A while ago I was asked if I’d give a talk on travel in India, nothing unusual there. I happily agreed. I was told they would revert with the topic and fellow speakers. I was then told the topic, Adventure Tourism. I panicked slightly, I mean I love a bit of horse riding and white-water rafting, even the odd bit of trekking but was I really an authority on adventure tourism? Then I looked at the list of speakers, this was high octane stuff. I called to cancel. Nonsense they said, no need to panic and in any case, rather than ‘a talk,’ it was to be more of an informal chat, sitting around a table, not many people, no need to prepare a presentation even. Just chatting to young travellers and inspiring them about being adventurous.
I took them at their word. I didn’t prepare a presentation, I barely prepared a talk, thinking I’d go with discussing what the participants were interested in and winging it accordingly. I arrived at the venue and it didn’t take Sherlock to realise that this was far from being an informal chat. Theatre style seating, and a great big bloody screen at one end of the room kind of gave it away. I checked the exit, it was blocked by the crowd coming in. In any case I’d already checked in with the organiser. I was trapped.
There were to be three speakers before me and there followed the most excruciating 1.5 hours an unprepared tepid adventurer could have. The speakers were brilliant speakers and had beautifully prepared presentations about:
The Chadar Trek: A 6 day, 65km trek, also known as the Ladakh Frozen River Trek. The only one of its kind in the whole world as the word “Chadar” means “blanket” and is representative of the sheet of ice cover that forms over the frozen Zanskar river in the dead of winter. This is a trek best tackled in the months of January or February when the sheet of ice is at its most stable and thick. The speaker even looked like he’d even enjoyed it.
Delhi to Singapore Cycle Ride. Yes, a young chap who decided, for fun, to head off on an approx. 6000 mile/60 day cycle ride and shared his experience with us in a most humble fashion. I truly inspirational and humbling journey though I did notice throughout the day that he didn’t sit down once, whether doing so didn’t burn enough calories or if he simply couldn’t, I’m not quite sure.
Everest Base Camp. A 15 day Kathmandu to Kathmandu experience via Everest Base Camp at 17,900 feet.
Yes, that just about finished me off. How could I, who was vaguely fit, liked the odd half or full day hike, ride or raft even begin to engage this audience, and that too, without a presentation?
Then I took a surreptitious glance around the room. It was a Delhi crowd, young, eager but not necessarily ready to spend a week sleeping on ice. I had an idea. You see, all the talks we had heard, whilst being extraordinary feats of stamina and endurance were what I would call, ‘aspirational travel,’ great in principle but were they realistic for much of this crowd? How about if we could bring adventure travel, my kind of adventure travel, into more mainstream destinations?
Over the years living in India, I’ve had the privilege to meet a young, fun crowd who were reimagining tourism to India, and who had somehow sought me out. Each new experience they discovered, they wanted me to try and over the course of the previous couple of years, I had:
- Trekked from Kumbalgarh to Ranakpur,
- Cycled out from Jaipur to Naila
- Trekked to the Maharaja’s former hunting lodge behind the Amber Fort
- Cycled from Devigarh to Tiger Lake in Udaipur.
- Made a plan to trek the circumference of the Kumbalgarh Fort
I once went to Jaipur for a whole weekend of such activities (and didn’t see a single monument up close) I had been dragged down by some young adventurous types and give the challenge of completing a 28 km bike ride, a 20km horse ride and an 8 km trek and be back in Delhi within 48 hours! Gauntlet thrown and of course I accepted. It turned out to be such a fun weekend.
And if these young pup’s could get this middle aged lady to do it, then this Delhi crowd was certainly capable.
You see, it’s all about seeing beyond what tourism tells us we must do, and seeking out what it is that we want to do in a destination. When I dealt with the expat travel crowd in Delhi, they’d tell me that they’d been to Jaipur when all they’d done was the main monuments. But when you mention fun things to do for the family, all of its outlying monuments, the polo, the textiles, the pottery, you realise that every mainstream destination has so much more than most of us are ever told about.
Truth is that there are loads of adventure options available in Rajasthan, if you know where to look.
In Jaipur It is possible to go on cycling tours, Jeep Safaris, horse riding, hot air ballooning and trekking.
In Udaipur there are wonderful cycle rides and treks and yes, horse riding too.
In Jodhpur there’s 4×4 off roading, zip lining and horse safaris.
Then there’s the option which are off the mainstream, Kumbalgarh and its surrounds offers multiple possibilities for adventure from safaris to treks to jungle cycle treks as does the Shekhavati region.
A few of my favourite soft adventure operators are listed below and for a comprehensive guide on discovering destinations differently, check out our page on Indian Experiences: https://www.indianexperiences.com/preferred-partners/experiences/
Cycling Tours: https://www.letourdeindia.com/
Walking tours in and around Jaipur: https://www.jaipurwalkswithvineet.com/
Jeep Safaris in Jodhpur and Jaipur: https://www.overlanderindia.com/
Hot air ballooning: https://www.skywaltz.com/
Horse & Jeep Safaris in Shekhavati: https://www.dundlod.in/
Horse riding in Narlai: www.horseindia.com
If anyone, unlike myself is into the more hardcore stuff (Chadar and EBC but also more of
beat) then look no further than: https://aquaterra.in/
For more information about Indian Experiences, consultants to the Indian Travel Trade: