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India with children....

INDIA | Saturday, 5 November 2011 | Views [875]


Travelling with children…in India.

 

Why India? Everyone would ask, even people I met in India. I travelled for two months with my two boys (5 and 8yrs) through Southern India. We arrived in Mumbai and the adventure began. With a backpack each and travel guidebook in hand we set off to find a taxi to take us to our hotel. I had prebooked the first night so we weren’t totally lost after the 11 hours of flying. Then we were on our own.

 

Everything is different in India. The people – how they look, the clothes they wear, ‘why does she have a red dot on her forehead?’, the cars they drive and how they drive, motorbikes, auto rickshaws, bicycles, overcrowded buses and trains, cows on the road….cows on the road? In the middle of the city? People everywhere. Sleeping on the footpath, washing in the river, jumping on and off moving trains. There are no rules in India which is what made this an even more exciting adventure.

 

Our first outing was a trip to Elephanta Island. We travelled by local train, auto rickshaw, public bus, boat and toy train once there. Elephanta Island is home to the World Heritage listed rock cut temples. It wasn’t just the impressive sight of the triple headed Shiva sculpture that interested the boys. It was everything along the way. Their first introduction to the local monkeys was while eating some roasted corn on the cob. Suddenly 3 monkeys all eyeing off that piece of corn surrounded us. The Indians were yelling at us…’your food, put away’. It promptly went into our bags and we continued up the 320 steps to see the carvings. Once at the top more monkeys wanting to steal out water bottles or anything that resembled food greeted us. They were too used to tourists here and were dangerous, despite being incredibly cute.

 

The highlight of our visit to Elephanta Island for the boys was probably playing cricket with the local Indian boys. They loved it, especially when a cow came to join in the fun.

 

Next stop Goa. Overnight sleeper bus from Mumbai to Goa took about 12 hours and we all slept quite well. It’s a good thing all the windows are curtained because you wouldn’t want to see what was coming up in front while half a sleep. Road rules definitely do not apply to anyone, except the bigger you are, the more right of way you have. Goa provided a nice blend of Indian culture and beach life with a distinct Portuguese flavour. The Indian children loved to play with the boys and provided hours of fun on the beach trying to communicate in English and Hindi. I quickly learnt that playing is a language all of it’s own that doesn’t need translation.

 

We continued southeast towards Bangalore, this time by train. Overnight sleeper, three tier was the perfect way to travel. We opted for the non-air conditioned carriage as it wasn’t too hot and it was much more social. The boys played gameboy and this time it wasn’t the local children who were interested but the adult men. Most couldn't resist stopping to sit down and watch.

 

Just outside of Mysore, south west of Bangalore, we were finally able to have an elephant ride. Bandipur National Park is located a hundred kilometres from Mysore and is home to jackals, foxes, sambars, barking deer, mouse deer, mongoose, wild dogs, flying squirrels and many common langur. We were lucky enough to see most of these animals during our morning safari. The long awaited elephant ride finally happened and was just as exciting as the boys had anticipated. There was a platform with a ladder to access the elephant’s wooden ‘saddle’. After rearranging the weight distribution so we didn’t cause the elephant to topple over we were on our way. Through the jungle we trekked, spotting deer, monkeys and a variety of bird life such as pheasant and peacock. The baby elephant accompanying us was as cheeky as any child its equivalent age, much to the children’s delight.

 

Continuing south we saw palaces and temples, went on horse rides, walked a 1000 steps (down) from a hill top temple, took a toy train through the tea plantations of Tamil Nadu, sat waiting at train stations (and waiting as they are always late), interacting with many of the local Indians. We swam in the Indian Ocean, drank chai tea from the local vendors and ate more naan bread than the average person would in a lifetime.

 

Our adventure took us through Kerala as we explored the waterways and villages on the banks of the water. Bodhi (5) steered us through some of the wider passages of the waterways in the motorboat while Aamon (8) lead us through the more narrow tributaries in a dugout canoe. We saw the tallest coconut trees with men up high cutting down the fresh coconuts and passed other dugout canoes so full of sand, fronds and fruit that there was hardly a gap between the water and the top of the gunwhales.

 

We saw the sun rise and set from the same spot in Kunya Kumari, the most southern tip of the continent. The rough sacred waters were filled with Indian pilgrims that had travelled from all parts of India to cleanse themselves of evil. This was particularly intriguing to the boys and they too wanted to swim with them.

 

The boys were a hit and the star of many Indian tourist photos. They received constant attention from the locals wanting to know their names and where they are from. My younger son had his cheek pinched so often I was surprised there was anything left on his cheek. They were able to ride on motorbikes, without helmets, cross the train tracks on the tracks themselves, sit up front with the auto rickshaw driver and steer us to our hotel (couldn’t be any worse than the local driving) and even hang out of the train door while it was moving. All the simple pleasures that made this trip so memorable for my children, and for me.

 

Travelling with children allows you to see a country through their eyes and what an amazing non-judgemental perception they had of everything they faced. As an adult travelling with children it was a good reminder about living in the moment and enjoying what’s here right now. My answer to the question ‘Why India?’..... Why not.

 

 

 

Karen Hofman

Tags: children, india, kerala

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