KAPOORS ON THE ROAD
Early on during my several trips to India, I had invited a couple of people to travel with me, and I had found it very difficult to be the only one familiar with travelling in a third-world country, and the only one to have been to India before. I found it particularly difficult to deal with all the planning and with the effects of the culture-shock my companions were experiencing. Later when Anil was along with others, he was seen as the expert on India, despite the fact that we were visiting parts of the country he had never seen before, and the people were speaking different languages, other than his mother-tongue, Hindi.
For that reason, we put a moratorium on bringing other visitors to India with us, and I must have expressed this to my sister more than once, because she was stunned when we reached out and invited her and her husband to join us on our trip in February 2020. I explained that things were quite different with them now. This would be our fourth time travelling with them and two of the previous trips had been to developing countries.
The first time was when the whole McColl family, Donna, Duncan and their three sons, joined us in Vietnam for Christmas in our second year of retirement travels, 2007. Much later, shortly after they had retired, we met up in Colombia, when our itineraries crossed paths in early 2018. That had gone so well, that when they found out we were going to be in Cyprus for a couple of weeks, they arranged their travel plans in Europe, to join us.
Over the course of these trips together, we’d discovered that we’re very compatible as travelling companions. One of the biggest factors to the success we’d enjoyed, is that we all seem to enjoy a relaxing morning with an unrushed breakfast. It’s a great time to rehash the activities of the previous day, and to finalize any plans that need to be attended to for the balance of the afternoon and evening.
We’re usually out of our hotel rooms or AirBnB apartment by late morning and then we blitz the sightseeing well into the evenings. This matches almost exactly with how Anil and I enjoy travelling, but adds to the experience by the fact that we have company to go out with in the evenings. On our own, we usually stay indoors in the evenings in unfamiliar surroundings. It’s a matter of safety but more than that, we’re usually pretty tired from 6 – 7 hours exploring on our feet.
To this point, the most we’d ever travelled with Donna and Duncan was the two weeks in Cyprus. We had a terrific time together. Duncan arrived with a book he’d ordered on line, Hiking in Cyprus. He’d already read it thoroughly and had three possible hiking trails he thought would suit us perfectly. Donna and Duncan are about a decade younger than us, and are avid rock and ice climbers, so he took into account our more modest abilities when choosing the trails for us to tackle together.
The Cyprus trip was a great success for other several reasons as well. We are all keen to explore a wide variety of historical sites, museums, and art galleries; we like to hire cars for part of our trips in order to get to far flung destinations, and I like to do the driving, especially when we’re driving on the left hand side of the road; and we enjoyed the McColls taking us outside our comfort zone a little, by introducing some hiking into the mix.
We’d always been keen to walk, and climb mountains of stairs when need be, but we hadn’t really done much proper hiking in the past. They been keen to see us take up rock climbing as well, but I draw the line at that point because of my life-long fear of heights. Anil doesn’t have a fear of heights, but he doesn’t want to rock climb, wrestle, or play polo for that matter. He took to the hiking in Cyprus like a duck to water, that was something he’d done a little of with new university friends when he’d first come to Canada to study.
This occasion seemed a perfect time for them to come to India with us. They had already met each of Anil’s siblings when they had come to India individually, along with their spouses in the early 2004, 2005 and lastly, in 2013. On top of that, they attended Anil’s 70th birthday party hosted by our son Raj in Vancouver, and spent a few days with all six of them in Canada once again.
Now, a large number of the extended family members were gathering in Delhi to celebrate Arun and Neena’s 50th wedding anniversary and they could meet everyone and join in the festivities. Also, since we would be seeing everyone at Ajay’s home, we didn’t have to spread ourselves thin by travelling to Patna and Nagpur where each of the other siblings lived, we could tack on another part of India, a region what we’d never seen before, something we always try and do each time we come.
The only hitch in the plan was that Donna and Duncan were keen to see Mumbai and Goa as well, and because we had just been In Mumbai three months earlier, after the unexpected death of Ajay’s wife Neeta, we weren’t thinking of going back so soon. We suggested to the McColls that, because they were retired, and free to travel for as long as they liked, they might want to leave earlier than our departure date of Feb 1st, and travel to Mumbai and Goa on their own, before flying to Delhi to meet up with us at the end of the first week of February.
That suited them perfectly, and plans were put in place. We’d decided that we wanted to add Gujarat and Rajasthan as states to visit after the family gathering. We’d only passed briefly though the capital of Gujarat in 1991, but we had seen much of Rajasthan over three previous visits. No trip to India is complete without seeing the Taj Mahal in Agra, the Blue City of Jodhpur, the Pink City of Jaipur and almost my favourite of Rajasthan’s desert cities, Udaipur.
I got a little ambitious and felt like I’d like to tack on a couple of weeks in Nepal while we were in the region. We’d only ever visited the capital, Kathmandu the one time we were there, and I was keen to see more of the country. We’d left Nepal just weeks before the massive earthquake that flattened much of the historic temples, and I was interested in seeing how much had been reconstructed. Donna and Duncan would be able to do some serious trekking if it took their fancy.
In the end, that was pretty much our plan sketched out, but when I found that Anil and I could use points to fly back from Larnaca, Cyprus again, I suggested that we spend the month of April on the island, lazing in the sun and waiting for things to warm up in Victoria. The McColls weren’t keen on being away so long, seeing that they were setting off two weeks ahead of us. We would make things us as we went along, but if we did make it to Nepal, we would part ways there and go our separate ways.
Donna and Duncan had a terrific time in Mumbai, and Duncan came up with a novel way to get to Goa from there. It turns out that it has become possible to travel on a comfortable passenger ship, on an overnight journey, between Mumbai and Panjim, the capital of Goa. They spent a lovely week in a relatively new resort on a beach north of Panjim and did a little sightseeing as well.
And now, we were after staying with Ajay’s brother for a few nights, heading to the airport to pick them up and take them to settle into our amazing AirBnB apartment, a stone’s throw from the airport, though a bit of a stretch from the actual entrance to the terminal.