Usually when we plan summer, it is done so about 8 weeks in advance. The reason is more-often than not an indecision of where to go and what to do. So, when Christmas 2015 rolled around my wife and spoke about what the year ahead would hold for us. Inevitably summer 2016 came up and we discussed heading back to the United States, possibly camping, hiking, but mainly holidaying. We remained undecided. A day or two later I was browsing twitter and secretflying (an account dedicated to finding error fares and unusually cheap flights) showed up return flights from Prague to Dubai, with Aeroflot for about £90 each. I checked flight prices to Prague (about £20 each return) and realised that we could be in Dubai, for the whole summer for about £110. Nothing is ever that simple, and there was just three seats available, we booked them for Gemma and our two eldest children, we would worry about the remainder of us later.
A week or so went by and secretflying came up with flights from Madrid to Mumbai, India for an incredible price with Iberia and British Airways. And that was that, we would all spend a summer in India and the planning began.
Now, I love India, it is easily one of my favourite countries, but it is very hard to travel. The heat, constant sweat, food issues, sanitation, and impossible bureaucracy make India an exhausting place. Nothing makes sense and procedures are a myriad of illogical confusion combined with a country where time is irrelevant. A perfect example; Flying out of Delhi a couple of years back I was ushered into a queue just prior to security. Indians hate to queue, and so it was organised chaos. Added to the fact women and men must queue separately I was trying to keep an eye on my young daughter who wasn’t allowed in my queue. Twenty minutes’ pass, and at the front of the queue a guy looks at my hand luggage and gives me a tag. I am then sent to another queue. Turns out, that first queue is to ensure you are allowed to actually queue for security… Baffling, pointless and completely illogical.
My wife had travelled India previously and we both agreed, 6 weeks in India was too much. After a lot of discussion, we decided that we would head to India for a few weeks, go hiking in Nepal and then have a week in Dubai. Simple.
Not so. Anyone that travels with kids will know and agree that making the decision of where to go is a single percent of the overall effort of a summer away. Weeks of planning turned into months, every element meticulously pored over, our youngest is just 4 years old, we had to get this right and having spent the last three years in the United States, felt like we had forgotten how to backpack. Piece by piece things came together, and, after the longest time spent planning any summer trip, it was finalised.
The summer looks like this:
Gemma, Charlie and Megan fly to Mumbai via Prague, Moscow and Abu Dhabi. I fly to Mumbai with Abi, Jack and Toby via Madrid and London. We all meet in Mumbai (we land within 2 hours of each other). We then all fly up to Udaipur together where we have a house reserved for a few days to catch up with ourselves and time changes. We then travel north taking in some of our favourite places such as Jaipur, Agra and Amritsar. The trip then splits, Gemma takes the youngest three to a wonderful Alpine like paradise called Manali (and one of my favourite places in the country), whilst I fly to the far northern city of Leh at the foothills of the Indian Himalaya with the two eldest. Gemma will spend time in Manali paragliding, cycling and hiking, whilst we will hike high passes, cycle the highest road on earth, bungee jump and white water-raft (amongst other things). We will then all meet up back in Delhi for some respite before Gemma flies with Charlie to Kathmandu, on to Lukla and then begins the three passes hike, a spectacular high altitude trek through the Everest Region taking in Everest Base Camp and three of the highest passes on earth. Meanwhile, with the remainder of the kids I will travel up to Rishikesh, Haridwar and then make our way across northern India to the land border crossing with Nepal at Sunauli. We will then wind our way up towards the gorgeous lakeside retreat of Pokhara, before setting out on either the Annapurna Sanctuary trek, or Poon Hill. I say either, not because we are undecided, but the Annapurna region (like much of Nepal) is still recovering from the massive earthquake that hit the tiny land locked country in April 2015. Once in Pokhara I will know better, whether Annapurna is safe for hiking with kids.
Gemma and Charlie will make their way to Pokhara after finishing the Three Passes trek and we will head there from Annapurna. After a few days relaxation we then fly to Dubai where we have a car hired and a gorgeous apartment for a week of travelling the Emirates and having some hard-core beach time.
A lot of people might wonder what the point of going away as a family, but spending parts of it divided. We wanted this year to tailor the trip to all the kids, whilst the younger ones want to play in rivers and paraglide, the older ones want to sky dive and go rafting. Whilst Gemma and Charlie want to hike the Three Passes, the others would rather a less intense hike. Will it work? I am confident, there has been so much planning gone into this, but we have also left a lot of room for manoeuvre allowing the trip to remain dynamic.
This opening post is an insight into what should be an amazing summer. 19 flights, 8 long distance trains, 6 countries, 200 miles of Himalayan trekking, 5 kids, my wife and I, and a whole lot of hope.
Here’s to returning to backpacking, to travel and to each other.
Let’s do this 🙂