Once I'd had my thinking cap on for a few days, my choice was obvious....
Now India must be one of the cheapest and easiest (once you have learned how to buy tickets and work the reservation system!) places in the world to travel by train. I took a look at Seat 61 and found that I can go from Delhi to Bombay, a journey of over 900 miles, on the Radjahni Express, a premier sleeper train with meals included, in first class for just £47, or if I travel in third class, a mere £19. Train travel in India is fabulous (some may say fabulously daunting!) and a great way to get to meet people, so it will form the major part of my travel plans - after all, you only get to see clouds and a few mountains from the sky.
Getting around in cities will be easy too with so many cycle rickshaws available and even taxis and auto rickshaws (tuk tuks) will be well within my budget.
Now, I've got to an age now where backpackers hostels just don't do it for me, I like my own room and my own bathroom, but fortunately, that doesn't come at an extortionate cost in India, even when staying at Heritage hotels. For example, the wonderful looking KS Palace in Delhi is only R2000 per night, around £23! It will be a haven to get back to after the hustle and bustle of downtown New Delhi. Similarly, the Dayal Hotel in Udaipur offers clean modern facilities for just a little more (R2550). I can even stay in a hotel in the 13th century fort walls at Jaisalmer for even less!
One of my favourite things about travel is food and tasting all the local delicacies. Now I'll be doing my best to avoid Delhi Belly at all costs by drinking only bottled water, but eating street cafe food won't be off the menu, I'll just be making sure that what I do eat is freshly cooked. Just like at home, I'll be tucking into lots of fresh fruit and veg bought at markets but at a fraction of the price I pay here in the UK. Eating out every day won't eat into my budget either, with great meals costing between £1 and £5, for example, at the Cafe Madras in Bombay and Spicy Tadka in Varanasi.
Entrance fees will tot up a bit but the biggest one, the Taj Mahal, is still only R750 which is under £9. St Paul's Cathedral in London costs £15......
So, how long will my Grand Adventure last? Well, with average daily costs for food and accommodation being £28 per day, and using trains to travel long distances, I reckon I'll be away for at least a month! Bring it on!