on the planet.
- This part of the trip is entirely at Granthana’s recommendation. She has told me that the strange little (comparatively ‘little’ when viewed next to the main bulk of India; it is still shitting enormous) eastern tip of India that totally surrounds Bangladesh is some of the prettiest greenery to be found on the sub-continent. There are supposed to be some staggering views on the train rides around here.
- Onward! Maybe! I don’t really know. I really really really want to pop over the border here and enter Myanmar – Granthana and I got so giddy at the idea we practically leapt up and high fived – but another friend who has recently visited Myanmar informs me that a land border entry into the country is not possible, plus the north of the country is going through a hell of a time what with the max exodus/persecution of the Rohinya people. So this remains a rough idea – perhaps I could get a cheap flight over the border, or perhaps I’ll have to head back to a major city somewhere to the west. And then, after 60 days in India, assuming I have any money left, I’ll be taking my leave and heading somewhere new.
This is the most detailed plan I have to offer right now. A lot of trains and hostels and searing heat. There’s a hell of a lot that can go wrong, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared – mega scared – but fuck it, man. Bring it on. Bring the world on.