Lewis looks back at his incredible worldwide itinerary

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Just out of interest, Lewis the Lion decided to compile a list of all the modes of transport that he had taken during his epic worldwide adventure. He’d like to share that list with you now.

Lewis the Lion’s Incredible Worldwide Travel Itineray

*R = return journey

Flights:
Newcastle to London Heathrow
London Heathrow to Newark, NY
JFK, NY to El Salvador
El Salvador to Peru
Peru to Rio de Janeiro
Mendoza – Parachute jump
La Paz to Rurrenabaque R
Guayaquil to the Galapagos R
Piura to Lima
Lima to Easter Island R
Lima to Mexico City
Mexico City to Cancun R
Mexico City to Salt Lake City
Salt Lake City to San Francisco
Los Angeles to Las Vegas R
LAX to Sydney
Sydney to Auckland
Christchurch to Auckland
Auckland to Brisbane
Brisbane to Cairns
Sydney to Melbourne
Melbourne to Alice Springs
Alice Springs to Perth
Perth to Singapore
Kuala Lumpur to Makassar, Sulawesi
Makassar to Jakarta
Jakarta to Bangkok
Bangkok to Koh Samui R
Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur
Kuala Lumpur to New Delhi
Varanasi to New Delhi
New Delhi to Goa
Goa to Mumbai
Mumbai to London Heathrow
London Heathrow to Newcastle

Total number of flights = 41

Coaches:
Rio de Janeiro to Ilha Grande
Dos Agros to Paraty
Paraty to San Paolo
San Paolo to Foz de Iguazu
Foz de Iguazu to Salta
Salta to Montevideo
Montevideo to Colonia
Buenos Aires to Neuquen
Neuquen to Bariloche
Bariloche to Osorno
Osorno to Pucon
Pucon to Santiago
Santiago to Valparaiso
Valparaiso to Mendoza
Mendoza to Salta
Salta to Cafayate – day trip
Salta to San Pedro de Atacama
Uyuni to Potosi
Potosi to La Paz
La Paz to Copacabana
Copacabana to Puno
Puno to Arequipa
Arequipa to Cusco
Cusco to village
Cusco to Lima
Lima to Guayaquil
Guayaquil to Quito R
Guayaquil to Piura
San Francisco to Yosemite R
Stray Bus New Zealand
Cairns to Airlie Beach
Airlie Beach to Hervey Bay
Hervey Bay to Byron Bay
Byron Bay to Sydney
Singapore to Mersing
Mersing to Kuala Lumpur
Cameron Highlands to Kuala Lumpur

Total number of  coaches = 37

Trains:
Buenos Aires to Tigre R
Machu Picchu to Cusco (then bus)
Agra to Jhansi
Overnight train Jhansi to Varanasi

Total number of trains = 4

Boats:
Dos Agros to Ilha Grande
Colonia to Buenos Aires
Tigre, Buenos Aires
Lake Titicaca – to Copacabana
Copacabana to la isla de la Luna
Isla de la Luna to Isla del Sol
Isla del Sol to Copacabana
Puno to Los Uros, Amantani & Taquile
The Galápagos Islands – 5 day cruise
Alcatraz, San Francisco
Sausalito to San Francisco
Whale watching, Monterrey
Wellington to Picton
Milford Sound Cruise
Bluff to Stewart Island R
Albatross Encounter, Kaikoura
Cairns to GBR – 2 days
The Derwent Hunter
Hervey Bay to Fraser Island
Wild dolphin encounter, Rockingham, Perth
Mersing to Tioman R
Pantai Bira – dive
Bangkok river cruise
Koh Samui to Koh Phagnan R
Riverboat cruise sunset, Varanasi, India
Riverboat cruise sunrise, Varanasi, India
Allahabad, river cruise to the Kumbh Mela

Total number of boats = 34

Car:
Bariloche to San Martin de Los Andes
Jujuy
Easter Island
Tulum
California
Beverley Hills
Brisbane to Australia Zoo
Melbourne to Phillip Island
KL to the Cameron Highlands
Makassar to Parepare

Total number of car journeys (not including taxis): 10

Jeep:
San Pedro de Atacama to Uyuni
Fraser Island
Village jeep safari, India

Total number of times in a jeep: 3

Bike rides:
Bariloche
Peru
Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco
Thong Sala, Koh Pagnan
Bird Sanctuary, on the way to Agra

Total number of times on a bike: 5

Zip-lining:
Peru

Total number of times zip-lining : Once (or 5 times depending on how you look at it!)

