CAMELS & CANINES & COWS – OH MY!
15 – Day North India Volunteerism Adventure
15 – Day North India Volunteerism Adventure
|GROUP SIZE||Maximum 14 people|
|GROUP MINIMUM||1 person (all our trips are guaranteed departures)|
|START DAY||Sunday @ 4:30 PM|
|END DAY||Sunday @ 10:00 AM|
Did you ever scratch a donkey under his chin? Have you ever bottle-fed a baby goat? Ever helped a dog that lost her leg learn to walk again? On our Camels & Canines & Cows – Oh My 15-day adventure you’ll have the chance to do this and much more.
Join VegVoyages as we immerse ourselves into the rich heritage and culture that is Rajasthan, India. During this adventure you’ll not only see, but experience local traditions, customs, ways of life, language and of course – food while also making a hands-on difference to the lives of hundreds of injured animals as you assist at the very special grassroots animal refuge, Animal Aid.
Animal Aid grew from a feeling of sadness into an idea of hope and into a hospital of miracles as Erika Abrams and Jim Myers along with their daughter Claire began the dream that is now known not only around the region, but also around the world, as a loving refuge for animals most people would rather forget. With the help of local friends, Animal Aid has grown into what it is today with 20 staff including three veterinarians making it a life-saving force for thousands of animals every year. The sanctuary runs both a busy animal hospital and refuge, where homeless street animals are rescued, healed and loved. The purpose: to bring relief to suffering animals and to awaken compassion among people. With roughly 150 animals treated everyday, the Animal Aid story continues to blossom in a thousand different ways, and each “way” has either fur or feathers, hooves or tails, bills or muzzles.
So come explore with us on our Camels & Canines & Cows – Oh My adventure in the heart of Rajasthan – where you’ll not only discover the magic and mystery of the desert but also return home knowing that because of you and your assistance – you’ve made a direct and much needed difference in many animals’ lives! In addition to plenty of delicious vegan food and lots of local interaction, this adventure also includes yoga lessons, a vegan cooking class, hiking, jungle and desert safaris, historical walks, Hindi language lessons, live music and dance and much more.
14 nights accommodations (2 nights at hotels, 2 nights at a charming old Maharajah’s palace, 2 nights at a Raja’s remote desert palace, 7 nights at an old lakeside royal mansion, 1 overnight air-conditioned sleeper train)
39 meals (13 breakfasts, 1 brunch, 12 lunches, 13 dinners)
VegVoyages Adventure Leaders & Local Guides
* Airport pick up is provided only if you arrive a day or two earlier than the tour date. If you would be arriving three days or more early, please arrange for your own airport pick up.
International airfare, airport departure transfer, visa for India, personal travel insurance, gratuities and items of a personal nature.
|START DATE||September 16|
|END DATE||September 30|
Namaste! Welcome to India! On arrival, we’ll pick you up at the airport. You’ll have the day free to relax from the long flight. In the evening, we’ll have our group orientation meeting where you’ll have a chance to meet your fellow travelers and enjoy tasty local snacks and dinner while we discuss the adventure ahead. The first part of our adventure focuses on introducing you to the culture, language and customs of India so tonight we’ll have our first lesson where you’ll be introduced to Hindi – a language spoken by over a half billion people! (Snacks & Dinner)
After breakfast, we’ll set out for India’s most famous landmark – the stunning Taj Mahal! A remarkable mausoleum built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan as a tribute to his favorite wife – Mumtaj Mahal, the Taj is one of the new Seven Wonders of the World and when one sees it in person the feeling is best summed up in the words of Tagore who described the tomb as “one tear drop…upon the cheek of time”. After taking in the Taj, we’ll cross the border to Rajasthan and the Keoladeo Ghana National Park. Arriving in the evening, we’ll settle down for today’s language and cultural lesson and of course – a tasty vegan dinner. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
“Having recently returned from the “Camels, Canines & Cows” India tour with VegVoyages I want to express my thanks to their team for making it such a wonderful experience! We visited some amazing places (both famous and off the beaten path), the food and accommodations were great, and I felt so inspired by our time volunteering at Animal Aid; after 15 days India became a very difficult place to leave.”
