Overall this was a very enjoyable trip, with excellent leaders and accommodation that was generally much superior to what I had expected. The itinerary was well thought-out with one exception (too long in Chennai). And a bonus is that food, drinks, laundry and transport are really cheap so you spend very little extra.
- What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?
Being a nature-lover and a bit of a horticulturalist, I was blown away by the lushness of the countryside particularly in Kerala (compared to say Rajastan), especially the tea plantations near Ooty, as well as all the rice, veggie and sugarcane fields. It just looked so prosperous! Then the visit to the spice garden in Thekkady was great: I learnt so much about where the spices I use on a weekly basis, come from. I had no idea cardamom grew on the ground! And last but not least, the temple architecture and carvings were outstanding.
- What did you think of your group leader?
- We had two (due to the first falling ill) excellent leaders: Suresh Moni and Manoj Ravendash (not sure if the surname is correet!?). I have travelled extensively with groups and would rank them as good as, and possibly better than any I've had before. They were not youngsters - both well into their 30s - and I think that was the crux! They are mature and sensible and have had experience of life and its assortment of people, and have learnt well how to deal effectively and unemotionally with tricky clients (especially Manoj). They both did an excellent job, in relation to logistics, handling people and imparting their knowledge of their great country. An asset to you!
- Do you have any advice for potential travellers?
On the plus side, very few mosquitoes, very cheap food and drinks, and easy & cheap to get laundry done (so don't pack too much). There are a number of optional extras offered: I did them all and don't regret it as it is so cheap and you see so much more.
On the flip side, bring a brollie &/or a plastic poncho for those torrential downpours (they don't last long but there sure is a hell of a lot of water in that short time!), plenty of reading material or some cards/back gammon etc as there is not really any nightlife to speak of! Shoes that come off & put on easily as you need to keep removing them at temple sights (a pair of old socks is useful here too to keep your feet reasonably clean).
- Is there anything else you would like to add?
The downfall of the itinerary for me was Chennai: a HUGE city, dreadfully polluted (noise and smog) and with really not much of interest to do for a whole day! The hotel was good but right on the outskirts of town so nothing close by to see. My suggestion to Exodus would be only 1 overnight here, then move on the next day. (This was by and large the consensus of the group: to have an additional night either in Mahabalipuram or Kovalam.) Maybe Exodus could also advise/arrange some optional excursions?
My recommendation to all clients is to participate in the tipping kitty: it saves you a lot of frustration, and as there is a shortage of small change in India it makes a lot of sense for the leader to do it on behalf of the group.