Indian Contrasts

"Mountain passes & Tiger tales"

Our latest Indian itinerary will explore two dramatically contrasting regions of India; the mountains and foothills of the Indian Himalaya & Buddhist Ladakh and the famous Tiger Reserves & historic monuments of Central India. 


Central India

Although the Central Indian states of Madhya Pradesh & Maharashtra are off the beaten track for most tourists, they have much to offer the intrepid traveller, with impressive ancient monuments, vast wildlife reserves and as the homeland of the Gond and Baiga tribal groups. 

  • Mumbai - Ancient yet modern, fabulously rich yet achingly poor, Mumbai is India in microcosm. Forty percent of India's taxes come from this city alone and half of India's international trade passes through its splendid natural harbour. 

  • Our Tiger Hunt -  A 6-day Tiger Safari visiting three of India's most famous tiger reserves; Pench, Kanha and Bandhavgarh National Parks. These reserves offer superb viewing opportunities of the majestic  Royal Bengal Tigers during the hot dry season, when the vegetation has dried and the tigers are congregating at the few remaining waterholes.  Although there are never any guarantees when it comes to game viewing, historically viewings are frequent and at close quarters during this time. As well as tigers we will see many other animals, including spotted-deer, barasingha, hyena, jackals, jungle cats, leopards, gaur - the World’s largest cow and an impressive array of birds and reptiles. Although it will be the hot dry season, our game drives will take place very early or late in the day when it is cooler and during the heat of the day AC facilities/transports and swimming pools will keep us comfortable.  

  • Tribal Villagers: With a population of over 4 million the Gond tribe of Central India is one of the largest tribes in the world. They traditionally lived on the periphery of the jungle and their colourful paintings are rooted in folklore and feature the creatures of the forest. The Baiga tribe is smaller, around 400,000 and were formerly nomadic hunter-gatherers, who practised shifting agriculture. They are extremely knowledgeable about the medicinal and healing properties of the various species of flora found in the forest. 

  • Khajuraho Group of Medieval Monuments - A significant UNESCO World Heritage Site of Jain and Hindu temples,  the 10th Century Khajuraho monuments feature exquisitely sculptured carvings and statues, many with an erotic theme. The temples are considered to be one of "the seven wonders" of India. 

Delhi and other highlights

  • Taj Mahal & Agra Fort -  The iconic Taj was built by Shah Jahan in 1630  to enshrine  the mortal remains of  his queen Mumtaz Mahal.  Considered an  architectural marvel, the Taj Mahal is a perfectly proportioned masterpiece fashioned from white marble. 

  • The Kingdom of Dreams - A amazing Bollywood-styled show.  

  • Wagah Border  -  The evening flag lowering ceremony at the international border between India and Pakistan is a popular attraction for both locals and tourist alike.   The pomp and pageantry of the Beating Retreat and the Change of Guard by the Indian and Pakistani forces make for a most unforgettable spectacle.

  • The Golden Temple of Amritsar -  Originally built in 1604 this beautiful and most welcoming temple is the most sacred pilgrimage site for Sikhs. The top-half of the building,  including the famous dome, is gilded with almost 700kg of 24 carat gold. 

The Himalayan Foot Hills

  • Dharamshala  &  Mcleod ganj - Standing at the foot of the Dhauladhar Range,  Dharamshala has magnificent views of snowy peaks, deodar (cedar) and pine forests, tea gardens and beautiful hills.  Dharamshala became an international town in 1959,  when the Noble Laureate the 'Dalai Lama' came to reside in the area after being exiled from Tibet. Today there are numerous Tibetan settlements with religious education and rehabilitation centres in nearby Mcleod ganj.

  • Mandi  - Amazingly photogenic, Mandi has shimmering lakes,  temples and breath-taking landscapes. Also known as "Varanasi of the Hills", Mandi has a remarkable collection of religious sites that draw inspiration from many different religious faiths.

  • Manali - Although once a colonial hill station, Manali is still a popular destination for Indian holiday makers escaping the summer heat of the plains and with its laid back ambience, great scenery, markets and restaurants galore, it remains popular with international travellers seeking a little R & R.

 Ladakh

Ladakh,  often referred to as "Little Tibet", is a barren yet beautiful region located in the northern Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. Spectacularly jagged, arid mountains enfold this magical Buddhist ex-kingdom where picture-perfect gompas (Tibetan Buddhist monasteries) dramatically crown rocky outcrops amid whitewashed stupas and mani walls.