Sean Wrobel (Alberta, Canada)
A haven of wetlands and forests, the UNESCO World Heritage Keoladeo Ghana National Park is home to over 400 species of birds, including a selection of herons believed to be among the best in the world, as well as a wide variety of other wildlife. In the morning, we’ll explore the national park by bicycle or rickshaw (your choice) traversing the back trails of the sanctuary with our naturalist. Next, we’ll visit the over half-millennium-old Chand Baoli step-well – said to be the largest step-well in India. Arriving in the Kingdom of Kishangarh, we’ll settle in at the Maharajah’s beautiful monsoon palace built in 1871 just outside Kishangarh Fort on the banks of the monsoon fed Gundalao Lake before exploring the streets of this ancient princely state founded in 1611 AD. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Founded by a Jodhpur Prince four centuries ago, the Kingdom of Kishangarh flourished with its military prowess and fortunes earned as a member of the Mughal court. The Maharajahs here were not only known for their successes on the battlefield, but also as patrons of the arts and the area’s paintings, many of which adorn the walls of their palaces – including the one we’ll be residing at, are known throughout India. After yoga and breakfast, we’ll have today’s language and cultural lesson before exploring this ancient kingdom’s vibrant bazaars and surrounding countryside. Rajasthan is famous for its marble – you’ll see it in temples, homes and palaces and today we’ll also get a chance to find out how it comes to be – from the quarry to the final product. In the evening, we’ll make our way back to the palace for a tasty vegan Rajasthani dinner! (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Today we head well off-the-beaten-track as we cut into the hinterlands of Rajasthan to the rustic yet charming village of Bhadrajun, where we’ll focus on local village life, customs and culture. Nestled among rocky desert hills that are home to jackals, foxes, deer, panthers and peacocks, Bhadrajun’s history dates back thousands of years and is even mentioned in the famous Indian epic, the Mahabharata. For the next two days, this will be our home where we’ll be staying as personal guests of the local Raja (equivalent of a Lord) at his 16th century palace residence. Arriving in Bhadrajun, we’ll board jeeps and head out into the desert to watch sunset from atop a sand dune. After sunset, we’ll continue to a remote Hindu temple that dates over 3,000 years for their aarti (Hindu ritual) ceremony before returning to our royal residence for a traditional vegan dinner. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
“I would just like to take a moment to tell you that I am now home from touring India with Veg Voyages through their Camels, Canines, and Cows Oh My (tour). I know that you may think I am exaggerating but I am not when I say, this was THE BEST trip of my life. From the airport pick up till the drop off at the train ride, every single detail was planned out to perfection. Singhji, the tour guide, was one of the most amazing and special men that I have ever met. He made sure to always make sure we got the full and REAL India experience. I feel like I really saw India and all of its layers. I am also so in awe that I was allowed the privilege to volunteer at Animal Aid. I could go on and on and on but I will say this trip was excellent in every way. I would go back in a second and I am already planning to go on another trip through Veg Voyages!”
Lindsay Thompson (Maryland, USA)
In the morning, we’ll be guests of a local school before setting out to a Bishnoi village to learn about their way of life and join them for lunch. The Bishnois are strict vegetarians and have been strong environmentalists for centuries. Known for their protection of the trees and wildlife that surround their villages, many of their villages, like the one we visit today – look similar to the way they’ve looked for hundreds of years. In the afternoon, we’ll return to Bhadrajun for today’s language and cultural lesson before visiting a local girl’s school where we’ll join the students in the popular game of sitolia. Back at the Palace, we’ll meet on the ramparts with breathtaking views for a colorful evening of traditional Marwari music, dance and dinner. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Saying goodbye to Bhadrajun, we hit the road for Udaipur – the City of Lakes! On the way, we’ll visit the 15th century Ranakpur Temple – one of the five holiest sites in the Jain religion. A faith devoted to compassion for all living creatures, Jainism is based on the principals that all living beings should be treated with mutual respect. This awe-inspiring temple sprawls over 48,000 square feet, has 29 halls, 20 domes and 1,444 pillars. Arriving in Udaipur, we’ll settle into our home for the coming days – a charming old noble’s haveli (mansion) set alongside Pichola Lake. Referred to as the Venice of the East, Udaipur, with its almost 500-year-old history, is said to be one of the most romantic cities in India. In the evening, we’ll meet on the haveli’s rooftop to watch the colors of the city change to night with the founders of Animal Aid where we’ll discuss the work we’ll be doing and enjoy a tasty vegan dinner. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
The highlight of our adventure begins today as we set out to the base of Animal Aid. A very special animal rescue organization, Animal Aid not only offers a hospital, but a refuge and home for abused and neglected animals. Whether they have fur or feathers, hooves or tails, bills or muzzles – they all have a safe place to recover and if needed, a home, at Animal Aid. Over the coming week we’ll be helping wherever we can, which all depends on the needs of the day, but rest assure we’ll be busy as they treat up to 150 animals daily. This includes helping wounded animals recover by giving them personal attention, feeding, brushing, grooming, and treating our four legged friends. The refuge also has lots of opportunities for people with a green thumb and those who have an eye for decorating as there are plenty of areas around the refuge that need some “sprucing up” to help make a better environment for the sanctuary’s four-legged residents. In the evening, we’ll join a local family at their house for a tasty home cooked dinner. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
“The tour was absolutely incredible. It exceeded all expectations I had beforehand – I can’t believe we packed so many things into just 2 little weeks! A big part of what made it so wonderful was Singhji (VegVoyages leader) – he is an incredibly friendly and knowledgeable host and very generous with his time and in opening his home to us. The highlight of the trip for me was Animal Aid and I am so glad I had the opportunity to be involved in volunteering for them. Erika and Claire are so inspiring and down to earth. The animals won our hearts over. I see myself going on more VegVoyages trips in the future that’s for sure!”
