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India – Paradise found in a Tea Plantation!

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In 2017 I had my first trip to India, and it was for a work conference in Delhi.  The event was hosted by the Indian Government so it was impressive. I felt privileged and excited to be there.

Always interested in travelling, I had asked for ten days of holiday after my conference so that I could explore more of India while I was there. Little did I know that this would eventually lead me to finding a paradise in a tea plantation.

During the conference I spent five days in Delhi. I wasn’t very happy with the pollution or the traffic although it had a lot of stunning temples to visit. I was happy when the Imaginative Traveller tour left Delhi on its ‘Golden Triangle’ tour to Agra and Jaipur and the ultimate destination: the Taj Mahal. I had chosen a moderate priced trip and for £700 had a 10 day trip around the most popular sites of Northern India. The trip was most memorable but didn’t include seeing any Indian nature or wildlife and was not very comfortable. The closest I came to animals were the stray dogs everywhere, which I tried to feed whenever I could. 

Taj Mahal India
Me in front of the Taj Mahal

By our third night we were on the train to get to the world famous Taj Mahal. We were all so excited until we were separated  into different “first class overnight sleeper“ cabins to get there. I was upset to find myself alone with an unknown man opposite me in the sleeper compartment. As I fell asleep I felt a tickle sensation only to realise it was cockroaches running through my hair. I tried to ignore it as I was really tired-  just like I tried to ignore the man opposite me staring at me. I even tried to ignore  the police who woke me up in the middle of the night  to tell me my wallet had fallen out from under my head during my sleep and to put it back there.  Imaginative Traveller should have put us together in the same “first class “ carriages rather than be mixed with unknown people. Considering  the news in India regarding the differences between the sexes I thought it was careless. I had already experienced the approved and encouraged segregation of the sexes on the Delhi metro lines, one for women and one carriage separately for men. For this trip we were  just lucky everyone was safe. 

As if that wasn’t enough everyone in our group then got sick, dropping off like flies, one by one. Everyone got sick I might mention, except me, which I concluded was because I grew up in Africa or maybe because I was vegetarian or maybe just lucky ? 

Laughing Yoga in front of the River Ganges

stroking a cow at a train station in Dehli
Cows on the train platform!

From the laughing yoga where an entire village of 350 people celebrated laughing yoga in front of the river Ganges river to stroking cows on the train platform we never had a dull moment on the tour.

At the end of the day I would laugh at the adventures with my roommate and she turned out to be a fabulous lady from New York City. She was full of humour and adventure and we ended up doing most things together. So the point of this story is that we decided that we would like to come back to India together the following year, to enjoy a more upmarket version of India, and to do things in more comfort and style. I wanted to see the tigers, elephants and animals of India and those exist in the nature reserves in the South.

This is why I came to be travelling to India in my fourth month of pregnancy, a year later. Not something I really thought about much when I went to the IVF clinic, but I had already booked a second trip to India with my friend from our tour.  It didn’t occur  to me to cancel the IVF or to delay it because I had plans to go to India later the next year. After all the IVF might not work, and also we had already paid our deposit and it was a five star trip. Given that it was upmarket and I had an iron clad stomach how bad could it be? 

Now we had seen Northern India we wanted to see the South and it’s treasures. I emailed the itinerary of the Imaginative Traveller “mid comfort South India 15 day tour” to Selvin Kumar at Liberty International  in India. He could replicate the same tour but instead of using public transport and being in a group he could give us the same price for just the two of us with a private driver and four star accommodation. 

Like before I arrived in Delhi, this time to see a friend who lives there. She had consoled me it would be alright to come to India and she had had her daughter in Delhi just a few years before.  I was due a second trimester scan: as I was between 18 and 23 weeks pregnant.  My friend was able to send me straight to her doctor. For £100 I was able to have the blood tests and ultrasound that was needed. By this time I should have been able to get the sex of my child, but big signs everywhere explained that I was not allowed to ask the sex of the baby from the doctor. It was against the law. 

I was a bit confused by this until the penny dropped. In India if the child is a girl families will want to abort the baby because they can’t afford the girls dowries later in life. This made me want to have a daughter, even though I had been indicated the baby looked like a boy from the first scan. 

Speeding away from the clinic with positive results I returned to my friends house where I promptly got sick. I think it was because I brushed my teeth with the tap water. 

I figured my morning sickness period was over so this time it was probably the different germs of India and I cursed myself for coming. 

Portuguese Colonial Church in Korchi

Soon enough I left the shelter of my friends home in Delhi to embark on my second Indian adventure. We followed the same scheduled trip of Imaginative Traveller with a start in Kochi. Once an important spice-trading centre, I learned that Kochi was once under Portuguese influence something I didn’t realise as I only knew about British rule at various times throughout history. 

The Tea Plantation

Tea plantations in Valparai reserve, Tamil Nadu, India
Tea plantations in Valparai reserve, Tamil Nadu, India

Liberty Travel suggested we omit a visit of Pondicherry and Mahabalipuram from the original tour plan because of the distances but that we visit a place called Periyar preserve and Valparai in Tamil Nadu instead. The reason behind suggesting this was  that their other clients had really appreciated staying there. I was hesitant for this change in the plan.  I was so appreciative for this part of the trip because I never imagined a tea plantation would be the high light of our trip. 

The tea plantation was built in colonial times and was home to many families of elephant roaming free and living side by side with the tea plantation workers. As we walked through the tea plantation on a guided tour we were taken to the favourite watering hole of the elephants, and watched babies play by the water side and roll in the mud.

Later we walked right up to water buffalo hidden in the thick bushes of tea. A wild boar crossed our path, followed by lion-tail macaques and our guide told us that even leopards lived on the plantation.

At night we feasted on the best Indian food I have ever tasted. We had a private cook who clearly was good with hygiene as we experienced only heavenly taste and no sickness. In the evening we watched the sunset from our seats at the top of the tea plantation, enjoying the noise of birds and nature. It was so nice to escape the noise and dirt of the cities.

After our walking tour we met some of the staff working on the plantation and enjoyed a tour of local coffee production houses which were also started in colonial times. When we left the plantation we went through the Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary looking for Bengal tiger. We didn’t see any but we did see spotted deer, monkeys, and one of the most amazingly beautiful Indian giant squirrels perched in a tree.

Traditional sculptures of bulls at front of museum Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya, Mysore in India.
Traditional sculptures of bulls at front of museum Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya, Mysore in India.

The next day we went to the Gandhi Memorial Museum and got a throw back to the colonial period when people were sick of being exploited by the British Government and Ghandhi was instrumental in changing the course of history in India. 

The temple tank surrounded by the tower spires of the ancient Hindu temple complex of Meenakashi Amman in the city of Madurai.
The temple tank surrounded by the tower spires of the ancient Hindu temple complex of Meenakashi Amman in the city of Madurai.

The trip ended in tour of the Meenakshi Amman Temple in Madurai. It was a truly mind blowing labyrinth of architecture and culture. Although it had all been amazing and certainly more comfortable than our first trip, I was happy to leave India behind. I flew out of Madurai on a direct flight to Singapore, a safer destination for my pregnancy. 

Click here to read about my earlier travels in pregnancy

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