  • The Manali to Leh Mountain Road -  The 3-day 2-night 490km drive to Leh, will take us up and over numerous high mountain passes and down into gigantic river valleys and high walled canyons. The scenery will be awesomely dramatic with a rugged raw beauty that stretches as far as the eye can see.  We will encounter a variety of road conditions, from tar-seal to rough metal roads, that are kept open and clear of snow and slips by the BRO - the Army road clearing teams. However, delays are inevitable and progress may be very slow at times.  In spite of the above you will be rewarded with absolutely unforgettable scenery and the experience of a lifetime.

  • Leh -  Located in the Indus river valley at the crossroads of the ancient trading routes  from China, Tibet and Kashmir, Leh is the capital and largest town in the Ladakh region.    

  • Nubra Valley - From Leh,  we will cross the  Khardung La pass on the drive to the Nubra Valley.  The Khardung La at 5,359m, was once considered the highest road pass in the World, but in recent times it has been re-classified as the highest all-seasons motorable pass.  From the top of the pass one can see all the way south over the Indus Valley to the seemingly endless peaks and ridges of the Zanskar Range and to the North,  the snowy peaks of the Eastern Karakorom Range. We will stay 2-nights in a Resort Tented-Camp in the beautiful  Nubra Valley where we will go camel riding and visit the impressive Diskit Monastery which is a treasure trove of Buddhist art;  silk paintings, statues and murals. 

  • Option for Experienced Motorcyclists Only - For experienced rough-road motorcycle riders there is the option of riding a Royal Enfield over the Khardung La pass and back again 2-days later, accompanied by a support vehicle and mechanic.  If you feel you are capable and would like to do this, please realise that it is not a smooth-sealed road, rather much of it will be rough and rock strewn, with many sections under repair.  Also, that it could be icy in parts. This option will only be possible if road conditions are suitable on the day.  If you are interested in more details, please let me know.  There would be an extra cost for this option and the option is dependent on viable numbers and the weather!   

Draft Itinerary Outline (subject to change)

Day 1. Auckland to Mumbai flight, via Singapore

Day 2. Mumbai - Arrive mid morning. In the afternoon a short walking tour of the historical heart of the city.

Day 3. Pence National Park - A 1.5hr early morning flight to Nagpur before transferring by road to Pence.   An afternoon safari to begin our 3-park Tiger Safari.

Day 4. Kanha National Park - An early morning safari and after lunch drive to Kanha.

Day 5. Kanha - An early morning safari and in the afternoon a Tribal Village tour,  which will give us a most fascinating insight into Indian rural life, its art and culture.

Day 6. Kanha - An early morning safari and in the afternoon visit the nearby tribal produce and cattle markets.

Day 7. Bandhavgarh National Park - A short morning safari for those who wish and after a late breakfast drive to Bandhavgarh.

Day 8. Bandhavgarh - early morning and late afternoon safaris

Day 9. Khajuraho - A morning safari for those who wish and after an early lunch drive to Khajuraho where we will see the famous sculptures and carvings.

Day 10. Agra - Visit the Khajuraho Monuments before driving to Orcha. Later take the train to Agra, arriving mid-evening. 

Day 11. Delhi - An early morning visit to the Taj Mahal and the Agra Fort before continuing on to Delhi.   In the evening we plan to attend a Bollywood Spectacular.

Day 12. Amritsar -  A morning flight to Amritsar and attend the Wagah India/Pakistan Border Crossing evening flag lowering ceremony. 

Day 13. Dharamshala - A morning visit to the Golden Temple of Amritsar, the most sacred of Sikh temples. Later begin the drive up into the Himalayan Foothills, our first stop being Dharamshala. 

Day 14. Dharamshala - a day excursion in the Dharamshala McLeod ganj area.

Day 15. Mandi - Drive to this very photogenic little town, which is often called the "Varanasi of the Hills".  

Day 16. Manali - A very scenic drive will bring us to the hill station town of Manali, our last stop before starting the "Manali to Leh"  mountain road.  

Day 17. Manali - A morning city sights excursion and later relax and enjoy the ambience of this historic little town. 

Day 18. Jispa -  Begin the  Manali-to-Ley mountain road by driving up and over the Rohtang Pass (3,978m) to stay in the tiny settlement of Jispa. Throughout this journey to Leh, progress will be slow due to the road conditions and of course as the scenery is spectacular, there will be lots of photo stops.    

