Bamboo Rafting in India (the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary)

Tiger footprints. We stop in our tracks. Excitement rises. Our guide kneels and studies them, and concludes they are old ones. Disillusion comes with a hidden sense of relief. There is a gun-carrying guard with us, but still.

We set off once more along trails through a forest so hot and dry that the dehydrated leaves barely hang on to the trees. The sound of walking through the fallen leaves reminds me of Europe’s autumns, which is entirely at odds with the scorching temperatures. Continue reading

Joining a Jain Pilgrimage to Gujarat’s Palitana Temples, India

“Don’t wear leather items like shoes or a belt.”

“Wear clean and ironed clothes. Adinath will see this and you will receive more energy for walking.”

“Chant ‘Adinath-Adinath’ at every step, which will give more energy too.”

“Don’t bring food – take just a bottle of water if you really have to. The only food you are allowed to carry to the top is rice and coconut, to offer in the temples.”

“Oh, and don’t forget to greet the other pilgrims with Jai Jinendrah!” Continue reading

Joining a Hindu pilgrimage to the Amarnath Cave (India)

The goal of our Hindu pilgrimage is almost in sight: an ice stalagmite. A holy one, mind you. I flop down on an ice-cold stone and vigorously rub my feet that have turned blue and lost all feeling after I climbed stone steps without number in subzero temperatures. Barefoot, that is. Continue reading

Taking the Narrow Gauge Train to Darjeeling, India 

It’s still dark when we walk downhill to the train station. Although the train will only leave at seven, we have been advised to arrive an hour early, as there are few seats. The famous Sikkim narrow gauge train runs all the way up from the town of New Jalpaiguri on the plains of Siliguri to Darjeeling (55 miles) a trip that takes 8 hours. However, we have opted for the 19-mile return trip from Kuensong to Darjeeling. Continue reading

Visit the Munnar Tea Plantations in Kerala, India

The world around us is an ocean of green: undulating hills blanketed with dark green and soft green tea plants. India is the second largest tea producer in the world (after China) and the Munnar Tea Plantations, in the southwestern state of Kerala, is one of India’s major tea producing centers. Continue reading