Hiking:
Rio de Janeiro waterfalls
Refugio Frey
To Aguascalientes
To Machu Picchu
Yosemite National Park
Tongariro Alpine Crossing
Stewart Island coastal walk

Total number of hikes: 8

Cable cars/ funicular rides:
Santiago
Valparaiso
Salta
Bariloche
San Francisco
Napa Valley

Total number of cable car/ funicular rides: 6

Taxis (long journeys, i.e. half an hour or more):
New York JFK airport to Manhattan
Parepare to Tana Toraja
Makassar to Pantai Bira R
Bangkok airport to centre R
Koh Samui R
Koh Pagnan R
Goa to Palolem R

Total number of long taxi rides: 11

Local buses
Rio de Janeiro
Salto, Uruguay
Buenos Aires
To K.L. Airport

Bemos:
X 4 in Sulawesi
X a few in Koh Phagnan

Total number of bemo rides: at least 8

Metros:
Rio de Janeiro
Buenos Aires
Santiago
Sydney
Perth
Singapore
Delhi

Total number of different metro sytems: 7

Sightseeing buses/ bus tours:
Rio de Janeiro – favela – R
Buenos Aires – R
Tigre – R
Arequipa to the Colca Canyon R
Cusco to Inca village
Chichen Itza R
Teotohuacan R
Grand Canyon/ Hoover Dam R
Alice Springs to Uluru R
Delhi to Jaipur
Jaipur to Tordi
Tordi via Abaneri onto Agra
Jhansi to Orchha
Orchha to Alipura
Alipura to Khajuraho R
Alipura to Jhansi
Varanasi to Allahabad R

Total number of sightseeing buses/ bus tours: 17

Walking tours:
Santiago
Valparaiso
Anthropological museum – Mexico City

Total number of walking tours: 3

Motorbike rides:
Malibu Hills
Tioman

Total number of motorbike rides: 2

Surfing:
Venice Beach, California
Byron Bay

Total times spent surfing: twice

Helicopter rides:
Grand Canyon
Ice-exploring Franz Josef Glacier

Total number of helicopter rides: 2

Tuk-Tuk rides:
Puno, Peru
Piura, Peru
Delhi
Jaipur
Varanasi

Total number of tuk-tuk rides: At least a dozen

Camel rides:
Alice Springs
Tordi, India

Total number of camel rides: 2

 

All of the other modes of transport, Lewis the Lion took just the once on his journey:

Caving
Waitimo Caves

Trams
Melbourne

Monorail
Kuala Lumpur

Bike Rickshaws
Varanasi, India

Elephant ride:
Koh Phagnan, Thailand

 

For sure after all those journeys, Lewis the Lion recognised that travel was fun but also exhausting. It was a good job that he paced himself over the course of a year! He reflected on this quote by St. Augustine:

The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.

Travel often!

Travel often!

However, he also appreciated that travel was the gift of the privileged few as so often on his journey, he’d met people who just weren’t able to travel. He realised that travel if anything should make you humble and should fill you with gratitude to have such an opportunity.

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be to?

What mode of transport would you like to take to get there?

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Lewis the Lion is homeward bound

How it all started: a dream to travel the world!

How it all started: a dream to travel the world!

A wave of contentment spread over Lewis the Lion as he left Palolem in the taxi. What a truly spectacular adventure he had on his worldwide journey but now it had seemed to have come to an end all too soon. He could barely believe that it was a year ago tomorrow when he first set off on this extraordinary journey. And who could have ever imagined what fun, challenges and opportunities his adventure would had thrown up? Certainly, Lewis the Lion felt like he had lived out all of his dreams and then some! Never in his wildest imagination could he have predicted some of the amazing opportunities that had arisen nor did he think he would have been able to have achieved some of the things he had done, such as skydiving, trekking in the Amazon and scuba diving off the Great Barrier Reef. Neither did he ever anticipate some of the special friends he would make along the way. Helen’s Facebook friends list for them both seemed to have grown exponentially!

He reflected that it was amazing what could happen to you in life if you but dared to dream a little, as he had done. Do you remember how he had started off with his big dream? It was incredible what doors could be opened for you if you but faced your fears and gave things a try. He realised in that moment that life was all about the choices we make and that with a little bit of hard work and dedication, we could all achieve the impossible. Who had ever heard of a travelling lion after all?
‘The world truly is our oyster and it’s here for every single person on this planet to cherish and enjoy,’ he contemplated.

