Going the Long Haul – India & New Zealand
It’s been a couple of years since I went to India, but I remember my first day like it was yesterday. The sounds and smells of the city hit me the moment we stepped out of Mumbai airport.
The intensity of the heat was heightened by the fact that there were hundreds of shouting men circling us like sharks.
It was dark and we’d not booked a transfer from the airport. Mistake one. The hotel had offered to arrange it, but I insisted we’d be grand.
We walked slowly through the crowd, eyes jumping around. I chose our driver, because he stood back from the crowd, looking up at the sky. He was the calm in the storm.
Mumbai is one of the fastest growing cities in the world and there is chaos on every street. They say New York never sleeps, well you should visit Mumbai. Horns toot like a symphony day and night, millions of people walk along the crumbling streets like ants and dust fills the air.
Families of five and six balance like a circus act on ancient mopeds, barefoot children race through traffic dodging tuk-tuks and trucks like bullets. They beg at the windows of stationary vehicles, sell bracelets and books or carry buckets of dark coloured water and sponge car windows in the hopes of getting a few rupees.
It took time to see through the chaos and witness the actual pace of life of the people of Mumbai. There are so many people moving at one time it seems like they are on fast forward, but in reality, individuals move at a relaxed pace.
It took time to see the smiles and hear the laughter, beneath the dust and noise, but when I finally did, it was like seeing the sun shine through dark rain clouds.
India is everything; it is rich and poor, chaotic and peaceful, dirty and beautiful, bleak and colourful, happy and sad. I spent a month travelling from Mumbai, down to the beaches of Goa, into the lush jungle of Kerala and every moment was an experience I will never forget. Some moments more than others, like being stuck up a treehouse with no windows or way to get down, animals skittering across our bed and doing jigs in the tiny bathroom.
I wish I’d been writing this blog then. I’ve spent two days reading my travel notes and flicking through more than a thousand photos. It’s taken me back to the adventure I had with my friends.
They say a picture paints a thousand words and so, I think I’ll tell my story through my photos over the next few days. This morning on Ireland AM I was chatting about India and one of my personal favourites, New Zealand. You can watch the slot here or read about the places below.
- In the historic centre, Colaba, there is plenty to keep you occupied. Walk through the busy streets or jump into a rick-shaw and explore the area.
- Visit the Gateway to India and take a boat from here over to Elephanta Island where you can wander ancient caves.
- Immerse yourself at Chor Bazaar, an antiques market or have a juice in one of the huts on Juhu Beach.
- One of the cities most impressive buildings, is the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (Victoria Train Station) featured in the film in the memorable final dance scene.
South of Mumbai, it is only a short flight to Goa, a popular beach destination, for those looking to chill out or party. There is a beach for everyone in Goa:
Palolem – lined with hotels, bars and restaurants, although it still has a chilled out vibe, but the beach parties go all night. There is accommodation for all budgets, from luxury villas to €15 rooms.
Agonda is quieter, but still has a good variety of beach bars and accommodation. (10 mins north of Palolem)
Cola Beach – even quieter again. The beach is peaceful and long enough to go for an afternoon stroll and you can hire a boat for €15 to get to Palolem for the day.
Kerala – Don’t Miss
- Houseboat Trip – Kerala has some spectacular backwaters that flow through forests, by towns and through the countryside. The houseboats vary in price, thus standard and it’s worth spending as much as you can afford to have a comfortable boat. You can do overnight trips, or you can simply do a daytrip where you have lunch and visit villages along the way.
- Jungle Trek – ok so we only stayed a night as the snakes, spiders and incredibly high treehouse freaked us out, but it was an experience I would recommend. Just bring a mosquito net, light and sleeping pills. The trek through the jungle is spectacular.
- Theyyam Ritual –a ritual art form, elements of which date back thousands of years and those involved in the ritual are believed to have being born into their role. We stayed in a place called Costa Malabari.
Getting There – Fly to Mumbai (via London) from €700 return – www.emirates.com
Hotel Accommodation from €50 per room per night
Special Offers – Gohop.ie – The Jewels of Kerala and North India from €1850 – includes Return flights ex. Dublin, private arrival transfer, 9 nights accommodation, flight from Cochin to Delhi, meals on a B&B basis, services of locally appointed English speaking guides, applicable entrance fees, elephant ride at Jaipur and sunrise visit to the Taj Mahal, transport in an air-conditioned car as per the itinerary.
Trailfinders – From €1969 – Includes flights with Etihad Airways, accommodation & a 10 day private tour.
New Zealand is the perfect destination for those in search of adventure and the great outdoors. From great beaches in the Bay of Islands or the stunning Coramandel Peninsula, to erupting geysers and bubbling mud holes in Rotorua, kayaking in Abel Tasman National Park, or wine lovers won’t be able to resist tasting crisp sauvignons in the Marlborough region.
- Take your time and travel in your own vehicle if possible. This will allow you to see the country at your own pace.
- Bay of Islands – North of Auckland is the stunning Bay of Islands – Paihia is a great place to base yourself to explore the islands and do a day trip to 90 mile beach.
- Taste the wines in the Marlborough region
- Kayak along the Abel Tasman National Park
- Coramandel, Peninsula – pristine beaches and rainforests
- Climb the Franz Josef Glacier,
- Ski or hike in Queenstown and Lake Wanaka
- Take a boat trip through the stunning Milford Sounds
- Rotorua – south of Auckland this is probably the smelliest town you will visit, so you’ll probably just want to whizz in for a night or two, photograph the erupting geysers and bubbling mud holes and then move on!
Getting There- Fly to Aukland via London and Singapore from €835 return and Malaysia Airlines
Hotel Accommodation – From €50 per room night
Special Offers – Trailfinders – New Zealand Motorhome Holiday from €1239 – Includes return flights, 2 nights accommodation in Auckland and 8 nights in a motorhome, all taxes and charges.