PROJECT: Health care
WRITTEN BY: Riona Ashworth O'Callaghan
Today, our intrepid blogger brings you five things worth doing before, during and after volunteering in Palampur.
1. Elefantastic in Jaipur:
Whether before or after heading to Palampur from Delhi, a trip to Jaipur is needed. This was one of my favourite places in India and one of the main reasons was due to our experience with Elefantastic. A few of us from NZ booked an elephant experience with this company and were able to spend a large part of our day with the elephants, feeding, washing (including climbing onto the elephants back) and going for a ride. The moment you arrive, you can really tell the elephants are loved and well cared for here with each elephant only having to work with visitors every second day. It is well worth a visit and you can even book a driver and tour of Jaipur through this company for a reasonable price if you like to be well organised.
2. Paragliding at Bir Billing:
You have a few free weekends while volunteering in Palampur and a day trip to Bir Billing for paragliding is a must do for those of us with an adventurous side. You are in very safe hands as Bobby and Amit (who look after you in Palampur) ensure your pilots are licensed and everything goes smoothly. It was one of my favourite things we have done so far on the trip! The town is decorated with prayer flags and filled with a mixture of people from all different backgrounds including tourists, thrill seekers and Tibetan monks.
3. McLeod Ganj:
Another worthwhile day trip from Palampur is to McLeod Ganj. Even though Dharamsala is known as the home of the Dalai Lama, this is where they actually mean according to the Lonely Planet guides. McLeod Ganj is central to the Tibetan government in exile and as a result, a large Tibetan community lives in the town, evident by the beautiful maroon robes around the streets. Prepare yourself for wanting to buy everything from each stall and shop throughout the town, and keep an eye out for a lady with a stall selling momos on the side of the street - delicious!
4. Akshardham, Delhi: The beautiful Hindu temple situated in the outer eastern suburbs of Delhi is something to tick off on the bucket list. There is free entry with a requirement to leave all your valuables in the secure cloakroom. The temple is peaceful, free from the constant 'click' of cameras, and worrying that someone nicking your things that can happen at some tourist monuments. Inside the building, the detail is absolutely spectacular and, as you explore, you read the information plaques which make you notice so much more detail. As an added extra, try to catch the water and light show at 6.45pm for a small charge of 80 rupees. The show is amazing and I still don't understand how they made the light and water do all those fancy tricks!
5. Use tuk tuks and rickshaws:
What a thrill! Initially the thought of jumping into a tuk tuk as a form of travel might be daunting, when you see all the chaos on the roads, (especially in Delhi). But they provide super cheap transport and good bartering practice. As we all travelled, we found that tuk tuks allow you to properly experience India with all its sights, smells and charming locals. My choice of transport in the main cities, but for Palampur the buses are the go!