Lewis now opened the taxi window and could feel the warm breeze drift through his mane as he looked out onto palm trees and fields. Happy children in smart blue uniforms passed by in groups. It was a Friday afternoon and no doubt they were grateful to have finished school for the weekend. He chuckled to himself as he passed a line of cows and then water buffaloes wandering leisurely by the roadside. He wondered when in his life he was next likely to see that? He could only begin to imagine the pandemonium should a cow be walking by a busy road back in the UK! Somehow he wondered if it might even feel boring driving around in the UK after his Indian experience? (If you haven’t already, check out Lewis the Lion’s blog on ‘India’s street life gets under Lewis the Lion’s skin!’).

Before he left India, Dushyant’s words rang in his head, ‘Expect the unexpected.’ It wasn’t the organised chaos at Mumbai airport that surprised him, nor the incessant beep -beep of the traffic outside the airport (he was well used to that by now) but rather the shower situation in the hotel. After waiting for ages for the hot water to warm up, he thought he’d try the cold tap instead. Low and behold hot water gushed out. India truly was always full of surprises even up to the last minute!

It now felt strange to be boarding his penultimate flight home. An almost ten hour flight back to London, followed by a three hour wait at Heathrow’s Terminal 5 before flying up to his home town, Newcastle upon Tyne.

Lewis the Lion and Helen take the penultimate flight of their RTW trip

Lewis the Lion and Helen take the penultimate flight of their RTW trip

He wondered what the first thing he might do when he got back to England? Apart for being grateful for getting home safely, perhaps he’d slot back into the regular routine of checking the Saturday football scores and then going for a cup of tea somewhere in the airport?

For now, he sat back and enjoyed the flight on this enormous airbus from Mumbai to London.

He loved flying high over the mountain range between the Pakistani and the Indian border. The more he travelled, the more he realised that there was still so much to see of the world: Pakistan was one destination that he definitely wanted to get to at some stage in the future!

Flying over the mountains of Pakistan

Flying over the mountains of Pakistan

He enjoyed watching the monitor which showed where the flight was on its journey. He was excited at the prospect of going home. He just couldn’t wait to see everyone again!

It seemed only fitting that he should conclude his whole adventure by watching that of another famous lion – Simba – in the Lion King! So he rested his little paws behind his head and enjoyed the film before arriving back on home territory in England.

How do you think you would feel returning home after such an epic adventure? What film do you think you would choose to watch on the flight on the way home?

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Lewis the Lion waves goodbye on his final sunset

The moment had come. Lewis the Lion’s adventure was almost drawing to a close. He’d savoured and relished each moment of his last few days in Palolem and had already taken in the sunset on most evenings from different vantage points along the bay. However, tonight was a little bit different. He knew that it was the last time he would get to enjoy the sun setting on India for a while. Even though he’d be travelling to Mumbai the following day, this was his final opportunity to watch the sun set over the sea in all of its magnificent glory.

So, he padded across the beach one last time. To his surprise, he had to cross over what he thought was a shallow puddle but the incoming tide soon swept in and Helen had to raise him and her camera above her head to prevent them getting soaked! An adventure right to the last minute! Luckily, they had met up with some guys who were also doing the same thing: going to see the sun set and so they made sure that Lewis the Lion and Helen were OK. They then scrambled up some rocks to another fabulous view out to sea as the red sun was just about to set in the sky. It seemed like the whole town had had the same idea that night as Lewis the Lion and Helen also bumped into some friends they had made in their yoga classes: Claire and her mum. They were all here to enjoy one of nature’s delights. The sky turned a deep crimson and Lewis the Lion was sure that this was perhaps the most wonderful sunset of his whole adventure. See the photos below and see what you think.

As the warm breeze, lightly lifted his mane, Lewis the Lion felt as happy as he had ever felt in his life. As the Earth rotated around the sun, Lewis the Lion reflected that wasn’t it a strange concept, that that same sun had accompanied him his whole journey long? And sure enough, the world would continue to spin on its axis on a daily basis and continue on its yearly orbit around the sun. Like the time Lewis the Lion had been in the Atacama Desert in Chile, he suddenly felt incredibly small in this vast universe. He only prayed that for each setting sun from this day forward, that every person and creature in the world would feel the same level of happiness in their lives as he felt on that particular evening.

