Wednesday, July 8, 2020

My First Trip in COVID Times

Pre Journey Preparations…

The excitement started right after I confirmed with the host that Lotwara Heritage Homestay is prepared to welcome guests now. The mere anticipation of traveling after almost 4 months was exhilarating. We knew we would need to be very careful while traveling in these times and we were prepared for that.

All Set for an Epic Trip

The preparations started with planning what all food we pack for the way. It was in childhood that I last did this. But COVID has brought us back there, where we feel safe to eat our own food rather than stopping at roadside eateries. It was decided that we will pack vegetable sandwiches and chicken cutlets for breakfast and Puri-Aalu for lunch. Mango will be our in between snack. Thermos was dug out from the bed box and was filled with tea. And we got the chance to use a water jug that was lying idle in almirah for ages. Better we do not rely on the mineral water bottles on the way. Who knows how many people have touched it before reaching us.

We started the drive early in the morning. The air was cool and fresh, roads empty and hearts happy!

The Journey...

Hearty Breakfast on the Car Top
The drive was enjoyable. There were long discussions on topics starting from politics to COVID to travel to business; we seemed to discuss almost everything on earth. There was not a single silent moment.  And in between were the little fights over songs to be played. Everyone had their own favorites and no one wanted to miss the chance to play them before we reached. Our first break was somewhere on the Agra expressway. The car roof was made table and the sandwiches, cutlet and tea was laid out nicely. The cups that resembled kullar were specifically picked for the journey, so we do not miss that kullar wali dhaba chai on the way. After a hearty breakfast, we resumed our journey. And the discussions and the music continued.

The scene on roads completely changed the moment we left the expressway and took the road to Mathura. The roads were full, shops were open and people were sitting and chatting outside the shops without any mask. The scene was like nothing ever happened or this part of the world does not know what has happened to the rest of the world. We drove past all of this and took our second break near Bharatpur, this time near an old house with huge open space in the front. Table was laid out on the car seat itself. Aloo Puri was served in disposable plates along with tea. Post meal those who were comfortable dirtying their hands with mango pulp, had mangoes and others had chocolate as dessert. We reached Lotwara Heritage Homestay around 2 PM. It just took us 6 hrs to reach with all the breaks

Lotwara Heritage Homestay with Minimum Staff and Maximum Safety

A Warm Welcome…

No Touch Sanitizer at the Entrance

We were welcomed by the lovely sight of dancing peacocks. The host was expecting us and was all set to welcome his first guests in COVID period.  I was impressed to see the sanitizer dispenser that operated from foot. It was a no-touch technique as were all other formalities.

We chose to pick our luggage ourselves for obvious reasons.  I was glad to see that the staff maintained the required distance.

Since we reached around lunch time, lunch was ready and was served on the dining table in our family room. The host himself was there to oversee the arrangements.
We enjoyed the simple home-cooked meal (prepared by someone else) that included Gatta Curry, Moong Dal, Rice, Roti, Raita and Salad, post which the obvious thing to do was to lie down and relax.

The Relaxing Stay…

I was overwhelmed to have traveled after such a long period and could not believe that the bed I am sleeping on is not my own. It was such a welcome change. The evening was spent on the terrace with a glass of beer and snacks. It was the full moon night and the clouds were hovering over the moon creating interesting patterns. I quietly watched the play of the moon and the clouds till I got a call from the kitchen to have my dinner. I was so relaxed, I slept like a baby.

The King Room

We woke up early to the screams of a peacock. A cool breeze of fresh air brushed my hair as I peeped out of the window. It was amazing to see a peacock dancing on the terrace of the house next door.  It was a perfect morning to roam around and soak in the beauty of the place. So I went to the terrace without any second thoughts. It was a pleasant morning unlike the hot mornings in Delhi. The morning hunger was satiated with hot aloo parathas with a variety of pickles and adrak wali chai. And some were packed for our journey that was equally interesting.

Open Seating Area on the Terrace 

And thus we completed a super awesome trip. I am glad we did this. It made me realize that it is possible to travel while taking all necessary precautions and keeping a safe distance. We cannot control when will this pandemic end but we can definitely learn to live with it and make our lives better. And I am glad to see that homestay hosts are also now fully equipped and trained to handle the guests.
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