From the Himalayan Mountains to paradise beaches



Posted on 25 March 2010  | 
Cycle rickshaw exploring the sights of Kaledeo National Park
© WWF / Hannah ChisholmEnlarge
After successfully finishing my research project for WWF and TRAFFIC India I decided to make the most of being in this amazingly diverse and exciting country and to do some travelling. I had two free weeks to fill and being me I wanted to see as much as I possibly could in that time. I travelled by every means possible including train, car, bus, auto, rickshaw and elephant and managed to see a whole range of sights. I went first to Agra to see the legendary Taj Mahal, but unfortunately on the day I decided to visit it was so foggy that I had to be within 10 metres to see anything so I missed the dramatic effect. Following the monuments of Agra I went to Fatehpur Sikri which is a historical city constructed by Mughal emperor Akbar although now abandoned and existing as a ghost town. I then moved on to see some more wildlife orientated sights in Rajasthan including Kaledeo Bird Sanctuary and Ranthambore Tiger Reserve. It was upon this section of my trip, just over a week before I was due to travel home, that I finally saw my first (and hopefully not my last) wild tiger!! Although it was a brief sighting it was an amazingly exhilarating experience and the amazing creature was very close and facing our vehicle so it felt extremely intimate.

Following this I travelled up, via a very long and extremely uncomfortable journey, to a small city called Dharamsala in the far north of India in the foothills of the Himalaya. This was my favourite place in the whole of India (from the few that I managed to see). It is an extremely peaceful, tranquil and beautiful place, a far cry from the noise and pollution of Delhi. Dharamsala is home to the Dalai Lama and home to many Tibetan people and as such there is a large Buddhist influence with prayer flags fluttering in the wind and prayer wheels stood waiting to be spun by the roadside. During my time in Dharamsala I stayed at a place called Chonor House which has close associations with the Norbulingka Institute, an organisation established to protect and develop Tibet’s sacred and traditional arts. Such works of art are important in that they provide support for people’s spiritual practice, but also because they contribute to creating that atmosphere of peace of mind that is characteristic of Tibetan culture.

My final destination on this whirlwind tour was the beaches of Goa to soak up a final few rays of glorious Indian sunshine before heading back to the chill of the UK. Goa is also extremely relaxed but in a very different way to Dharamsala, it is very laid back with both tourists and locals making the most of sea, sun and sand. What struck me most on my travels around this vast country is how remarkably different every state looks, after just a few hours drive from one place to the next you may find the people speak a different language, wear different clothes, and even have different cultures and traditions. Everyday you will see people from all walks of life from the most extreme poverty to the most luxurious riches, and this contrast in such close proximity is quite hard to understand. This really is a country full of history, diversity, religion, colour, and energy.
Cycle rickshaw exploring the sights of Kaledeo National Park
© WWF / Hannah Chisholm Enlarge

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