If you could offer a prayer up to the universe, what would it be?

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A Yoga-tastic way to end his world journey!

A yoga guru - B.K.S. Iyengar

A yoga guru – B.K.S. Iyengar

Lewis the Lion was in the final week of his adventure around the world and he just couldn’t believe it; just where had the time gone? Whilst in one respect it did almost feel like a year ago since he had left his family and friends behind in England, and on the other, it felt like time had just whizzed by. Time really did seem to be elastic!

Lewis the Lion enjoys the Palolem beach

Lewis the Lion enjoys the Palolem beach

However, on this his final week he decided it was time to relax, enjoy the sunny weather and write a few more stories for his blog, while thoughts of his recent travels were still fresh in his head. If he were honest, he was a little bit apprehensive about going home. Helen had left her job behind and wasn’t really sure what she was going to do next? Where were they going to live? What was going to happen now?

Helen told Lewis the Lion that there was no point in worrying about it when they were still so far away from home. They would deal with the situation when it arose. For now they should savour the moment and learn how to breathe so that they could face whatever came their way when they got back home. It was time to discover another Indian tradition: that of yoga!

A short, sandy walk away from the beach, tucked behind some palm trees was a Hatha Yoga centre. This type of yoga is a type of physical exercise which involves controlling the breath, the body, the mind and the soul. In yoga, you try to empty your head of all thoughts and concentrate fully on the given moment, e.g. concentrating on the way the body stretches or rests in different positions. Lewis the Lion found this very calming for the mind whilst recognising that he’d had a good, physical work-out at the same time. His little body felt more flexible and stronger the more he did yoga, that’s for sure!

The instructors always used Lewis’ favourite Indian word ‘Namaste’ to start and end the class. They were always very patient and just encouraged the participants to do the best that they could, e.g. holding different stretches. Lewis the Lion learnt a pattern of stretches that was used in most yoga classes called the ‘Sun Salutation.’ (See the photo above). This is where participants move smoothly and swiftly from one stretching posture to the next, starting by standing up with arms raised above the head to even lying on your belly before you return to standing.

One of the things that Lewis the Lion loved about yoga are the creative names that the different stretch positions or poses have, e.g. ‘downward facing dog’, ‘the warrior’, ‘the triangle’, ‘the tree’, ‘the bridge’ and so on. You can learn more about some of the basic yoga poses by clicking on this link.

Of course, was it any wonder that one of Lewis the Lion’s favourite poses that came towards the end of some of his classes was called ‘the child’s pose?’ This is where you sit on your knees and stretch your arms (or in Lewis the Lion’s case – his front paws) in front of you with your head resting on the ground. Lewis the Lion was often so relaxed by this stage that he could have quite happily stayed like that for hours. In fact towards the end of the class, Lewis the Lion discovered that often the lights are dimmed, calming music is played and you just simply get to lie down and relax, recognising and feeling all parts of your body working in harmony with each other. He often found it very difficult not to drift off into one of his famous cat naps at this point! Yoga really did seem to offer a wonderful way of relaxing, meditating and being at peace with yourself and the world around you. What a fabulous gift to conclude his worldwide trip. It was simply yoga-tastic!

If you could invent your own yoga pose to help you to concentrate and relax, what would it look like? What innovative name would you give it?

To learn some yoga moves yourself, why don’t you try watching these videos on You Tube called Cosmic Kids Yoga.

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Flying South to Goa and Palolem

So Lewis the Lion’s ‘Essential India’ trip had come to an end with the G-Adventures gang and what an incredible time he’d had! He couldn’t believe that he still had another week to go before he returned home to the UK but for now, he was catching a flight back from Varanasi to Dehli together with his new friends. He would enjoy one final last meal with them in the same restaurant they had started off at and what a delightful meal it was!

Lewis the Lion says a last farewell to his fellow G-Adventurers

Lewis the Lion says a last farewell to his fellow G-Adventurers

The next morning, Lewis the Lion and Helen got set again to catch another flight, only this time it was to travel to West India, to Goa. Although he wouldn’t be staying in Goa itself but rather travelling an hour away to a beach resort called Palolem. As Lewis the Lion’s plane started to descend, Lewis was surprised at how green the area was and he reminisced about his trip to Australia, as at certain points the ground below the plane looked rather russet in colour. However, the plane then swooped along near the coast where Lewis saw a sweep of golden sand that seemed to stretch on in a horseshoe shape for miles. ‘Ooh!’ Lewis the Lion had a wave of excitement. He was looking forward to just chilling out over his last few days of his world adventure and a few beach days would suit him down to the ground!

