A Himalayan Odyssey 5-22 April
The cohesion of the group was helped by an excellent leader, Jean Pierre, highly experienced and professional, but also funny and flexible. He was supported in Delhi by the representatives of Trade Wind Tours, who kindly gave us thoughtful gifts on arrival and departure.
For the rest of the trip, Jean Pierre was accompanied by the wonderful Amit, our charming, handsome and incredibly knowledgeable Indian guide, in whom we had great trust. Between them, Jean Pierre and Amit gave us the confidence to find resources within ourselves to cope with those unexpected parts of the walks that were unavoidably rather higher up the scale than Grade D.
Whilst riding horses across rushing streams or crawling under overhanging boulders, trying not to look down at precipitous drops, we had to remind ourselves that we had known all along that this was classed as a Pioneer Holiday!
Cultural highlights included the Golden Temple at Amritsar, with its stunning gold and white marble, set against a brilliant blue sky, and its incredible kitchens and dining halls, where 70,000 people are fed for free, thanks to the spirit of giving so evident among the Sikh community.
Of equal fascination was Dharamsala, home to the Tibetan Government and people in exile. The beauty of the temples and the ethos of the schools, colleges and workplaces are a tribute to the healing influence of the Dalai Lama, who was in residence during our visit, although not available to give an audience; I like to think he may have spotted us from his windows as we walked our kora (holy walk) around his residence.
There were so many other wonderful days and I’m sure that each of us would pick out something different as a particular highlight. For me, the Toy Train journey from Simla was very special, as were the exquisite little Gaiety Theatre, and the gardens of Nicholas Roerich at Naggar, which emanated the peaceful concerns of the man.
Finally, on our very last afternoon, we visited Gandhi’s house in Delhi. It was a haven of tranquillity, but also very moving. It was almost unbearable to see the representation of his footprints on his final walk to his death or to look at his very few worldly possessions in his bedroom, including his iconic glasses, sandals and stick. It seemed a very fitting end to a wonderful holiday.