The Taj Mahal.

India 2001
by Ingrid Vandoorne © 2001
All photos Vandoorne © 2001

Ingrid and Lieven Vandoorne, of Belgium, recently discovered a marvelous new travel service and explored the wonders of ancient India. Come along as they visit Delhi, Agra and the Taj Majal.

Just back from a week trip to India and am very enthusiastic about an organisation that offers trips to India for people in wheelchairs.

To introduce ourselves, we are Ingrid and Lieven Vandoorne of Belgium. I, Ingrid,  am a paraplegic (from a car-accident in 1995 and use a small wheelchair, about 60 cm). We travel very frequently and always on our own--never in a group, and normally we organise all the arrangements ourselves.

This time, related to this destination, it was, of course, much easier if someone would take care of us. After research on the Internet, we found an organisation named Timeless Excursions and we just tried it out and it was great.

The managing director, Mrs.Renu Tawadey, had met a Norwegian tetraplegic, and she was so enthusiastic about his way of living and his courage that she decided to do her utmost to make as many places accessible as possible. She negotiated with hotels over two years, and finally she attained some rooms, which were made accessible: Three in Delhi, three in Agra and six in Jaipur. We met her personally; in fact, she invited us, because she wanted to know herself personally about our experiences with her agency.

Here is a brief story of our trip:

Our flight Lufthansa, Brussels-Frankfurt-Delhi was very good. Transfers were arranged well and the staff was very friendly. The flight from Frankfurt lasted 6.5 hours. If needed, there was a small wheelchair on board to go to the toilet. The return flight lasted 8 hours, but it was a night flight. I always take a sleeping pill then. This is just a tip to make flights easy and also the jet-lag is much better.

At arrival, we met Mr Rakesh from the agency. The car was ready, and we went to the Ashok Hotel. Indeed, the room was accessible and the bathroom had a roll-in shower. In front of the hotel, there are steps but you can enter very easily from the back of the hotel. In fact, you can read all this details on their website and they are correct and detailed.

http://www.timelessexcursions.com/dis.htm

We did a guided tour (with a personal guide and a personal helper) Traveling was never so easy for my husband! In Delhi you can find ramps in some tourist places (due to a recent visit of Stephen Hawkings to Delhi), but in other cities, as Agra, it is very poor, and there are steps. But, of course, if you have a personal assistant, it is a pleasure to be able to see all those magnificent buildings!

We went to Agra in an air-conditioned ambassador car. The Claks Shiraz Hotel was OK, and we visited such beautiful monuments as Fathepur Sikri, the Agra Fort and, of course, the Taj Mahal.

We never thought we could go to India in such a ‘relaxed’ way. The people of the agency did everything they could to make us feel comfortable, and we think that Mrs. Tawaday made great efforts for the disabled. Just go and see!

India street.In India, it is no problem to go on the streets. They are mostly normally paved, but, of course, in rural places they may be only gravel. You can use the assistance of the agency if you needed. If possible, I did it myself. Markets and streets can be very crowded, so it depends if you like that or not (see picture). We like to go to markets and have already visited such markets in Yemen, Oman, Egypt, Zanzibar, etc.). We never felt threatened. Also in India, they are very helpful and friendly. Of course, they stare and stare--then I just laugh and the ice is broken. A problem could be your health. If you are out of the car, it can easily be 37°C and high humidity. So if you have circulation problems, it could be a problem to be out in the sun for a long time. I always wear strong pants to protect circulation in my legs.

Delhi taxi.We also took normal taxis into Delhi on our own and had no problem at all (see picture). The limousines used for us by the agency were Ambassador cars, which were very solid cars with AC.

The best time to visit India is coming now; Oct.-Nov. is best because the heat is less. In July-Aug. it can be 45° in Delhi—unbearable.

We normally ate in the hotels. In India it was 5* plus and 4 *hotels, so you can normally trust the food! We did drink only bottled water; also for cleaning teeth we used bottled water. If we were hungry and not in the hotel, we would eat bananas and djapati (bread, sometimes still warm), or we would buy some dry biscuits. If you eat fruit, peel it yourself with a knife cleaned with bottled water

Of course, you can also eat in other restaurants but have a good look about because the hygiene can really be a problem. Another tip: don't drink very cold water; this can cause diarrhea. Drink a lot of water but at a normal temperature. The Indian food is very good! In the hotels, we didn't have any problem at all. Also, the food was delicious!  

Tip: always take care if you swim and swallow some water; this can also be a source of bacterial infection. We have never had problems on big trips, but my husband has been ill (throat and ears) after swimming in a little swimming pool in France.

Really: Just go and try. It will be one of the highlights of your travelling life, and the agency will do anything they can for you, which is very important for disabled people in countries like India. Magical, mysterious, poor, ugly India...you can't describe it if you haven't be there---even if it is only for a week.

http://www.timelessexcursions.com/index.htm

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