Lewis spots some of the low-cost Indian airlines

Lewis spots some of the low-cost Indian airlines

The number of people in India still amazed Lewis the Lion even though he’d been there for a few weeks now. Yet again he was incredulous when he saw how many people passed through Indian aiports: more than the population of Sweden in Goa!

A huge volume of airport traffic!

A huge volume of airport traffic!

When Lewis the Lion first arrived in Goa some of the first things he saw and noticed were the following:

* The temperature was warmer than the north of India for although it was 6 o’clock in the evening, it was still 31 degrees. Palm trees stood tall in the fields and Lewis knew he had arrived in a tropical climate.

* Elegant saried ladies poised beautifully on the back of motorbikes.

* Brightly coloured houses matched the pink and coral-coloured flowers by the roadside.

* This region seeed to have more Christians and even the taxi driver had a figurine of the Infant Christ on his dashboard.

Lewis arrives in the Catholic West of India

Lewis arrives in the Catholic West of India

* Traffic seemed marginally less crazy, although cows and bulls still lingered on by the road fringes.

* Watermelons and coconuts being sold by the busy roadside, every few metres. Lewis the Lion discovered it was because it was the watermelon season. Being on the tropical West Coast of India, delicious exotic fruit juices abounded and it reminded Lewis the Lion of his adventure in Equador.

Watermelons and palm trees by the roadside

Watermelons and palm trees by the roadside

* Top of the menu in this part of the world was Goan Fish Curry – Lewis the Lion’s mouth watered at the thought of this spicy delight!

* Stray dogs just seemed to be everywhere and they seemed to join in chorus at about 10:30 pm at night.

* Being in a warmer climate, bugs and insects seemed to be more prevalent and above Lewis the Lion’s bed was a huge mosquito net. Nonetheless, one cheeky mosquito managed to get in straight away!

Over the next few days, Lewis the Lion had the most wonderful time, relaxing and writing his blog. He was staying in a place called ‘Dreamcatcher’ which he felt was particularly apt considering the world adventure that he had had! Here people were very friendly and made him feel right at home.

His hut was hidden along a sandy track beneath the trees, just a short distance from the beach. He simply loved it here! It was just a short walk up into the town and there were many great restaurants both at his resort and on the beach where he could watch the world go by.

Lewis, as ever, felt like the luckiest lion that had ever existed. He felt truly at peace with himself and the world around him. However, he was about to discover something else that would help him to relax even more which he will tell you about in his next blog…!

If you could choose any type of holiday to relax, what sort of holiday would it be and why? A beach holiday? A city break? An adventurous/sporty type of holiday? A skiing holiday? A countryside holiday? Or something else?

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Helen takes the holy dip at the Kumbh Mela!

As a Hindu, Dushyant felt very lucky to be in Allahabad during this auspicious time on the calendar. Normally his work could take him all over India so he saw this as an extremely lucky coincidence that he’d ended up in this area at this special time so that he could bathe in the sacred waters. He asked if any of the other members of the group would also like to join him as he was about to wade into the waters?

Ceasing the opportunity, as when else was she ever likely to be in this part of the world at this particular time in her lifetime? Helen, Lewis the Lion’s friend and travel companion, decided that she too would join Dushyant. Life was for living after all and she was not going to let this once in a lifetime opportunity pass her by. This seemed to cause great amusement with the local Indians who seemed to gather in a large crowd on the sandbags as the pair prepared to enter the water, with Helen stripping down to her leggings and vest top. It was very rare to see a Western, caucasian woman entering their sacred river!

Dushyant gave Helen a paper boat filled with a clay candle holder, flowers, sweets and incense sticks to offer as a gift to the river. He also had one and when they had lit the flammables, they made a wish and set it off into the waters. Helen laughed as hers promptly toppled over! ‘Maybe she was making the wrong wish?’ she questioned, bemused.

Lewis the Lion on the other hand kept a safe distance from the water’s edge. It looked very murky and he definitely wasn’t tempted. He worried if Helen might get ill when he thought of all the people who had already bathed in the water. Dushyant however reassured her that these were sacred waters with healing properties and she would not get sick.

