A Travellerspoint blog


(yes it is mental)

sunny 26 °C

We're in India baby!!!

It's as crazy as we were expecting, probably going to be the most challenging country I've travelled but...it's awesome to be here :)

So our journey started at Manchester Airport on Friday afternoon, I met my lovely travel buddy Amanda who refers to me now as Hannah "spreadsheet" Reeves. Our flight went via Doha and was really good, although tiring. We arrived at New Delhi airport at 7.30am (2am UK time) and found immigration surprisingly easy to go through. The man on customs questioned us a bit about where we were going, and told us it wasn't sensible to travel alone as unaccompanied women. Not at all phased I proceeded to show him the spreadsheet while Amanda cringed and all was fine...we were in!

We went to our taxi and was met by the loveliest man who smiled broadly with the words "welcome to India"!! And off we drove into the madness of India's roads. Despite having had no sleep and no coffee I was loving it, the traffic was mental but as i've come to realise in just two short days here is that somehow cars, rickshaws, tuk-tuks, motorbikes, people and cows do not bump into each other. They just beep and or shout...repeatedly....infact not beeping or shouting would be abnormal. It's my normality since arriving.

We arrived at our hotel in the middle of New Delhi, the streets are hugely dusty and dirty. There is a strangely unique smell, dogs running about everywhere (glad I got the rabies jab), flies, people welding on the side of the road, constant traffic and pollution. All i'd dreamed of experiencing when I chose to come here. Our room is pretty nice actually, the rest is basic. I get washed in a bucket.

After getting over the jet lag of our first day we ventured out on Day 2 into the depths of old Delhi. On a rickshaw!! It was hilarious. We went all around the markets, I think there is a market for everything you could imagine - silks, spices, chilies, fish, meats, wedding attire, dresses, car parts, books, fruits and flowers. We visited a number of sites including the Red Fort, Jama Masjid mosque, India gate and Ghandi's tomb.

The food...i don't have enough time in this internet cafe to write about the food. But, while being sensible, i'm trying everything. It's incredible.

Tomorrow we are up at 6am to visit Agra and the Taj Mahal :)

Love to everyone in UK xx

Posted by hanaldinho 05:00 Archived in India Comments (0)

Destination India

I am heading East :)

rain 12 °C

I've dusted off my backpack, got nostalgic about the last journey we went on together and then got giddy about the one due to start in t-minus-48 hours time. And so I decided it was a timely moment to revisit my travel blog so I can diarise my trip and provide general musings along the way.

I am deeply passionate about a couple of things; social justice and travelling. Which at times can seem a bit conflicted, especially when I feel convicted about the need to consumer detox...but hey ho...I'm going to travel India baby!!! The spreadsheet itinerary has been created and shared with a select few (fellow traveller Amanda, boyfriend John and anxious Mother Reeves). It was pointed out to me by John that scheduling an ice-cream in Mumbai on Thursday 22nd November at 3pm local time was possibly taking forward planning a bit too far, even for me. But in general the plans are not this restrictive, just a sensible guide for where we need to be and when so that we maximise our time out there. There is no time contingency built into the plan for illness recovery or transport delays, and after my brief exposure to the Indian Railway network I think that's pretty optimistic. The people at IRCTC have been very lovely and polite, but my goodness what an inefficient and bureaucratic online-booking system. Their official internet site will not accept foreign card payments so to reserve trains online (which get booked up very quickly) you need to register on IRCTC, receive the email activation code, then email customer services with a copy of your passport, within certain times only, to request the required mobile activation code. On receipt of the mobile activation code, to your email address, you then have to register with a private affiliated company at cleartip.com and then go through the same process of registering, using the codes provided by IRCTC. Simple yeah? Not when the site regularly crashes and then each time you try to re-register it sends a new email activation code and so you have to go back to the customer care people and hope they will email you with a new matching mobile activation code. Only to realise that you have since been sent 4 new email activation codes and now need to decipher which is most up-to-date to send back to the customer care people, who at this point have got fed up with you and stopped responding to your emails. Awesome. We'll leave the transport arrangements until we're out in India then.

