In 2004 I had my first rough and ready backpacking experience completing a little over 3 months going around India seeing as many Cities as possible. It was an eye opening experience and completely changed my view of many things about the world – and helped me appreciate how lucky I am with the great life opportunities I’ve had.
On this trip I was focused primarily on two things, firstly to learn more the history of India, and in particular northern India where my farther is from, and secondly to see as many of the Australia v India Cricket test matches as possible – it was a historic tour for Australia.
In 2011 I returned to India to go back to my favourite spot in the Himalaya foothills, Dharamsala, which is also where the Dalai Lama is based. The focus of this much shorter trip was to watch some IPL Cricket and the opening of the new stadium at Dharamsala (the Dalai Lama went to the opening ceremony).
– Cricket, Australia’s ‘final frontier’ – in 2004 Australia had been completely dominating world test cricket for the prior 10 years. They had beaten every other country on their own solid except for India – this was the last achievement they were seeking to prove their world domination. They had come excruciatingly close in 2001, but were undone by some heroic Indian batting in Calcutta. This was the next chance. I saw two of the test matches (in Chennai and Nagpur) and saw Australia clinch the series in Nagpur. Afterward during the celebrations at the local hotel the Australians were at, was lucky enough to have a beer with a few of the Australian players who were surprisingly down to earth and relaxed.
– Learning about half of my heritage (Punjabi), staying in Amritsar and seeing the beautiful Golden Temple, visiting the border with the Pakistan and seeing the theatrics with the flag raising ceremony.
– Stumble into military base – while doing one of my random exploratory walks in Shimla, I stumbled into a military base on top of a hill. After some pretty intense questioning from the soldiers, and explaining the route I had taken, and the cricket games I had seen, I was let go without incident.
– Rajasthan, beautiful colored desert towns (including blue, pink and white towns) and ancient forts.
– Bargaining – Turning from a timid to a fierce bargainer. So many things need to be bargained for in India (transport, accommodation, gifts). I progressed through several distinct phases: 1) Not bothering with bargaining as the absolute $ was small when converting rupees back to $; → 2) Bargaining timidly, and viewing it as a burden and a real hassle. → 3) Finally, looking forward to the challenge of bargaining, and going in shamelessly and ruthlessly. After I left India I was actually missing the challenge of haggling.
– So many other highlights… so many to write here in retrospect! (alas, I should’ve started a blog earlier!).