At first, Helen gingerly approached the end of the sandbags, building up her courage to wade into the water. She stopped to gain encouragement from a local lady and then gradually, edged herself into the water. At first she felt a shiver as the water was cold but it was tolerable and she soon got used to it as she waded further in.

Helen then faced the crowd, seeing Lewis the Lion as he watched her and Dushyant told her to dunk three times, saying a prayer each time: once for the souls in heaven, once for the souls here on earth and once for the souls in hell. He then told her to fully submerge herself again and say a prayer for each desceased member of her family. Pinching her nose and taking a sharp inhalation of breath, she dunked, and dunked and dunked, being careful to make sure that her top was kept down too! She then filled up a bottle of the water from the river for her friend, Seetal, so that she could take it home with her.

Many thoughts went through her head she told Lewis the Lion afterwards, especially the fact that she couldn’t quite believe that they were on their penultimate week of their worldwide adventure and who would have thought that they would ever have achieved so much or lived out so many of their dreams? It seemed like a really fitting way to finish off their trip as she was filled with such gratitude in her heart and gave thanks to God.

Dushyant and Helen are pleased to take the holy dip together

Dushyant and Helen are pleased to take the holy dip together

Even though Helen had been brought up as a Catholic she found it interesting to reflect on the similarities between the Hindu faith and Christianity. So much unites us rather than divides us as she could see so many parallels. For instance, Christians believe in the Holy Trinity (God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit) whilst Hindus also believe in three gods in one (God the Generator, God the Operator and God the Destroyer). Both religions also share a faith in the heavenly afterlife. As a Hindu, Dushyant told Helen that even if I didn’t believe it now, he promised her that at the end of my life she will know what a great deed she had done that day by bathing in the sacred waters. Taking the holy dip at this special time promises to break the cycle of reincarnation so that the soul can ascend directly to heaven to be with God. ‘What a wonderful thought that is!’ reflected Helen. ‘I’ll pray that he is right!’

Helen takes a dip in Allahabad, where the three sacred Hindu rivers converge

Helen takes a dip in Allahabad, where the three sacred Hindu rivers converge

As the group then proceeded back to the boat, Helen seemed to have found her ‘inner-Indian’ as the seagulls flocked to her as she called out ‘Oi,oi, oi!’ scattering the birdfeed into the water.

Changing into her dry clothes at the docking area, before the group caught the bus back to Varanasi, Helen told Lewis the Lion that she wasn’t sure if she’d had a spiritual or enlighening experience but what she did know was that they were both truly, truly blessed to have had to the opportunity to travel as they had done so far, and for this she would be forever grateful!

To find out more about the Kumbh Mela Allahabad, click on this link.

What fills you with a sense of gratitude for the life that you have?

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The Kumbh Mela: the largest human gathering on the planet ever!

Considered to be the oldest “living” religion in the world, Hinduism was started at least four thousand years ago and today it is classed as the third largest world religion with about 900 million Hindu followers worldwide. By chance, it so happened that Lewis the Lion and Helen were travelling in India when there was a very important Hindu religious gathering or pilgrimage; an event that comes around only once every 12 years in the city of Allahabad, the Kumbh Mela or the Magh Mela. It was indeed so big that it was dubbed ‘the largest gathering of people ever on the planet’ with over 100 million people attending over a 54 day period! Lewis the Lion didn’t have to think twice at this opportunity of a lifetime when Dushyant suggested a change in their itinerary – of course he would go and find out what it was all about! In fact Dushyant suggested that the mere fact that these particular travellers were in India at this time so that they were able to attend this festival, meant that they must have done some good karma in a previous life.

Some of the travellers were a little bit too nervous to go on this journey as with so many people in attendance, they were worried about the security at the venue. What if there were crowd surges or crushes? However, they need not have worried as in spite of the vast numbers of people it didn’t seem too busy and there was a calm atmosphere with sufficient area to freely move around. So after another 2 and a half hour car journey (it’s approximately 150 kilometres between Varanasi and Allahabad), the depleted G-Adventures group arrived on the outskirts of Allahabad. They could see vast encampments along the sides of the river banks that stretched on for miles and miles.

