I am captivated by the magic of¬ India and this was my second trip to this fascinating country. As I stepped out of the airport at Chennai where we were to stay for the first couple of days, I put aside my Western values and allowed¬†myself to be overwhelmed by the noise,¬†the smells (aromatic and otherwise!), the¬†madness of the roads and traffic, the vibrant¬†colour and the friendliness and charming¬†personalities of the Indian people, wherever¬†we happened to be. I travelled solo (as did¬†several others), however, the group comprising¬†equally of Australians and Brits were just so¬†encompassing. We became one big family¬†almost instantaneously, together with a great¬†escort who was polite, and helpful to the¬†nth degree.
After an early morning start to catch the train¬†to the elegant garden city of Bangalore and¬†spending the night there, we began our bus¬†trip to Kerala in the south taking in the small¬†villages and towns all full of interest; the¬†temples and amazing carved monuments,¬†the cultural sights and visits to local places of¬†work plus of course enjoying the wonderful¬†food (such a choice!) and the comforts of our¬†hotels and the fine service they provided.¬†Driving through the beautiful mountains and¬†winding through the tea plantations is quite¬†breathtaking. Nature walks by the river¬†through the plantations provided welcome¬†breaks.
Boarding the houseboat in Nedumudy before¬†lunch, the overnight stay (5-6 in each boat¬†together with a crew of 3 to spoil us) felt as if¬†we spent a much longer time on the Kerala¬†Backwaters as it was so relaxing. We moved¬†through the quiet waters observing the¬†villagers getting on with their everyday lives¬†and us, just part of the backwater lazy traffic.
A defining¬†moment for me was in Coonor. We¬†stayed at the Gateway Hotel Church Gate, a¬†tranquil location. Coming out of my individual¬†cottage accommodation into the lush gardens first thing in the morning it was a little chilly,¬†spitting slightly (the only rain we encountered)¬†and misty. I stopped. It was magic. It was India.