In December 2017/January 2018, working as Expedition Leader for World Challenge, I lead an expedition to India with a group from The Friends’ School from Tasmania. For the pupils this four-week expedition is the culmination of a two-year Leadership and Personal Development programme.
Our itinerary includes working with a local youth centre near Udaipur, a four-day mountain trek over the Rantham Pass to 3,922m altitude, a tour of Rajasthan – Udaipur, Jodphur, Pushkar, Jaipur and Agra and the Taj Mahal before returning to Delhi.
For photographs of this expedition see India -Uttrakahand and Rajasthan – Dec 2017/Jan 2018
This expedition is arranged by World Challenge
28th Dec 2017
Arrive into Delhi and transit to Nainital. Arriving in India is not an experience we’ll forget in a hurry! We get our first tantalising glimpses as our plane comes in to land at the airport. We’re met at the airport for a city tour before taking the overnight train to Kathgodam. We then take a local bus from Kathgodam to Nainital, situated in the majestic mountainous region of Uttarakhand. Lying at 1938m, Nainital is set in a valley containing a pear-shaped lake and is surrounded by beautiful mountains.
29 Dec 2017
Nainital. Once in Nainital we begin to find our feet. We decide to plan a day trek from this idyllic base. We take a number of walks, including a circuit of Nainital Lake and a trek to Dorothy’s Seat (Tiffin Top) at 2300m.
30th Dec 2017
Acclimatisation trek – Nainital to Mountain Quail Camp. Today we walk from Nainital up to Mountain Quail Camp (just above Nainital).We arrange a jeep to transport our luggage to Mountain Quail Camp so we just trekking with our day sacks.
The route starts from Snowview in Nainital, passing a Hindu temple enroute and taking in the highest peak in the area (Cheena Peak, 2611m) before descending to Mountain Quail Camp.
Once settled in we explore one of the many short trails around the camp in to the dense oak and rhododendron forests, which are excellent for bird spotting.
31st Dec – 5th Jan 2018
Rantham Pass Trek. We start out from Mountain Quail Camp (near Nainital) and drive by jeep to the start of the trek. The drive is a 260 kilometre (10-12 hour) hill journey, through quaint hill villages and towns with views of the Himalayas to the village of Birthi, where we camp before the trek begins. From Birthi we set off with horses in support to carry our main packs and group equipment, including tents, stoves & food. We begin with a steep uphill climb passing mountain streams and waterfalls to a wild camp site.
This trek takes us along the ridge-line and through forest towards Sur Sungri Pass (3121m) where legend has it that a tiger was attacked by a boar. We continue our ascent towards Thala Bugyal from where we set up camp and make our ascent of the Rantham Pass (4000m).
The route gives us fantastic views of the surrounding peaks including Nanda Devi and Maiktoli in India as well as Api and Nampa in Nepal.
The trail then descends through forest to Birthi from where we pick up our jeeps and head back down to Mountain Quail Camp for some well-deserved rest.
6th Jan – 8th Jan 2018
Rest and relaxation in Rishikesh and Haridwar. Rishikesh and Haridwar sit on the banks of the Ganges about one hour apart. They are very spiritual towns – Rishikesh is known as ‘the yoga capital of the world’ while Haridwar is regarded as one of the seventh holiest places to Hindus.
There are lots of places that offer yoga and meditation classes – a nice way to relax after our trek.
We visit Rajaji National Park, near Haridwar, and take a jeep safari through the grass lands and mountain stretch – we see wildlife including birds, gorals (mountain goats), spotted dear, wild boar and leopards!
Tonight we have the exciting experience of an overnight train to Rajasthan – get ready to wake up tomorrow to the smell of chai tea and the sights and sounds of Bollywood!
9th Jan 2018
Travel to Project. Today we make the onward journey to your community project. We make contact with our project host beforehand so the community are ready for your arrival.
10th Jan – 14th Jan 2018
Community Project. The community engagement phase of our expedition offers a unique opportunity to immerse ourselves in an India , giving an insight into a rich new culture!
In India, the quality of education is linked to many variables including remoteness, the provision of toilet facilities, safety and cultural attitudes.
It is proven that female attendance in schools in particular is strongly linked to having a female specific toilet onsite, and support from the wider family and community. Those families who live too far from their closest school cannot afford daily transport fees, so have no affordable access to education.
Supporting the development of education and training facilities is a key focus of World Challenge’s community projects in India. Improving learning environments helps schools to stay open, enabling children to continue to receive an education.
We explore local development challenges, by participating in a local project that is aimed at meeting an important community need.
Community engagement in India will offer a unique opportunity to fully engage with passionate local people and organisations seeking to make a positive impact in society, and share in both our cultures – to become Active Global Citizens.
15th Jan 2018
Travel day. We ensure that all our plans are in place as we are travelling to our next phase today. We purchase some snacks in advance of our journey.
16th Jan – 20th Jan 2018
Cultural experience in Rajasthan. It’s time to explore Rajasthan! There are so many places to visit in this state that it will be impossible to do them all, so we decide where our journey will take us.
Rajasthan has long been regarded as the real home of traditional Maharajas. There is a certain fascination about travelling through Rajasthan that is rivalled by no other place in the world. This Great Indian Desert is home to majestic temples, ancient fortresses and magnificent palaces. We visit the pilgrim hub of Pushkar and venture out to Jodphur (home to the Blue City) and Udaipur, which have become some India\’s most popular tourist destinations.
Jaipur, the ‘pink city’, that was named after the entire old city was painted pink to welcome the Prince of Wales in 1876. Around five to six hours from Delhi, Jaipur is home to a wealth of wonderful sights from Hawa Mahal ‘The Palace of the Winds’, the Amber Fort and the Observatory (Jantar Mantar).
Of course, no visit to India would be complete without a visit to the world-famous Taj Mahal in Agra. The monument is most beautiful at sunrise and sunset when the white domed marble mausoleum glows pink and orange.
Agra is also home to the iconic Agra Fort, which is an impressive sight steeped in history.
We visit Wildlife SOS, they have 2 sites near to Agra where we go and see rescued elephants and also sloth bears and hear their stories, help prepare meals for them and take the elephants for a walk.
21st Jan 2018
Transit to Delhi. It’s time for those last minute jobs before we pack up our kit for the final time and head towards Delhi Airport for the flight back home.
Departure day. Time to go. We cram everything back into our rucksacks and set off for the airport. We check-in, sit back and reflect. We’ve just experienced something incredible. We’re bursting with stories and cherished moments to share with our favourite people back home.