India Trip Report
Phase 1: January 18-February 8, 2010
Phase II: February 8-February 26, 2010
Barbara and I traveled together in Phase I. Then Barbara returned home and I joined a Wings/Sunbird birding tour for Phase II. I will be posting a report of both phases of the trip. As the report is quite lengthy, it will be broken up into segments. Stay tuned for the segment following this one.
During the summer of 2009 Barbara and I decided to take a trip to India. A good time to go there is January-March. From many options, we chose to work with Abercrombie and Kent (“AK”) to help us arrange the trip. AK is British based, with a Chicago office, and has a good reputation as a travel agency in India, as well as in other countries of Asia and Africa. We gave them a budget to work with and a list of the places we wanted to see. Our budget was greatly exceeded in their first proposal. We for revisions to bring it within budget, and they were able to do that. So far as we can tell, we were none the worse for the reduced cost, except that we did have to remove Katmandu from our itinerary. We could not have wanted anything more than we did.
We could choose either to join a “chaperoned” group, which would travel together with an AK guide at all times, or to arrange a “tailor made” tour just for the two of us, selecting our personal itinerary, with AK providing support services at transitions. Their support services included a uniformed representative to meet us at each destination and escort us to our hotel, hotel reservations, a driver for each location, a different guide for each location, air reservations within India (we flew on 6 different segments), railway passes and some other services. We were very pleased with AK. We could not have managed all the details on our own, or, if we had tried to, we would have been exhausted from the stress and bankrupted by the tips. Their representatives were always on time and always very well prepared and helpful. They really know the ropes. The only exception was a minor one toward the end of the trip when we arrived at the Amritsar Airport in the northwest Punjab, and there was no one there to take us to our hotel. (AK does not have an office in Amritsar). We sat down on the curb outside the building and tried to figure out how to use my cell phone to call for help. A lot of local people sat down with us to “help us out”, notwithstanding that they spoke virtually no English. Another local guide saw our predicament and called the hotel for us. The hotel folks apologized profusely for not having the driver there, giving a couple of different excuses, one of which may have been true. He arrived within 10 minutes after the call, so it turned out to be no big deal.
Both of us also purchased travel insurance, primarily to cover the cost if either of us had to be flown back to the U.S. for medical reasons, or because of death (repatriation). We are, of course, relieved that the premium was wasted. We recommend this insurance, if only for peace of mind, for any third world (or India) travel. It is relatively inexpensive, unless you are 75 or older. Of course, if you are 75 or older, you are more likely to need it.
Sunday, January 17
Ready to go. We arrived at the airport by 9:30 for our flight at 12:00. That flight to Minneapolis was delayed, then cancelled due to fog. We were switched to a Detroit flight, but it was delayed waiting for a crew to arrive from Minneapolis. We have now missed our connection to Amsterdam and Delhi but we decided to take a later flight to Amsterdam so we would at least get that far. I called AK so they made changes to our itinerary in India. We would be a day late, and had to postpone our Delhi tour until the end of the trip, reducing our next to last stop (in Amritsar) by one day.
Monday, January 18
We arrived in Amsterdam and checked in at the Hilton. It has been foggy, damp and windy all day, so after a much needed nap, we opted to walk around the airport instead of going down town.
Tuesday, January 19
We walked back to the airport and got all checked in. Finally, we’re off to India. Our flight left one hour late due to passport problems with some passengers. We sat next to a mother and her father with a small girl and a baby. There were 11 of them (a Sikh family) going from Canada to India (the Punjab) for the brother’s wedding. I wonder if he had ever met his bride.
I will post the next installment of this travelogue next week.