Tag Archive for India


Holi,the world’s most colourful celebration!


It’s the 24th March which means only one thing, it’s Holi! The wonderful celebration of colour and love! Holi takes place all over India and Nepal and is a great excuse to cover fellow revelers, with gusto in coloured powder and cold water… anyone is fair game, so get colourful!

holi2This truly is the most colourful festival on earth, kicking off the night before with huge bonfires, ‘Holika Dahan’, lit to burn away evil spirits. Originating in India, this Hindu festival celebrates the victory of good over evil and is a jubilant affair with music, singing and dancing and effectively turns into a huge street party with revelers covering anyone and everyone in powder. The celebrations bring rich, poor and everyone in between together to celebrate love and forgiveness. From parks to temples, the faces, clothes and smiles of everyone involved will be covered from head to toe in the vibrant colours of spring. The excitement that surrounds the celebrations has attracted thousands of travelers from all over the world and has seen the festivities and the positive message spread worldwide.

So what are you waiting for?

If you want to head to the home of Holi, why not take part in one of our incredible challenges in India and Nepal:

Dalai Lama Himalayan Trek

India Golden Triangle Cycle Challenge

Stok Kangri Summit Trek

Everest Base Camp

Poon Hill Himalayan Trek

Cycle Kathmandu Valley


Diwali, the festival of lights


October 23rd 2014

Perhaps the best known Hindu festival, Diwali is an ancient and joyful celebration of the triumph of light over dark, knowledge over ignorance and good over evil. Diwali is a festival of peace and hope and in certain parts of India, signifies the New Year. The festival is also celebrated by Sikhs and Jains.

Legend has it, that Diwali began after the great battle between the Evil King of Sri Lanka -Ravana – the 10 headed, 10 armed demon and the good King Rama. Ravana, kidnapped Sita, the beautiful wife of King Rama, after 14 years in exile and a long and terrifying battle, Rama killed Ravana, rescuing his wife and returning to Ayodhya for his coronation. On the dark night of their return, the King and Queen could not find their way and so to help them, the people lit their path with candles and diyas, beginning the festival of lights.

Traditionally, Diwali falls on the New Moon between the Hindu months of Asvina and Kartika. On the darkest night of Autumn, usually around late October, the night sky comes alive with candles, lanterns and diyas – (small oil lamps), as people decorate their homes to welcome in Lakshmi the Goddess of Wealth. Whilst the origins of Diwali vary slightly depending on the region, across India, Nepal and Sri Lanka, it is a major celebration that sees people coming together to share gifts and food.

The festival is typically a 5 day affair and begins with:

Dhanteras, day 1: traditionally people clean, renovate and decorate their homes in preparation, with internal and external decorations. Today signifies the birthdays of Lakshmi, Goddess of Wealth and Dhanvantari, Goddess of Health, diyas are kept burning all night in their honor.

Naraka Chaturdasi, day 2: beautiful Rangoli (typically lotus flowers) are drawn on the floors of homes, Henna is drawn on hands and homemade sweets are prepared for the main day of Diwali.

Diwali, day 3: this is the main day of the festival, people dress in new clothes and meet with relatives to exchange gifts and sweets. Lakshmi is rumoured to wander the earth on Diwali night, people often leave their windows and doors open and help light her way with diyas and perform pujas (prayer rituals) to gain her blessing for the coming year. As night falls, fireworks light the sky to chase away evil spirits, and people celebrate with food and festivities.

Padwa Balipratipada, day 4: today celebrates the return of the demon King Bali to earth, people celebrate the love and devotion between husbands and wives and gifts are often exchanged.

Bhai Duj, day 5: According to legend, the God of Death, Yamraj visited Yami, his sister on this day, she fed him special dishes and garlanded him. Today, women and girls perform pujas for the goodwill of their brothers to emphasize the love and lifelong bond between siblings.

India is a land of fabulous festivals, from the decorating of camels at the bizarre Bikaner Camel Festival to Holi, the world’s largest festival of colours. Why not head over there on one of our incredible Charity Challenges, cycle or run through Rajasthan, trek Little TibetSummit Stok Kangri or Hike the Himalaya…

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Charity Challenge Operations Manager Jo experiences India for the first time on our secluded ‘Dalai Lama Himalayan Trek’ challenge!

As the Operations Manager for India and Asia at Charity Challenge, I’ve had the amazing opportunity to venture into the Himalayas on trails only trodden by Charity Challenge trekkers and the local Tibetan Community. Being the Operations Manager of the Dalai Lama Himalayan Trek, I know that the Himalayas are a very sought after trekking destination, especially with the spiritual element of a visit to the home of the Dalai Lama. This popularity can sometimes make the Himalayas appear to be a crowded place, but many of our participants come back from the challenge and write to me saying how quiet and exclusive their trek was, and how much more they loved it for this reason! So I decided to head out to India and experience the tranquility for myself.

Those that don’t know much about India, apart from the overwhelming crowds of people, not to mention the usual clichés of, crazy roads  jam-packed with vehicles, tuc tucs, cows and dogs walking along the roads and pavements, and the sheer extremes of poverty and riches, may be surprised when I tell you that I felt free from the hustle and bustle of London and enveloped in the peace and tranquility of India!

I trekked our most exclusive and secluded challenge, the “Dalai Lama Himalayan Trek”, and whilst trekking in the shadows of the world’s highest peak I found myself stopping and listening to the silence and taking in the awe-inspiring scenery of alpine forests, beautiful meadows back-dropped with snow capped mountains, and small Tibetan villages hidden in the rolling hills.

