And so at last, as of Tuesday 22nd March, I will be back on the road again, heading firstly back to India before visiting Sri Lanka. And to say I can’t wait would be a master of understatement.
As those of you that know me will understand, India is a land very close to my heart. My grandparents were stationed there during the dying days of the Raj and my mother was born there and as such, I grew up on tales of this most exotic land. As soon as I was able to travel I headed to India and have been travelling there ever since. I’ve lived in Goa, where I wrote my second book, have travelled as a journalist, travel writer, tour guide, and businessman and have returned at least once a year since the turn of the millennium. To have been deprived of India for more than two years, without seeing her sites, hearing her chatter and smelling her aroma, has been akin to going cold turkey – I need India in my life and it will be amazing to get her back.
Although something of a whistle-stop tour, I will have plenty of time to meet old friends, colleagues and partners and gauge how some of India’s key locations, and the wonderful experiences they offer, are coming out of the pandemic. Arriving in Delhi I will spend the day in our office catching up with colleagues before heading out to see some of the sites of this magnificent capital. From here I’ll head down to Agra to see the Taj Mahal – I’m keen to see how many tourists are still visiting one of the wonders of the world – and from there I’ll head on to Fort Barwara, a new Six Senses property. Only recently opened, this opulent fortress complex has now been turned into one of the Subcontinent's most impressive hotels and I can’t wait to check it out for myself. From here it will be off to see old friends at Castle Bijaipur before visiting Udaipur, the Venice of the East.
And then a real treat as I head up north to Kashmir. In many ways, Kashmir is where my travelling life truly began, as I visited for the first time back in 1989. After a decade of troubles, in 2004 Wild Frontiers were among the first to offer this ancient mountain paradise and we have been running trips here ever since. With a recent period of relative calm, new hotels and experiences have opened up and I want to get back there to check things out for myself.
And from there it will be a flight through Delhi to Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka (along with Nepal) is one of the most embarrassing holes on my travel CV, so it will be great to finally savour the delights of this old spice island for the very first time. I’ve heard so much about it I almost feel I know it already but it will be good to pit reality against the imagination.
So with covid restrictions to both countries having now been lifted, I’m all set. I have my visas, my flights, my itinerary. I’ll be blogging, posting photos and videos which you can follow here. At last, after a two-year hiatus, it feels like travel is opening up again and I for one can’t wait to get back on the road.