In­dia trip in­spires a new out­look on life at home

Matamata Chronicle - - News - By NI­COLA STE­WART ni­cola.ste­wart@wrcn.co.nz

It’s 10 in the morn­ing and the elephants in Jaipur, In­dia are on their way home from work.

The streets, which are al­ready crowded with cars, bikes, don­keys and camels, some­how make room for the tor­rent of heavy foot­steps.

Steady traf­fic con­tin­ues to flow, in no ap­par­ent or­der, and tourists watch on cu­ri­ously as around 100 elephants am­ble by.

It is Mata­mata businessman Graeme Guil­ford’s first day in Jaipur and not one that he is likely to for­get.

The Pa­per Plus owner spent four weeks on an in­trepid trip through the moun­tain ranges of Nepal to the cities of In­dia.

Start­ing in Kathmandu, he went on a 14-day cy­cle trip through the Hi­malayas with a group of English and Aus­tralian trav­ellers.

‘‘ It was

the

most amaz­ing ex­pe­ri­ence,’’ said Mr Guil­ford. ‘‘The scenery was just stun­ning, ab­so­lutely beau­ti­ful. We would bike around ev­ery corner and there would be a wow.’’

Fol­low­ing the ride, he spent an ex­tra few days in Nepal where he vis­ited a school that his club Mata­mata Ro­tary sup­ports.

‘‘We came on a public hol­i­day, so we weren’t sure if any­one was go­ing to show up,’’ said Mr Guil­ford.

‘‘So we came driv­ing along this bumpy road and about 40 chil­dren and all of the teach­ers were there wait­ing for us.

‘‘ They all lined up along a wall and as I walked past they placed flow­ers around my neck.

‘‘ It was quite whelm­ing.’’

Re­cent Ro­tary projects at the school meant they now had run­ning water and brand new toi­let fa­cil­i­ties.

Mr Guil­ford also gave the chil­dren a box full of sta­tionery

over- in­clud­ing pens, pen­cils, pen­cil sharp­en­ers, coloured pen­cils and rulers.

From Nepal, he con­tin­ued into In­dia where he paired up with a lo­cal driver in Dehli for his eight-day trip.

They trav­elled to the cities of Agra, Rad­han- pur and Jaipur, vis­it­ing the Taj Ma­jal and the na­tional park.

On their ar­rival back in Dehli, Mr Guil­ford was in­vited to the driver’s house for a cup of tea, which he said was the most eye­open­ing ex­pe­ri­ence of the trip.

‘‘We go up to the first floor and the en­tire apart­ment is about half the size of my of­fice, maybe five- me­tresquared.

‘‘He was liv­ing there with his wife and two kids and that was their whole world.

‘‘It wasn’t un­til I was sit­ting there that I re­ally ap­pre­ci­ated how peo­ple live in coun­tries like In­dia. It re­ally made me re­think a lot of things.’’

On his ar­rival back in New Zealand, Mr Guil­ford made a pact with his five daugh­ters that in­stead of buy­ing each other Christ­mas gifts at the end of the year, they would each do­nate money to­wards a new eye clinic be­ing built out­side Kathmandu.

‘‘ We are go­ing to have cataracts for Christ­mas this year,’’ he said. ‘‘ A cataract op­er­a­tion costs about 20 Amer­i­can dol­lars so there is an op­por­tu­nity to help a lot of peo­ple.’’

He hopes to get Ro­tary and the Mata­mata com­mu­nity in­volved in the drive.

In­trepid: Mata­mata’s Graeme Guil­ford takes an elephant ride to a hill­top palace in Jaipur, In­dia.

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