Maria Velardo (NSW, Australia)
Starting the morning with yoga and breakfast, we’ll then head off for our day’s work at Animal Aid. Everyday we’ll have a special home-cooked vegan lunch prepared and delivered to the refuge – which is set in a serene countryside setting. After our day with the animals, we’ll return to our haveli to freshen up before we board our boat for a sunset cruise around Pichola Lake. Seeing the “city of lakes” from the boat offers a totally different perspective of this medieval city with its old palaces and ancient temples cradling the water’s edge. Coming ashore at one of the city’s scenic ghats (traditional steps leading into water), we’ll walk through the old town before settling down for a dinner. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
After breakfast, we’ll board our vehicles and travel out to meet our friends at the animal refuge where we’ll spend the day helping the many new patients, as well as permanent residents at the center. In the evening, you’ll have free time to explore the city on your own. (Breakfast, Lunch)
Surrounded by lakes, rolling hills and rich in history, Udaipur, with its lakeside palaces, ancient temples, vibrant bazaars and narrow-winding streets, is the perfect place to take in the alluring princely charm of Rajasthan. After spending the morning at Animal Aid, we’ll head back into the city to explore this centuries-old medieval capital of the Kingdom of Mewar. Though the history of Udaipur dates back almost half a millennium, the Mewar Kingdom and its ruling dynasty trace their roots back over 1,200 years. This afternoon we’ll spend our time exploring the kingdom’s historical sites including one of the most impressive of India’s palaces, Udaipur’s Royal City Palace. A series of palaces built by different kings over the centuries, the first being built in 1559 AD, the palace houses intricate halls and courtyards and boasts great views of the surrounding city. We’ll also visit one of the city’s historical hilltop forts along its ancient wall for some epic views. In the evening, we’ll enjoy a tasty South Indian vegan dinner. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
As we always say (and probably say too often because we like to eat so much) – a great way to get an idea about a country’s culture and heritage is through its food! There is no doubt that India offers vegetarians some of the tastiest food found anywhere in the world. With its unique combination of spices and herbs, Indian food is an exciting culinary treat! Deeply rooted in Hindu culture, vegetarian food has been cultivated and refined throughout India for thousands of years. This said, after our day out at the refuge, we’ll meet up with our friends who just happen to be great chefs! This evening we’ll be their guests as they teach us how to prepare a delicious traditional Indian vegan meal – or should we say feast! Be prepared to roll up your sleeves as we begin our cooking class because under the guidance of the chefs, we’ll not only learn, but also cook tonight’s meal. Our first stop: the wet market – a treasure trove of spices and flavors where essential ingredients such as chilly, ginger, mint, cilantro and tamarind are found amongst a colorful selection of spices and fresh veggies. After the market, we’ll head to the kitchen where we’ll cook up a delectable Rajasthani feast. Pre-requisite for tonight: a hearty appetite is a must! (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
“I just cannot say enough about how wonderful and life changing that I think the ENTIRE tour was. I am so overwhelmed by the experience and am seriously looking forward to future Veg Voyages tours. I just cannot imagine things being any better. I would like to say that Singhji (VegVoyages leader) is truly a blessing and truly an amazing man. I have told so many people when they ask me how the guide was that “if he walked up to me right now and told me to jump off a bridge I would do it in a second.” That is how much I trust, respect, and admire him. I just cannot say enough. I am still trying to process the entire trip. I would not change one day, one trip, or one experience. Thank you so much for this trip. Thank you for letting us volunteer at Animal Aid and actually feeling like we can give something back. This was truly a life changing trip and I am so glad that I was able to do it. Thank you, thank you, thank you!”
Amber Evans (Maryland, USA)
On our last full day at the refuge, we’ll spend our time helping out wherever we can before returning to Delhi tomorrow. In the evening, it’s time for our farewell party. Hopping aboard auto rickshaws, we’ll set out down the narrow alleys of this ancient city to a local family’s home in the heart of the old town. Here, we’ll join the family and our friends from Animal Aid for our last night in the City of Lakes. From the home’s rooftop terrace – with striking views of the city and royal palace, we’ll watch the colors of the ancient capital change to night while enjoying traditional folk music and dance, local snacks and some of the tastiest cuisine the oasis town has to offer! So make sure you have a good appetite, great thirst – and don’t forget your party shirt and dancing shoes! (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
After breakfast, you’ll have time to catch up on your souvenir list, visit a local café, or just simply walk around the narrow lanes and take in the city before we meet in the evening for dinner and to catch our overnight train to Delhi. (Breakfast, Dinner)
Our adventure ends on arrival in Delhi after brunch. Bahut, bahut dhanyavaad (thank you very much)! (Brunch)