Subject: Some notes on my summer trip to India and Nepal
Our trip began in Delhi, and afterwards we moved over to Kathmandu for a couple of days, Varanasi, Khajuraho, Agra and Jaipur. We stayed two nights in all places, except Kathmandu (3 nights) and Varanasi (1 night).

I didnīt find our arrival to be so shocking as people had said. Just hot and humid. We were travelling on August, a very bad month for India, but we didnīt get the monsoon rains (only in Kathmandu).

Our group was quite big for the usual standards, 27 people, and that attracted quite a lot of beggars and street-sellers. It was very different to the few and scarce moments when we could be on our own.

The tour guide wasnīt exactly brilliant, and we had a few problems with her at the end of the trip that made us complain to the tour operator. She was spanish, very young, and not quite professional on her behaviour.

And now, a few points:

- I found the hotels in India to be too fancy for my taste. There was too much decoration, sometimes covering failures. But the last one, in Jaipur, the Jaj Mahal, was outstanding. Specially because after our guide messed up our reservations (we had got two rooms and she cancelled one of them), the staff went out of their way to find me a room, were more understanding of our problems, and were real professional. The manager let me use his own Pc in order to send an e-mail to my travel agent, because the business center was already closed. And the swimming pool, the gardens and everything was enchanting.

- It was too hot and humid for me. We didnīt have problems with the food, and we didnīt get sick a single day (but on the weekend after we return, it was terrible...). We got typhus shots and malaria pills, and we were very careful with the water (drink a lot, but bottled water).

- We loved Kathmandu. It was raining a lot, but we had a great time and a great local guide. Maybe he gave us too much information and very few shops (only one, and the tour guide wasnīt happy), but we three thought it was great. And it wasnīt so hot, and we had a complete free day for us. Also, the hotel was very good (Holiday Inn), and it had a fine italian restaurant. We saw the italian consul dining there, so that should mean something.

- I didnīt see the light in Varanasi. It was impressive, but not so horrible and dirty as I was expecting, and the local guide was very unsympathetic towards the foreigners, and seemed to think that foreign women were easy prey. Not that he got anything, but it wasnīt very nice... I expected more leprosy, but I only saw two lepers. I found much worse the way small children follow you, and grab your hand.

- Khajuraho was very interesting. Impressive temples, an excursion to see some waterfalls as if you were in Africa, and a brilliant italian restaurant in the middle of the village. I am being serious. Great tagliatelle with home-made tomato sauce and olive oil. So yummy (and no, I wasnīt hungry, they were great). I have seen it in a couple of guide-books, and I think we were right.

- We even got to ride a train. Our flight to Agra was cancelled and we travelled by bus to Jhansi. When we arrived to the station, and we saw the porters carrying our luggage on their heads...

- I found that I liked more the Moghul monuments than the hinduist ones. Although they only gave us 30 minutes to visit the Taj Mahal (unbelievable, but true). But the Agra fort, and Akbarīs tomb, and the Taj really deserve it. They are grandious and so beautiful.

- Afterwards we arrived to Jaipur. We had our fair share of problems with the guide, and we decided to enjoy our last days. Result : I am not riding an elephant any more, no way. It was really hard the climbing up to Amber Fort, so we walked down. Much better. We couldnīt really have a great time, because the arguments with the guide went on during that day, and she almost managed to get half of the tour dying under the scorching sun. But we managed to have a walk in the bazaar , and I bought the best cinammon I have ever seen (you should try my mumīs milk rice).

- On our way back to Delhi we almost missed our flight. The traffic was horrendous, and our guide had lost her passport, so the driver had to keep stopping at every village, and she was phoning everywhere. But she dinīt tell us until we arrived into Delhi, just kept crying and behaving strangely. Once there, she found out that the Jaipur hotel had sent it on a plane, and she could fly back to Spain with us.

After all of this :

- Will I come back there? Yes, for sure, to Nepal. I have to do a bit of trekking. I am not so sure about India. Probably in a different way, not backpacking, but more independent. Booking flights and hotels from here, looking for a car and driver type of tour.

- It will be a long time until I go on and organised tour like that again. Not knowing which kind of people go, the kind of guide, it is very difficult.

- Leaving apart the Kathmandu and Khajuraho guides, the other ones werenīt very good (to be on the nice side). Thanks God we were carrying around 4 guidebooks (Rough Guide, Lonely Planet, Footprints and Fodors), a short history of India, a couple of novels, and we managed to get all the needed information.

Well, thatīs all for the moment. If someone wants a more detailed history, please tell me and I write you down for the time I have finished the english version.

Regards Covadonga Bilbao