I'm going on this trip with my good friend Amanda; lovely Manc lass and highly relaxed. So totally the opposite of me. Fortunately I know from our time spent at Brazil Carnival and in Sweden that we travel well together and can have a laugh. It's good to be going away with another experienced traveller who is happy to hostel-it and will humour me and my need for organisation. And I provide benefits as a travel partner too - a significant number of medicinal items for every occasion: Delhi Belly, vertigo, travel sickness, Malaria, Flu or general need for pain relief.

Sickness concerns aside, I am so massively excited about this trip. India has been on my list for ages, if it wasn't for South America drawing me back 3 years running I would have gone East a long time ago. But now IS the time and I cannot wait to gain from all that comes through travel - a culture shock to all the senses, riding on public transport not too sure how its going to work out and being very grateful when you get to where you wanted, meeting beautiful and hospitable local people and learning a little bit of what it's like to live where they do, remembering that every country you visit has its own confronting poverty and social issues and being thankful for all you have in your own, having to make time each morning to separate your money, passport, key belongings over your body / in your underwear and the relief that it's still all there when you settle, and of course...adventure adventure adventure. To conclude this blog entry, a quote from the Lonely Planet that got me super excited about this particular trip...

"Nothing can fully prepare you for India, but perhaps the one thing that best encapsulates this extraordinary country is its ability to inspire, frustrate, thrill and confound all at once. India is one of the planet's most multidimensional countries, presenting a wildly diverse spectrum of travel encounters. Even the most experienced travellers find their sanity frayed at some point, yet this is all part of what makes India a unique travel destination".

Bring. It. On.

Posted by hanaldinho 11:05 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (2)

Reflecting on my South American adventure

and dealing with the reverse culture shock!

sunny 23 °C

It's been over two weeks since I landed in Heathrow and I felt it was time to write my last blog to sum up my trip. At my age I think I know myself pretty well, this wasn't intended to be a deep soul-searching experience and I didn't have any sort of epiphany while I was away. But it was a great time to reflect, push myself fully out of my comfort zone and go on the most incredible adventure. Travelling certainly does open your mind, it exposes you to other cultures that challenge your perceptions and softens the cynicism which can creep into our hearts from our everyday experiences at home. In a world where our news is dominated by negative stories and messages of fear it's really cool to be reminded that in every corner of the world there are people who will show you nothing but acts of kindness and hospitality for no other reason than to make you feel at home in their country.

Since being back people have asked me what was my favourite memory or the best bit of my travel and I can't single one out. For me going on an epic adventure on the other side of the world was, in its entirety, everything I dreamed it to be. Diversity and beauty were what I was searching for and I found them in abundance through the people, landscapes and situations I encountered. At the beginning of my trip I was nervous, not just because this was the first time I would be travelling alone, but I was also apprehensive about how I would deal with returning back to my routine - my everyday "normality" here in Manchester. Based on previous experiences of returning home after time abroad I knew there was a high possibility I would fall into post-travel depression, eating my body weight in chocolate and annoying all my friends with nostalgic tales and self-pity. Sometimes it really can take a while to get over that feeling of post-travel restlessness where you believe your world has been turned upside down and you question everything in your life. But even though I put myself through this emotional rollercoaster it is definitely worth it. Thankfully the adjustment this time has surprisingly not been too painful. I think it helps that I have returned to the UK in springtime when we are experiencing glorious sunshine, a mini heatwave and the celebrations of a Royal Wedding. It has been wonderful catching up with family and friends who I appreciate more than ever. I made some brilliant friends while I was away and I have an abundance of amazing people in my life back at home.

