I wrote a post at the start of our two-month trip around southern India, explaining our reasons for making the journey and setting out our plan for the weeks to come. So, now that it’s all over, how did the reality compare to our plan?
Firstly, as I wrote back in February, the main motivation for making the trip was to visit the places which are important to Mark’s family history. In this respect, the trip exceeded all our expectations. We loved the people we met and we felt a real connection with the places we saw.
So, how closely did we stick to our original itinerary for the trip? Well, the answer is that, with a few tweaks, the overall shape of our journey was pretty much as we planned it. Not booking anything beyond the first few days, though, meant that we were able to be flexible when the need arose. This was the case early on in the trip when the knowledge we gained on the ground was far more up-to-date and relevant than anything we had researched online. This meant that, rather than spend the night in Coimbatore, we acted on local advice and went, instead, to Mettupalayam. By doing this, we enjoyed our ride on the Nilgiri Mountain Railway, something we would surely have missed had we stuck to our original plan.
Later in the journey, we decided to visit Mamallapuram as a day trip from Chennai, rather than make it another stop. On reflection, this was a mistake – our original plan would have been preferable.
Towards the end of our trip, after our stay at our Workaway project, which itself necessitated changes to our plans, we realised that time was against us and we would have to drop some places from our itinerary all together. We made the decisions as to which towns we would miss based on online research and reviews. The chances are that we won’t pass this way again so the delights of Tiruvannamalai, Trichy, Trivandrum, Kumily and Munnar are probably lost to us forever.
In the towns and cities we did visit, there were attractions that we had planned to see which we didn’t see and activities that we had planned to do which we didn’t do. These omissions were mainly due to being over-ambitious as to what we could realistically achieve in a day, given the sweltering temperatures and the vagaries of Indian public transport. Looking at the list of what we didn’t see and do as I write this post, there’s nothing that I particularly regret – we saw and did so much in eight weeks that I doubt we could have fitted much more in!
The way we travelled between destinations in India was different to how we planned it. Despite the fact that we were very impressed overall with India Railways, we ended up taking fewer trains than we expected. We found ourselves, instead, using public buses for many of our journeys as they were cheaper, more readily available, and more convenient than the trains.
So, what lessons did we learn to take with us on future trips? There are three main ones:
- We mustn’t over plan. We need to build plenty of flexibility into the itinerary to be able to react to situations as they crop up.
- We should include rest days in our plan! We hadn’t appreciated just how tiring non-stop travel can be and could have done with more free days, not just to relax and recharge our batteries, but also to write about our experiences as we went along rather than still be publishing posts several months after the end of the trip!
- We don’t really enjoy huge cities any more! On future trips, we should spend just long enough in cities to see the main sites and spend more time in small towns and rural or coastal areas.
To conclude, would we do another trip like this? Too right, we would!! Our heads are full of ideas – so many places and, at our age, so little time (relatively speaking!) left!!