Our Trip to India and Nepal
We just returned from the trip of a lifetime-a three-week journey to India and Nepal.
I have wanted to visit India since my days of studying Hinduism and Buddhism and my friendship with Sharma, a Hindu priest. Also since studying, practicing and teaching Yoga, and of course reading Eat, Pray, Love.
The fun part was that I went with my love of over 40 years, my husband Steve. We both have significant birthdays this year-my 60th and his 65th so wanted to do something special. We had three weeks off because his dental assistant was going on a long vacation in late February, early March. We used our travel agent here in Cincinnati, Laura Rinsky of Wayfarer Travel, who coordinated the trip with a travel agent in India, Naveen of Noble House Tours, whose name was given to us by Indian friends. This is the best time to visit India and Nepal. The temperatures range between 70 and 90 with cooler evenings and very little rain.
Everyone thought Steve was just tolerating my bucket list and coming along for the ride, but he was also very excited to have this adventure with me.
And an adventure it was. I filled two journals and we took 2400 photos.
Our three week itinerary included, Delhi, India's capital, Kathmandu , Nepal, Varanasi, India on the Ganges River, Agra, home of the Taj Mahal, Jaipur, the Pink City, and then Southern India-Cochin, Travancore, and Kavalam in Kerala, India along the Arabian Seacoast. We ended our trip in Mumbai, a city of wealth and extreme poverty melded in one huge metropolis much like New York or Chicago. We had guides and drivers at every destination provided by Noble House Tours.
Our senses were overwhelmed with experiences that we had little time to process as we moved from place to place.
India is a noisy country, very populated and very busy. Our guides in all the places we visited would say their city never sleeps. It’s true. You can hear life 24 hours a day and the roads are always crowded. Without a horn, you are a helpless driver and the roads are treacherous. With a horn, you fit right in and traffic flows in an intuitive sense between drivers and pedestrians.A frequent sound was the prayers and chanting heard as we passed and visited places of worship and meditation.
India is also colorful and full of sights you’ll not experience anywhere else. If you close your eyes you have missed something-from the colorful fabric selections of the saris worn by women, the Tibetan flags above Buddhist stupas, the costumes of the Hindu gods and goddesses, the fresh produce artistically displayed by the morning and evening vendors in the outside markets, bodies wrapped in white and adorned with red dye prior to their burning along rivers, and then the natural colors of the flowers and trees, especially in Southern India.
India is a country of many aromas and odors, some pleasant like the food cooked by local vendors in outside markets and the incense burning in the streets and temples. And then some more noxious odors from the cow manure to human excrement (more than half of all Indians lack indoor plumbing), and the fumes of the traffic vehicles in the street. It was common to see people wearing masks to prevent inhalation of the pollutants.
We love Indian food so the tastes and flavors of India were delicious to us. The meats, fish, legumes and vegetables of India are made with rich spices –cumin, coriander, cinnamon, cardamom, turmeric, and more. Nepalese food is similar to Indian food. Both are surprisingly mild in their preparation compared to the spicy hot Indian food we enjoy at our favorite local Indian restaurant at home.
As I reflect on the sense of touch, I don’t recall consciously experiencing tactile sensation as much. It is true that when walking down a street there was little space between people so we frequently brushed up against strangers and we did touch the fabrics in the shops. But I must say, we were conscious of keeping our hands clean with sanitizer and washing them frequently so as not to pick up a disease or parasite. The restroom facilities are sparse and primitive so we carried our own toilet paper and hand wipes and avoided touching. I had not thought of how protective we were of this sense.
Then there is the sense of emotional feeling, which is both heightened and deadened in India. We had little time to process all that we experienced and had to ignore the constant beggars that approached us in the streets. At times I felt heartless as I avoided them, averting my eyes from connecting with them, and continuing to move forward with our guides for site seeing. When we had some free time away from guides and drivers in the comfort of our many hotels, airplane flights, train rides, and houseboat adventures, we simply let our mind and senses rest in order to be able to take in more at our next destination, each a surprise and each powerfully different.
Now that we are home, we have time to look back and process some of what we experienced. When we were there, we experienced peace and stirring at the same time. We continue to experience that peace, but also the stirring and have yet to process all that we sensed and felt.
India and Nepal, lands far far away and very different, have left us nearer to our own hearts and each other, and changed forever. We are different than before this journey-a nice difference-that difference you feel when you have experienced something deep and profound.