On 2 November, a group of leaders from Girlguiding Kent Weald County flew from London Heathrow to Mumbai. We drove to Sangam, near Pune, arriving to a lovely welcome. Sangam is one of the World Guide Centres and was like an oasis of calm. We felt very safe inside and out in what is a mad, hectic, crazy country!
After settling in, we had a free morning, we swam, did yoga and had a massage before other visitors arrived including a large trefoil group from Cumbria and a leaders group from Anglia. Sangam was celebrating its 50th anniversary and we were to be part of their festivities.
The programme was full on. We were fed continuously, we travelled outside the Sangam haven by bus, rickshaw and on foot. We were taken to visit families, who welcomed us into their homes for food and entertainment where we sat on the floor and ate with our fingers. We visited numerous temples, went shopping and had sarees fitted. One of the most eye opening experiences was when we visited areas of the city where families lived with their animals in slum like conditions with no toilets or washing facilities.
Everywhere you looked there were cows and goats strolling across busy highways, as there are no traffic laws everyone hooted their horns and shouted, drove like crazy and packed as many people as possible in their vehicles. Motor scooters wove in and out of the traffic, with dad driving, mum on the back and 2 children wedged in between them. Then finally an elephant strolled past us on the highway!
Each visit out would see us return to Sangam to peace and calmness. The staff were brilliant, we had fabulous ceremonies for opening and closing times. They introduced us to the partnership companies they supported; we visited a brand-new school for blind children and a sanctuary for women, who needed support and guidance. Just two of the organisations Sangam support.
We were all very sad to leave, however they prepared us for our onward journey well. We went by rickshaw to the airport, cases squeezed in with us and took an internal flight to Delhi. We picked up our Venture Abroad coach, tour operator and driver for the second part of our adventure. Delhi was a beautiful city. We then travelled to Agra and the Taj Mahal which we visited at sunrise to get the best light. This was my absolute highlight. What a magical experience. Jaipur was the last city to be visited, the pink city. Every building we visited was encrusted with jewels and we marvelled that all those years ago, people had managed to build these massive, impressive constructions, all symmetrical and beautifully designed.
Who knows where to next but I’d love to join Girlguiding on another international trip in the future.
Girlguiding Kent Weald County