Jenny Russell and her husband Bob (both in their mid-50’s) recently embarked on a two year travelling adventure, following his voluntary redundancy. Here, she recalls their first days in India.
We had a whistle stop tour of England sorting ourselves out for the next trip. We only had 10 days to get our life in order and we rushed around as usual like headless chickens. The first thing that was vital was to get our Indian visas, followed by a change of clothes and a suitcase, check out our rented house, baby-sit for darling granddaughter Annie, have and cook Christmas dinner with the boys their families and my mum, then help pack and move Sophie and Mike into their new home in Chelmsford, then drive to Bob’s family in Oxfordshire for a far too short visit and then get to Heathrow on time for the off, phew!
We were met at Bangalore airport by Bob’s good friend Sankar and his driver to be whisked to his home in the city to meet his wife Jyothi, for a couple of hours sleep after the dreaded BA night flight. We have been spoilt rotten with typical Indian hospitality ever since landing in this wonderful country and our girths are expanding daily.
Our first evening was spent at a fantastic wedding reception of a Misysian Praveen Kumar, which comes the day before the wedding here and learning to eat with
our right hand off a plantain leaf, we had to sit on our left hand to stop ourselves cheating as even the bread had to be torn single handed.
The following day we went to Sankar’s new farm house just outside the city. What a surprise, the countryside is very green and more like England to look at, not as jungley as we thought and no sign of Tarzan, shame. Sankar’s house is completely round and run as ecologically as possible with a wind turbine and solar
panels for power and hot water. In the centre of his house is an amazing pool for irrigating the land, which also keeps the inside nice and cool. He has a cow and goats for milk and Jyothi makes all her own curd and is far too good a cook and so hospitable she’s like my mummy/big sister/auntie all rolled up in one. I don’t know what we’re going to do without them in Kerala! She has even taken me shopping for Salwar Kameez, which are a three piece suit, top, trousers and a shawl, I was like a kid in a sweetie shop, so many designs, materials and colors, all made to measure over night, the three I chose came to £16 for the lot, even with stitching! I don’t know why I bothered packing anything really.
Continuing on a road trip with them we drove to Srirangapatnam visiting temples and the Maharaja’s palace in Mysore and water fountains at Brindavan gardens that come alive with color at night. We stayed in a country club in the heart of Bandipur national park, where wild tigers and elephants roam. Getting up very early in the morning to go to Mudumalai tiger reserve for an elephant safari, then a bus safari. We saw lots of monkeys, gibbons and deer but not much else, our driver took us to visit a baby elephant and then decided to go a bit further up the road and there by the side of the road around a bend was an enormous wild bull elephant about 40 years old with huge tusks. Our vehicle was a closed jeep with an open back for a man. I sat in the front with the driver as I’m a terrible car traveller and boats for that matter, famously getting sick on the Woolwich ferry! Anyway I digress. Bob, Sankar and
Jyothi sitting in the back seat blocking our driver’s rear view mirror. The bull was also a tad excited, and in musk, and was thrashing around the undergrowth with his trunk. Our driver drove past him, then came back so he could take better photos, he had a great Nikon camera with a zoom lens but he honestly didn’t need it as we were so close. The elephant decided to cross the road in
front of us, he was just across when he span round and started to charge at us, the driver slammed the jeep in reverse for a few feet then slowed, big mistake, the bull got really cross and was heading for us roaring at full pelt and gaining on us by the second, the driver couldn’t see behind us as we were on a bend and anything could have been coming the other way but the tyres where spinning and smoking, reversing as fast as he could. I valiantly fired off a few shots with my little camera thinking if I die now at least my children will know why! He got to about 8 feet from us before stopping, trumpeted loudly, he had won and he knew it! If he hadn’t decided to stop I would not be writing this from the comfort of our hotel but in hospital or worse. Well that was what I call a safari, even the driver was shaking and could barely hold his camera. We carried on filming for a while and then made our way back to the hotel, laughing with fear and excitement all the way. We had many other exciting and new adventures but you’ll only get bored if I relay them all.
We said a sad farewell to Sankar and Jyothi and stayed for the afternoon with a close friend James and his wife Vandana and baby Mya, who is soo cute, before heading off to the station for an overnight train to Kerala. James came with us to the station and helped us with everything, thank goodness, rather an experience. Eventually found our berths which we shared with two lads from the Thai and Burmese Navy and a large female Guru dressed in an orange tent, who was having her feet kissed by a hundred followers as she slapped their heads. We survived the night and even slept some, waking to watch the countryside and rivers passing by the window.