Our own Travel Specialist Hazel is here with her story of how she fell in love with South India and became part of our team here at Rickshaw – we’re sure glad she did! Take it away Hazel…
I’d already been to Goa in my younger days – to Palolem beach before it became really touristy – and always dreamed of going back. I also wanted to see other parts of South India and have a much more off-the-beaten-track experience this time round, before revisiting this paradise beach that had stuck in my mind. As a huge curry lover my partner didn’t need much persuading (we can both still taste the most incredible Keralan Fish Curry… mmm) so we decided Southern India was our next big adventure.
We’d both been backpacking many moons ago and loved the feel of travelling independently but we also had no idea where to start and how to make the most of our time in Southern India. We needed a bit of guidance. I hadn’t yet heard of Rickshaw Travel, but when we searched the web, low and behold, Rickshaw appeared and caught our eye!
We worked with an India Specialist to put together the most incredible itinerary, travelling from the beautiful beaches of Kerala, up through the green hills, tea plantations and wildlife of Kerala, sailing along the backwaters of Alleppey on a traditional houseboat (where my now hubby proposed!) and ending in the quaint fishing city of Cochin with its many markets and seafood restaurants.
We saw local life in so many forms, spotted wildlife in Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary and ate THE most delicious food. We had a private a/c car & driver throughout our trip as some of the journeys can be very long. The driver often recommended some other smaller stops to us so we could stretch our legs during the drive but in essence, it was our choice and we did it at our pace.
We had guides during some of the pre-booked tours (a spice tour in Thekkady and wildlife spotting trip in Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary), but otherwise were left to our own devices so we could go off and explore, talk to the locals, find a hidden restaurant and take a rickshaw ride to a nearby smaller town.
It was the perfect arrangement, it really didn’t feel touristy in the slightest and we felt like we were travelling but without the hassle. The whole trip ran so smoothly and we have some incredible memories that I don’t think we’d have had if we’d arranged it all ourselves. With Rickshaw, we then arranged the overnight sleeper train from Cochin to Goa and from then onwards we made our own arrangements.
Sadly, when I reached Palolem Beach in Goa – although beautiful – I was surprised to find it overrun with tourists; a world away from my dreamy memories of a quiet paradise. On reflection, I wish I’d left the planning for this part of the trip to the experts!
Whilst we were in Kerala earlier on during our trip, we’d stayed in a mixture of boutique hotels, teak cottages, houseboats and home stays, as well as eaten an array of delicious curries for breakfast, lunch and dinner at local restaurants. The part of our trip that we booked with Rickshaw was very authentic and off the beaten track; it felt like the real India.
I loved Rickshaw’s unique style of travel so much that after returning from my trip, I applied for a Travel Specialist position at their office in Brighton. I’ve now worked at Rickshaw for nearly 4 years and love being an India Travel Specialist. I really enjoy helping our customers create a similar type of experience through India. So if you fancy seeing the real India, staying in locally run yet comfortable hotels, travelling mainly by private car but sometimes by local train (or even camel!), supporting local projects, and having unique adventure experiences as well as your own free time, then we’re the company for you!