When I think about everything I did in just 3 months I feel a mixture of amazement, thankfulness and sorrow that it's all over. But the spreadsheet itinerary certainly came through! In my travels I spent over 200 hours on buses, trekked glaciers in Southern Patagonia, danced tango in Buenos Aires, saw Evita's grave, stood beneath the powerful rush of the Iguazu falls, climbed up to snow-capped mountains in El Chalten, experienced the adrenaline rush of white-water rafting down the Argentinean/Chile border, had three hilarious hitch-hiking experiences in Argentina, went on a road trip in the lake district of Bariloche, tasted wine in the vineyards of Mendoza, laughed to the point of crying with Lidwien, Sivan and Haggar over a bottle of Malbec, was highly amused at the amount of Argentinean el mullets on show, saw a mountain made up of seven colours, watched more than one spectacular sunset that brought me to tears, sandboarded down the dunes of the Chilean Atacama desert, got up at 4am to see geysers smoking at dawn, swam in hot springs, floated in a volcanic salt lake, ascended to the dizzy heights of over 6,000 meters in the Bolivian desert, chewed on coca leaves, slept in all my clothes in a hostel with no hot water, heating or electricity, walked on the largest salt flat in the world, mountain biked down the most dangerous road in the world, drank home-made caipirinhas and ate churrasco with my Brazilian friends in Sao Paulo, experienced Brazilian Carnaval in Rio, received freshly squeezed orange juice and ground Colombian coffee for breakfast from Juan and Carlos in Bogota, watched a fellow traveller in a hostel confuse an internal palm tree with the communal toilets, visited a coffee plantation in Salento, made friends with the Colombian military, stood in wonder looking at 60 feet wax palm trees in the Valle de Cocora, went to the place where Pablo Escobar was killed in Medellin, got giddy to the point of hysteria with Devi whenever reggaeton was playing, stayed in a hut on a remote island in the Caribbean, slept overnight in a hammock on the beach, immersed myself fully in a mud volcano, chilled out at Cafe del Mar in Cartagena's spectacular old town, walked with monkeys, boa snakes, ants and butterflies in the Tayrona National Park, invalidated my travel insurance by trekking to the Lost City, met an indigenous community and their beautiful children, received 37 mosquito bites from 5 days in the jungle, was given a personal dance lesson in Salsa and Vallenato, and made many friends from all over the world who I intend to keep in contact with for life.

I read a good blog entry recently which was written by a friend I met travelling in Colombia. He wrote about how it's the people who make a place and I completely agree. All my previous blogs mention examples of the incredible fun I had with local people and other travellers. And not once did I experience any problems or threat to my personal safety. But that's not to say that bad things don't happen and in any area of the world you can meet friendly people and dangerous people. Some travellers I met did have problems, several had been robbed and on more than one occasion this was at gunpoint. But for me the fact still remains that the only time I've ever had someone try to rob me has been in my own home city of Manchester.

So, after a long break from work where I've fully indulged in the beauty of South America have I got this travel bug out of my system? I certainly feel that I accomplished my dream to backpack across a continent I fell in love with two years ago and yes this satisfied my desire to experience travel in this way for the first time in my life. I also know that I squeezed the juice out of every place I visited so don't think I could have got much more out of the experience. But no, my hunger for travel is not satisfied. I know this sounds like i'm greedy but travel is my passion, a part of my life and I intend to continue doing it for as long as I can. I am going to say something very profound now so prepare yourselves: when I was in the Colombian jungle my body got covered in mosquito bites, despite a rigorous daily routine of covering myself in repellent. I didn't want to scratch my bites but I somehow couldn't stop myself and it felt sooooooo good to do it even though it made them all flare up and become more itchy. And then I realised that this is exactly what the travelling bug is like, once you are bitten the more you scratch, the more you itch!! You are thinking "3 months in South America and this is the most deep thing she could come up with?"!!! So now I will finish...

Taking a sabbatical from work to travel is a luxury of living in a developed society. And I can honestly say that every single day I was away I felt so grateful for the experience. I'm also proud of myself for taking some risks, personal and financial, to achieve my dream of backpacking across South America. 10 years ago I would never have had the confidence to do this, especially not on my own. Leaving it to when I had a mortgage and various other financial commitments posed challenges, but overcoming them made me even more determined. And it reinforces my view that when you are thinking of doing something that really scares you, as long as it's obviously not a stupid thing to pursue you should absolutely do it.

Posted by hanaldinho 04:28 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

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