I started this Tuesday 10 theme last week with the Africa edition.
I thought that today I would take you lovely lot with me to India.
I spent my time in the South of India with Raleigh International. We had the choice of a community project or an environmental one. I ended up picking the environmental project because it was promised to be more of a challenge: a thirty minute walk to the nearest road. living in the jungle, in tents, with a tribal family, in the monsoon season. Doesn’t get much tougher than that! I met some utterly fabulous people. They have become my Indian family (although they come from different places from all over the world), laughter could be heard for miles and we were without a doubt the tightest group as we all had to work completely together or we would have sat around and just cried for days.
1. Home sweet home
Our first day in the jungle was a tough one. I said that we were there in the monsoon season and this was our worst day of weather by far!! It rained all day. Not just a drizzle but the type of rain that soaks you down to your underwear. We were also 30 minutes from the nearest road and we spent the first 3 weeks here. We had a lot of stuff all of which had to be carried by us to our new home. We had barrels of food, equipment, tents..everything that we needed to survive and it was heavy. We must have made a 100 trips each (only a slight exaggeration). But we were greeted with smiles, excitement and flower garlands. We spent the day making tents under tarpaulin, digging trenches for the rain and of course digging the long drop!
I’m in the middle with the bright red trousers. I think I wore these everyday for 5 weeks. We didn’t see a ‘proper shower’ the whole time we were over there. We just had a bucket of water, some bamboo to keep our modesty and a few leeches thrown into the mix too. We became immune to the smell.
Us with our tribal family. I’m in the red trousers AGAIN! Our tribal leader, Chilan, is in the red tartan top.
2. The best view in the world.
This must be the most beautiful place that I have ever had the privilege in living in. We lived on the side of a mountain in a huge tea estate. No light pollution (or any type of pollution for that matter) for miles. We had the best sunsets that signalled it was time to go to bed and the early morning sunrise woke us up for another hard day at work.
Is there a better way to wake up?
Welcome to my jungle kitchen.
We took it in turns to play the role of mummy bear. We took it in turns each morning to make the porridge for the busy workers. It was also their job to burn the used toilet paper but luckily I have no photos of that to share with you. We lived GREEN!
We became porridge masters. We knew the perfect oats to water ratio and became inventive with toppings. My favourite was when we would venture into the town (an hours walk away) and buy fresh fruit for the porridge. PURE LUXURY. If not on a Saturday we would have fancy porridge oats, water, condensed milk and prunes. Prunes were vital.
4. Welcome to the jungle.
I think it is fair to say that we got a dose of cabin fever during our stay. It resulted in some crazy jungle raves, games and traditions. (And not with one drop of alcohol). One of my favourites was the jungle animal rave we had for Hannah (who is holding the stick). She was on the trip to record our time in India with her incredible videos. She stayed with us for almost a week and become a family member. We were a little bit lost without her when she left us. On her last night we decided to throw her a goodbye party. We used dubious looking coloured powder mixed with water for face paint that stayed on our skin for the next week. We had to come dressed as a jungle animal and we had birds of paradise, elephants, flamingos and I was a tiger.
The red trousers make yet another appearance.
We also became cheerleaders!
6. Last night tears.
We were al nervous about our last day. We woke up and had a magnificent morning porridge and packed all our things away. We were leaving at night-time so we got our tribal leader Chilan to tell us the story of his tribe (something he had been saving for this special day). We had tears rolling down our cheeks as we learnt about the death of his family from: famine, diseased crops, being trampled by elephants in the night and from conflicts with other tribes. He then took us for a walk to see the ‘whole of India’. We had this group shot taken:
Chilan is in the middle. Firmly cemented as the rock of our group. I think of him and the rest of the tribe often.
The view went out for miles and he was right you could see the whole of India.
You could see the whole of his India.
The whole of the only India he knew.
7. One last sunset.
A small group of us convinced the rest that it would be a fabulous idea to delay our leaving by an hour or two. We just weren’t ready to leave and we wanted to see one last sunset. Boy o boy was it a corker!
A glimpse of the red trousers. Feeling free and lucky.
i’m it’s worth it.
The next phase of our adventure as a family was a week trek through the ghats and hills of Kerala.
Nothing has tested me more and nothing has tested me this way since. We found it punishingly hard, we cried, but we laughed through the pain of walking for 14 hours a day. It brought us even closer.
We saw parts of the country that had not been walked upon for twenty years. We kayaked through the ghats. We rode bikes through the mountains. We kept everything to keep us alive on our backs.
We even stopped sometimes to admire the view and rest our weary limbs.
We did all this in the monsoon rain with periods of brilliant sunshine. I was known as Bambi because I kept slipping over. I needed some extra help, like being pulled along with a stick over certain things.
9. Everybody dance now.
We stopped for lunch on one of our trek days. We found a shelter just outside of a primary school. The children all came rushing out to meet us and we ended up staying much longer than we intended to. I played games and they tried to teach me some Indian dancing…much to their amusement.
Another red trouser spot!
Above all else we were there to do some pretty serious work. We built an electric-powered elephant proof fence. It was to protect our tribal families tea estate and their lives. We dug holes, mixed cement by hand, and wheeled miles of wire up and down mountains. It was back-breaking stuff. But if done with a smile and with great friends you get it done….get it done we did and two days early!
I am really stating to think that I wore nothing else!
I once agin went over the 10 photo limit. But I wanted to share them all with you. I have many others too but I’ll save them for another week.
Next week: Canada and the USA!