The cast and crew: Team Northern India

Date: 6 May

Location: Breakfast, devouring the half loaf of toast set before me (funny tummy), Betwa Retreat, Orchha

Notable sightings: A low of 31 degrees overnight. This witch is melting.

I took a deep breath and opened the door to 223. No one home. So, after de-turtling (dumping my backpack on the unclaimed bed), I did exactly what you'd do: deadlocked the door and took a quick sneaky peak at the open bag on the other bed.

I was in Agra about to meet my new tour group so lets call this due diligence on my roomate for the next two weeks.

Huge black bag, no makeup bag or straightener in the bathroom, sensible Merril shoes by the door, a pair of those heinously ugly zip off shorts/pants, a stuffed bunny. This CSI says girl of uncertain age, seasoned traveller and low maintenance, but on long trip?

CSI was mostly correct. My roommate for this second trip is another Kiwi (bad start) but a normal, non-crazy, non-Cat Lady one, who's traveling through India and Nepal before doing Everest Base Camp then moving to London. She has an interesting summer ahead. I think I shall call her simply Roomate. As for the rest of the group:

  • We have Miss California, a tall thin clothes horse from LA with balayged hair, a pair of wicked ankle boots that never seem come off and a penchant for icecream.
  • We also have the Terrific Texan (heavy sarcasm on the terrific). He's in his 50s and likes to tell us at volume about how magnificently well travelled he is. He got severely dehydrated on day one.
  • We have the exotic caramel girls, a half-Honduran, half-Colombian Canadian and a Brazilian. They're hard to crack.
  • Then we have the Lady Bogans, a mother and daughter pair from Mackay, Queensland inclined to end sentences with prepositions, pepper their speech with 'yous' (the logical plural form of 'you', it seems) and put Hinduism and science in the same basket (“hoodoo voodoo”). I'm being a horrid snob. But I am a horrid snob.
  • The grandma of the tour is Fay, an adorably vague Sydneysider who seems genuinely delighted by so many things: the size of the thali plate at lunch, the mirrored Indian parasols, that they make French fries in Orchha.
  • We also have a Japanese-American reality TV assistant director who speaks in a broad Chicago accent and shares her name with a character from the babysitter club.
  • Finally, our tour leader up to Nepal is Ravi. Ravi is a kind Hindu in a happily arranged marriage – and freakishly tall for an Indian, which is pretty darn handy in crowds.

Tonight we overnight train and then bus to the banks of the Ganges to sail and camp. Wish me luck in the depths of the Indian jungle. May the tigers be more like Tigger and less like Richard Parker.



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