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Published: March 5th 2008
A Last Sunset
Seen through palms on Goa's Arabian Sea coast.
© L. Birch 2008
Where does a trip like ours really end? Was it the moment that you boarded that last flight? Or the moment of touchdown back home when you felt the first drops of cold rain on your face? At the start of this trip I wrote, "All journeys have a beginning and an end. Ours began in Cornwall."
For us, the journey would end in India, looking out over the Arabian Sea from the top of a coastal sand dune. A cool breeze, sunshine and fine blown sand; the last cherished memories of a trip spanning 18 months and 12 countries.
Although we had spent more time in India than anywhere else, it was not because it had been our favourite country; the long visa entitlement and relatively cheap living expenses had more to do with that. One thing was certain: you knew you were "alive" in India. Every sense, every preconceived idea was challenged. When we examined our feelings toward the country, we realised that it was the one place we had visited that we loved one moment and hated the next. But despite its many frustrations, its dirt, poverty and squalor, the country still managed to exert an irresistible attraction
A Beached Boat
Lays at rest on the beach at Benaulim, Goa.
© L. Birch 2008
(for more on the ups and downs of travel in India, see our previous entry "Living the High Life"
). Where else could you visit a Hindu temple and a Church - complete with stained glass windows - in the same day? We had travelled from Bollywood to backwoods, eaten curry with our hands in a Karnatakan village, basked on endless beaches, explored 'lost city' ruins and circumnavigated a high altitude lake in a pedalo. The trip had not been without its difficulties but there was a lot we would remember with a smile.
India's biggest problems lay with its government which seemed beset with corruption and ineptitude. It was so keen to rush headlong into a technological future that its most basic problems would probably never be addressed; like the extremes of poverty, the inadequacy of its efforts to provide decent sewerage disposal, the lack of a reliable supply of electricity or clean water. Local governments often claimed that there was no money to provide even the most basic public services such as refuse collections or street cleaning. In Tamil Nadu, we passed through towns that looked as if they had been bombed, their inhabitants clinging on amongst the ruins. Garbage, in
great rotting mounds, lay everywhere - not just in the towns but in the countryside too. Worse still were the piles of non-degradable plastic bags and bottles - spilling down the banks of a river or clogging an otherwise pretty waterway. Beauty and ugliness juxtaposed, side by side.
Would we ever come back to India? There were so many other places we still wanted to see but you never can tell. In the meantime, there were compelling reasons to return home. In England, our son Brendan was just embarking upon a journey of his own. His would be a journey into the unknown as he started a battle against cancer. Fortunately, the prognosis was good but it was still going to be a long haul.
Watching the sun drop into the Arabian Sea, we reflected on all that we had seen and done; the Great Wall of China, Angkor Wat, boat trips on the Mekong and Backwaters. Bagan and Mandalay, coral reefs and rain forest. India was to be our last country but that didn't mean it was all over. Sometimes, the end of one journey..... was simply the beginning of another.
This article is dedicated
Were just one of the highlights of our journey through Southern India.
© L. Birch 2008
to our son Brendan who was diagnosed with cancer in January 2008. Bren has faced up to his condition with bravery and humour. He had his first chemo treatment on February 29th and although we could not be there on that occasion, our love and thoughts were - and always will be with him.
We would also like to thank all those people who have sent us messages of support and encouragement during the course of our '06-'08 Asian Tour. We could not have done it without you.
If you would like to see some of the other, 35 entries or browse some of the 300 photographs compiled for this blogsite during our trip, click on the link below to visit the full site. www.mytb.org/Nomads
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