Day 19. Sarchu (4,290m)- Today cross the Bara Lacha pass (4,892m) before reaching our Tented Camp in time for lunch. In the afternoon, free time to walk in the countryside behind the camp or to rest as you wish.  

Day 20. Leh - a stunning drive over three amazing passes, La Chung-la pass (5,039m), Nakee La pass (4,739m) and the Taglang-La (5,328m).  

Day 21. Leh - A city tour including the Shey and Thiksey monasteries and the Shanti Stupa, which was built in by Japanese monks in the late 90's to commemorate 2,500 years of Buddhism and to promote world peace. 

Day 22. Leh - A free day to enjoy Leh as you please. 

Day 23. Nubra - Drive over the highest all season motor-able pass in the World, the Khardung La (5,359m).  A spectacular drive!  Stay in a Resort tented-camp

Option for Experienced rough-road motor cyclists - see notes above.

Day 24 Nubra - Visit Diskit Monastery (silk paintings, giant statues, murals). It is one of the oldest Buddhist centre in Ladakh. Later go camel riding on 2-humped Bactrian camels (subject to availability)

Day 25. Leh - Return over the Khardung La pass, free afternoon in Leh town

Day 26. Flight- A flight to Delhi, where we will connect with the evening Singapore Airlines flight to Singapore

Day 27 Arr Auckland -  late evening

 

Trip Style:   Although this adventure-styled trip will take you to some very remote and sometimes challenging places, if you are willing to cope with the unusual, the unpredictable, cultural differences and some local inadequacies you will have a most rewarding and unforgettable experience.

Transport:  Private charter buses and MUV's with specialised safari jeeps in the Tiger Reserves, plus three domestic flights and one AC day train. The group will be accompanied by a Grassroots leader with local English speaking guides for sightseeing. 

Luggage:  A light-weight medium-sized bag , maximum volume 65 ltr.   We suggest that it should weigh no more than 15kg, as it is essential that you are able to comfortably handle your own bag at all times. Soft-sided wheelie bags or safari bags are suitable, but please, no hard or semi-hard bags as we will have limited luggage space.  If you don't have one, please  contact us. 

Day Bag - a smallish lightweight day/sightseeing bag. A fold-away nylon type is perfect.

Accommodation: The norm is 3-star hotels and lodges, using twin-share/double rooms.  On the Manali to Leh road, one night is in a tented-camp with attached bathrooms and one night is in a simplistic hotel. Please remember that these are remote locations and that we will have secured the best of what was available.  In the Nubra Valley, we will stay in a nice Resort tented-camp, with private facilities.  Single room supplement for the trip is NZ$1,872 per person.

Meals:  We anticipate breakfast is included at all accommodations, with full board at Pench,  Kanha, Bandhavgarh, Leh and Nubra and on the Manali to Leh  road.  Any meals taken at airports are excluded.  The exact number of excluded meals will be confirmed once the accommodations are confirmed, but at this stage we expect that you will need to fund around 10 lunches and 10 dinners. 

Price Includes:  Accommodation, Auckland to Auckland airfares (in a specific class), transport, a full programme of sightseeing excursions, entries and services as detailed in the itinerary. Meals as confirmed. 

High Altitudes - from Manali to Ladakh (Leh):   During this 8-night section of the trip we will travel into higher altitudes, at times crossing over 4,500m to 5,000m + passes where we will stop briefly for photos.  Our sleep locations will be lower, with one night being at 4,200m and the rest falling between 3,000m and 3,500m. 

Altitude Sickness:  Most people feel the effect of being at high altitude so we recommend that everyone comes prepared with medication to help their body adjust. Moving slowly and drinking lots of water really helps, but taking a medication such as Diamox and paracetamol for headaches is a great help.  We strongly recommend consulting your Doctor  regarding altitude sickness and take the medication that is the best option for you.  

In these higher altitudes day time temperatures will vary through the day from approx., 10 to 20 degs, but night time temperatures may fall below freezing. Warm jacket, jumper, sunhat/shade hat, gloves, socks,  sunglasses, sturdy shoes/boots (preferably waterproof) will be required, however ample bedding will be supplied by the hosts to keep you cosy overnight. 

FACT FILE

Trip Code: IC 191

Date:  25 May 2019  

Duration: 27 days

Party: 15 to 17 + leader 

Basic Price : $11,500

Current Status: Full, closed for departure