When you have traveled a route and experienced its beauty and wealth of culture and cuisine it is a given that you would want to share it with others. From detailed descriptions to family and friends over photo slideshows to putting up pictures on Facebook and Instagram; waiting for a few likes or a comment to strike up conversation.
We engaged in many such discussions over the past years with us trying to explain how beautiful the sculptures of Elephanta look when Shiv towers high above you in a cave, sculpted some 100s of years ago. We read about all of these in our books and none of the books has come close to explaining the grandeur of Kailasha temple at Ellora. A temple cut out from a hill, with a chisel and a hammer. Even for architects like us it is difficult to imagine how much time and sweat this single cave temple would have demanded. And every time we try to explain it our word fall short and we are left thinking if only we could show you that.
It is this feeling which many travelers would know that made us think about leading tours. We wanted to share with others what we have experienced travelling through India. Agra, Delhi, Jaipur would have been the logical choice for many and it irritates me to see most tourists go back thinking that is all that India has to offer. They would never know the vast expanse of Hampi’s ruins of the calm of cruising over Backwaters of Kerala. Keeping what was logical aside we decided to take up the South Indian route not just because of its cultural heritage and beautiful landscapes but also for its food.
I have rarely found a traveler who does not travel for food. I have found many visitors who do not care about any other food or culture but their own. If you have been to Malaysia and never tried nasi goreng or chicken satay and if you have come to India and gone back without trying at least one of our street food you have missed the biggest journey your could have been on while travelling.
India is a foodie’s delight with a different cuisine every few 100 kms. Keeping true to the tradition of variety we marked a route which would take you from vada pav of Mumbai to fish fry of Alleppey all the while tasting Hyderabadi biryani, Haleem and cooling ourselves with falooda and icecream. They are spicy and they are sweet and they are one of the biggest reasons we have been travelling. They are also one of the deciding factors of why we are taking a certain route for our tours.
After we knew where all we wanted to take our friends it was time to decide upon the group number, so we went to studying how others and the big guns were doing it. We found that there would be around a group of 10 lead by one person. We have been there, and though the groups are awesome many times one of us would miss out on something and real interaction with the host. According to us three people per host would take care of our concerns of interaction and a personal tour experience, so we restricted the group to six.
This meant giving up a lot of profits or raising the price to exorbitant amounts. This is where having a regular salary comes in play, since we are not living off the income made from the tour (which was now to be very less) we could afford to keep the price same as others even though we were offering a lot more and a smaller group. Also the prices which might be less from a western point or for those with a good income they are still a bit higher for many.
On a government run tour of Ajanta and Ellora at many points it so happened that we had to cross quite a few souvenir shops and after travelling enough we know that this was not by chance. This is a way to get business to locals and souvenirs to those who want them, but it can get a bit irritating. We decided to put up a few merchandise on sale only for those who are going to be a part of our group tour. They can now pre-select their souvenirs and even take requests from friends and family for what to get them. Even if they want to buy it on ground they will know what to look for, be it the Himroo craft of Aurangabad, Bidri artwork of Bidar or pearls of Hyderabad.