So why were so were there so many pilgrims travelling to Allahabad during this time in February 2014? Lewis the Lion was keen to learn more. From what he understood, that pilgrims travel here to bathe in the sacred river and that the location changes every 3 years in rotation between four places. Thus the Kumbh Mela is held at each of these four places every twelfth year. However, this is a particularly special point as it is where three rivers converge: rivers which Hindus believe to be sacred. (The Ganges, the Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati River). Furthermore, Hindus believe that if you bathe at this point in the holy rivers at this particularly auspicious time, you will break the cycle of reincarnation when you die and will ascend directly to live with God in heaven. No wonder it attracted so many people!

The group arrived beside a girls’ school near the river bank and they were very excited to meet the tourists and Lewis the Lion. Even though he didn’t speak their language, being the friendly lion that he is, he was soon communicating with them and playing games! Meanwhile there was a quick toilet stop for the travellers – perhaps the most basic of any that Lewis the Lion had encountered on his travels to date. Quite simply, it was a concrete step that was surrounded by a screen!

Shortly afterwards, Lewis the Lion set off on a boat down the river to the point where the three holy rivers converge so that he could witness the pilgrims bathing in the water. On the way there, Dushyant showed the group how to feed the birds. The Hindu superstition is that if you take care of the birds and feed them, it will bring you wealth and you will never be short of money nor friendships. On the boat, the group enjoyed some snacks, including some orange-cream biscuits – Lewis the Lion was reminded of children’s birthday parties when he was an even younger lion cub!

We they arrived at the point where the rivers converged, they pulled up besides a mele of boats and stumbled out across the sandbags lining the shore. Although there were a lot of people, surprisingly the event seemed to be very calm indeed. Just like in Varanasi, there seemed to be an aura of spiritual reverence in the air. Lewis the Lion saw lots of families taking the dip together, as well as religious men wearing orange who had shaved their hair, offering it up to the Ganga. Other offerings were coconut husks and carnation flowers. Donations were being collected but Lewis learnt that in Hindu tradition, you should only ever a give an odd amount as then the money will come back to you at another time. Helen bought some holy Hindu fruit to try. It was a huge cylindrical root that was cut in round disks. Helen described it as a type of sweet tasting root. Hindus believe that this is one of the plants which Rama ate in the forest during his 14-year exile.

Lewis the Lion was then surprised to see some naked gurus or sadhus. ‘Why were they not wearing clothes?’ he questioned. It is believed that certain religious people or spiritual leaders reach such a state of enlightenment through their religious practice that they need no longer need worldly possessions, not even clothes! One of them in particular was covered in a white dust from the ashes of cremated bodies and had his hair bundled up on the top of his head. As Hindus, Dushyant and Seetal both went to him to request a blessing. They bowed down to him and he slapped them thrice on the back, giving them both an ash bindi and a handful of ash as you can see in the picture gallery below!

It was now time for Dushyant, a practising Hindu to bathe in the sacred waters but Lewis the Lion wondered if any of his friends might join him…? Check out Lewis the Lion’s next blog to see what happened next!

Have you ever attended a large gathering of people? What was special about it? Why were there so many people there?

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Sunrise over the River Ganga, India

Lewis the Lion was up before the sunrise the next day. In his sleepy state, he was up at 5:30 am and ready to take a tuk-tuk into town for 6 o’clock. Again, he headed down to the River Ganga to the same spot, only this time he was here to see the sunrise. Once again, he got into the same rowing boat as he had done the night previously and once again, he took part in a candle flower ceremony. This time however, he had a little more luck as the candles were released into the water without a problem. Let’s hope Lewis the Lion’s secret wish comes true!

To his shock, he saw a dead body floating past him. Apparently the bodies of holy men don’t get burned in Varanasi but return naturally to nature. Nobody seemed to bat an eyelid here: this is just common practice. As the boat, travelled along, he saw more funeral pyres along the way. The thing that struck Lewis the Lion more than anything was the calmness of the river, in contrast from the hustle and bustle and noise of the city just hidden behind the steep steps.

Lewis the Lion was awestruck as he saw the red sun rise, casting a beautiful light across the scene as people took their sacred dip in the Ganga. Many Hindus had now started to gather and were taking their holy dips in the waters of the Ganga. They often entered the river fully clothed, women in particular who wore their saris. Lewis saw a husband and wife taking the dip together. Dushyant explained that if Hindu couples do the dip in the Ganga together, it is thought that they will be together in the next life.

Gradually as the dawn broke, more and more people gathered on the ghats and the city once again seemed to be a hive of activity. Disembarking from the rowing boat and climbing the steep stone staircases, Lewis the Lion was surprised to see that locals had gathered in a square overlooking the river and were rollerblading! Who would have thought that in such a spiritual city?

