Mayhem. I always think of “mayhem” as a positive word and if there’s one word that sums up my time in India on Intrepid Travel’s 16-day ‘South India Unplugged’ tour then it would have to be that. Mayhem to me is thrill of riding a tuk-tuk at night through the crowded, narrow alleyways of Madurai. Mayhem is the hilltop temple overrun by monkeys that overlooks Mysore.
Mayhem is the fun of locals treating you like a celebrity in places westerners don’t normally go. Mayhem is the camaraderie in surviving crowded overnight trains. Mayhem is jumping out of a slowly moving train when you realise not all your tour group is on board (spectacular leaping and broken jandals ensued).
Mayhem is seeing your boots covered in leeches when you venture into the wild jungles of Periyar National Park. Mayhem is the unexpected and awkward oily bonanza of a traditional massage. Mayhem is playing cricket with kids in Fort Kochi and getting told you don’t know what an off-spinner is – “I know what an off-spinner is!” Mayhem is being delayed getting to your guesthouse in Hampi by a herd of goats. Mayhem is a nurse laughing at how worried you are about your buddy’s health: “Ha ha ha! Nothing to worry about, he’ll be fine.” And he was.
So yes, exploring four of India’s southern states (Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Goa) in 16 days was indeed mayhem. But it was much more than that too. It was an adventure and most of the time when I travel, that’s exactly what I want. It was frequently hilarious (please hold my baby for a photo!), it was uniquely beautiful (Kerala’s backwaters), it was unexpectedly serene (Hampi), it was deeply historic (from temples and churches to old places converted to hotels) and through all the minefields of people trying to sell you things or occasionally rip you off, it was sweetly generous. As in, Sanjay, the tuk-tuk driver in Goa who took us anywhere we wanted, would patiently wait for any length of time and insisted on charging little more than $40 for a full day of playing tour guide.
Thanks once again to Flight Centre and Student Flights who put together this incredible trip – it was unforgettable and I can’t wait to get back to India. And as always, thanks to Intrepid who I’ve now been traveling with for a dozen years and nearly 10 different tours. From those tours I’ve produced almost 20 NZ Herald travel articles and I wouldn’t keep travelling with Intrepid if I didn’t believe in their ethos. Which, by the way, is all about being environmentally and culturally aware, as well as having a terrific time while you’re at it.
In case you missed them first time around, here are the links to my NZ Herald trio of articles about the Intrepid Travel ‘South India Unplugged’ tour. Mayhem.
My Top 15 Intrepid Travel ‘South India Unplugged’ Photos: