Doing India by Elephant, Camel and Jet
By Al Martinez, August 7, 2012 04:12 PM
To those who have never been charged by an elephant, surrounded by lions or had their underwear stolen by wild monkeys, I have a treat for you: It's called travel.
We've endured all of the above with varying degrees of terror and humor in India and Africa, two places we've visited as tourists after the age of 75. And now we're ready to go again at 83.
Travel agencies have adjusted to accommodate not only those in the upper numbers (seniors, if you insist), but also those with physical disabilities. We know that firsthand. Our last trip was a month in India, one we took even though I was suffering from undiagnosed chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, aka COPD. I only knew I had times of difficulty breathing and walking, so our trip was planned with that in mind.
We chose a travel agency called Easy Tours of India-for obvious reasons-to work with us in creating a trip that required the least amount of physical exertion while including everything we wanted to see. My wife, the planner Cinelli, saw to it that the agency took that into serious account and, boy, did they.
We covered India from Delhi in the north to Cochin on the southern tip by jet, van, limo, luxury houseboat, elephant and camel. The latter two, thank God, were only short rides that every tourist takes. We saw magical sunsets cruising up a jungle-like inlet of the Arabian Sea and visited the Jim Corbett Tiger Reserve. where a wild bull elephant, annoyed by our jeep, charged us. We broke the speed record for driving uphill in reverse until the elephant lost interest and moseyed off into the bush.
It was at the Corbett lodge, by the way, where monkeys stole my underwear, which had been washed and hung on a porch railing to dry. As we rode a tamed elephant through the forest looking for tigers, I looked for monkeys in Jockey shorts, but though they chattered in the tree tops all along our route, I saw none thus attired. And we saw no tigers, either.
Our days were filled with wondrous sights from the Taj Mahal in Agra to a camel fair in Pushkar, which was part carnival, part religious festival and part camel dealing. We stayed in everything from rustic cabins to 5-star hotels. Always there was someone to assist with luggage or to provide a wheelchair if I ever needed one. I'm convinced they'd have carried me like a baby if necessary.
We loved India and we loved Africa before that-which I'll tell you about someday, including the "Night of the Lions," when the mighty beasts roared just outside our tent. Stay tuned.