Needless to say, the pilgrims were well catered for as they were filling huge plastic containers with water from the river as souvenirs for them to take with them. Many flower sellers also gathered by the river banks so people could make their offerings to the river.

Lewis gratefully received a traditional cup of chai masala (a spicy tea) served by the roadside in a ceramic cup. What a wonderful way to end a wonderful morning! However, the day had only just begun as Lewis will tell you about in his next blog…

If there is such a thing as reincarnation, who or what would you like to become in the next life and why?

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A sunset, candle flower ceremony in Varanasi

When Lewis the Lion’s hair-raising rickshaw ride had come to an end, the G-Adventures group then headed down towards the ghats (the riverside steps) of the River Ganga. Varanasi is one of the holiest cities in India for Hindus as the River Ganga is seen as a holy river. Many people go to Varanasi to die in the last phase of their life as it’s seen as being very auspicious as it can lead to good Karma in the next life. (Hindus believe in reincarnation and depending on how well you have lived your life, will depend on what your next life cycle will be).

At the top of one of the ghats was a lady selling ready prepared tea-light candle trays that had carnations around them. Dushyant bought some for the group, the idea being that you release them when you are out in a boat on the River Ganga and as you do, you make a wish. Lewis the Lion thought it was perhaps in the same way that people make a wish when you blow out the candles on a cake when it’s your birthday!

The group then boarded a long rowing boat and were carried out across the sacred river. It was twilight as they rowed away from the water’s edge and they could see many hundreds of boats like theirs. It was a beautiful scene as the lights on the ghats seemed to peek into life. Peculiarly, in spite of there being so many people and boats out, the place was strangely serene. From the craziness of the city, the calmness out on the river was a surprising contrast. There seemed to be a deep sense of reverence in the air. From the water, Lewis the Lion could see some burning funeral pyres on the crematorium ghats. Strangely, there was no smell – it was as if it just disappeared into thin air. Varanasi certainly seemed to have an aura of the spiritual and mystic about it!

When the boat was a sufficient distance from the shore, Dushyant then lit the special tea-lights. When all the group had their lit candles in hand, they made a wish and let them go over the side of the boat. Helen and Lewis the Lion had two. The first went into the water no problem but they were bumped as they were about to let go of the second and it promptly went into the water upside down! Lewis the Lion wondered if he had perhaps made the wrong wish?!

After they watched the candles and flowers slowly drift off up the river, the group were then rowed back to the shore in time to see the Hindu evening prayer. One of the ghats this time was being used for the religious ceremony and it was filled with people, with monks carrying lights, incense rising and bells chiming. It really was quite hypnotic! One child came around and offered sweets and placed a rather huge bindi on Helen’s head. Lewis the Lion laughed as he thought this bindi had got a little out of hand and it made Helen look as if she’d had a gunshot wound to the head!

A bindi that looks like a gunshot wound!

A bindi that looks like a gunshot wound!


If you could visit Varanasi and take part in the candle-flower ceremony, what special wish would you make and why?

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India’s street life gets under Lewis the Lion’s skin!

From the moment that Lewis the Lion had arrived in India, he knew that the streets were simply crazy…but he loved it! The place was just so alive and he found that it just got under his skin! There was so much to evoke the senses: the sights, the noise, the smells. After he’d visited the silk weavers of Varanasi, he had another first as he took a cycle rickshaw to near the ghats of the River Ganga – a holy river for many millions of Hindus. The ride was bumpy but offered a fantastic vantage point for observing the street life around him.

As he soaked up the atmosphere, he observed musicians dressed in traditional costumes, silk shops, makeshift markets trading from the pavements and in with the confusion of the traffic, bulls and cows also sauntered along, at ease with the manic world around them!

Just before he arrived by the banks of the River Ganga, yet again Lewis the Lion couldn’t believe his luck as he was there to see a part of traditional Indian wedding with the groom dressed in all his finery. What a lucky lion!

When he went home later that evening, the streets were not in the least bit any calmer. In his tuk-tuk, he veered headlong into the oncoming traffic but then did traffic lanes even exist in India he wondered? As usual, the tuk-tuk seemed to miss the oncoming car by a hair’s breath. For sure, Lewis the Lion’s heart was in his mouth on many occasions as he travelled through the Indian towns, villages and cities.

How do you make sure that you are safe in busy traffic as a passenger?

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