If you are new to the life of Tibet and the movement into India following the Dalai Lama then you will find this challenge as fascinating as I did, as you start in Dharamsala with a ‘clockwise’ walk around the Dalai Lama’s Temple. You will learn about Tibetan Buddhism and the issues it faces today, and see how Tibet is preserved in India through the practicing of traditional Tibetan arts and crafts at the Norbulinka Institute.

I will have to apologise to you now, as after just a few days I have learnt so much and realised how little I knew about India, and I won’t feasibly be able to share with you all the amazing experiences and revelations I’ve had so far! However, I can say with certainty that if you want a challenge where you will trek the mountains with tribal Tibetan nomads and their goats, learn all about why cows are head of the household, be greeted by the friendly faces and smiles of the Tibetan/Indian people and see how you can help Charity Challenge give back to the communities of this area, then you should definitely check out our September and November 2013 departure dates for our Dalai Lama Himalayan Trek. Click here for all the info!

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Jo Warren

Ops Manager Jo’s Rajasthan Cycle Diary, Day 7 !

The final 100km cycle from Ranthambore to Jaipur via Bhanderej took us through two days of new scenery and continued surprise for how unique this cycle really is. Venturing into parts of Rajasthan where the kids are running from their schools to the side of the road shouting ‘white man’ and ‘crazy’! Tourists in these parts just do not exist.

After a night Glamping, ‘another’ early rise for our Tiger safari in Ranthambhore National Park. With only 33 Tigers in a 1334 sq km of wild jungle scrub we knew that the chance of sighting the Tigers would be an exclusive one. With one sighting in Five we had a good chance but unfortunately for us footprints were as close as we were going to get.  This however was fine for all of us as we witnessed the courting walk of two antelope and were surrounded by deer, wild Boar and the chance to cruise around in a safari truck for a few hours before putting ourselves back on the bikes.

I have to say one of the highlights of the Challenge is the food, and that includes the packed lunches. The  food is delicious and there’s lots of it, but then the calories burnt on the cycle justifies the amount you can eat. With lunch on the bus we are transferred a short distance to the start of the cycle today where our amazing support team, Matt, Vineet, Naveen, Raju, Baba (our mechanic) and Bhola are waiting for us.

We soon discover that the Safari has made us a little sluggish and its taking some time to get the legs working. After 45km of better roads than yesterday’s Sahara Cycle, we cycle into the grounds of the Maharajas Palace. With a few more aches and pains today we have some real troopers; Sue has been an inspiration to us all this week, Moyra pushing through with an earache that’s taking its toll and Kate who’s knee is progressively being a pain. Vineet is going the extra mile and offers to push Kate up the hill which she declines and so seeing as the offer is out there, I choose to take it up instead(after all why not – Kate you missed out there !!.) Tonight sees many retire to their beds fairly early in preparation for the final days Challenge and evening Celebrations.

All raring to go after a good nights’ sleep for our final days Cycle we set off and within an hour we are starting to see some different scenery. With the sight of rolling hills we are a little apprehensive that we may have to cycle one of these but soon discover that the few days we have had with hills previously, we’ve dropped our gears and pushed through it. We are however relieved to know that we are cycling between the hills and enter a lush tropical environment where the roads are quiet and palm trees line the route with monkeys and cows lurking. We suddenly feel like we are cycling through a tropical paradise for our final 10km leg to the finish line. As we regroup for our finale km cycle we hear drums and clapping and as we approach up over the hill we are welcomed by Sian and Vasante and a team of drummers at the finishing line in Jaipur.

We celebrate at lunch with some relieved it’s over, others sad its come to an end, but  all proud of  what we have accomplished this week. Feasting once again on delicious food and a well-deserved beer we relax and reflect on the week. The afternoon brings shopping for some and a snooze and freshen up for others before we come to the end of our week with our last night dinner and dance. Six days cycling and 430km has flown by leaving us with new friends and lifelong memories. What an incredible experience of India. Thank You to Sian and the team for their Support and each individual in the group for being  team players and supporting each other through the challenge including the jokers (you know who you are ) who kept spirits high and continued to hide pieces of my bicycle at each break stop. You should all be very proud of yourselves.

You can also find out more about the challenge she is embarking on – The Rajasthan Tiger Challenge! – by clicking here. To see more information about the array of amazing challenges we have, please visit our website at www.charitychallenge.com. To keep up to date on all our challenge news, please subscribe to this blog. You can also enter your email address into the adjacent box to subscribe to our mailing list.

Ops Manager Jo’s Rajasthan Cycle Diary, Day 6!

Another early rise to head off just as the sun rises, although today we have a slightly warmer start to the day. Leaving from the Maharajas Palace, Matt picks up the pace from yesterday so we have a chance to warm up, and then throws us in at the deep end to ease the tenderness of our bodies form the day before. With Raju supporting the back of the group, he finds that on today’s cycle more of us seem to stay back and chat with him…maybe due to his charming personality, or perhaps it’s because  of yesterday gruelling ride taking its toll on our bodies and energy levels.

A busy start again through Karauli.  Today’s eye captures the excitement of the trucks with their colours and decorations. After our first snack break we hit some road works which had dumped the whole of the Sahara desert on our Rajasthan route! 20kms of cycling through soft deep sand was an unexpected experience. As the thighs start to burn, we slip and slide and the chatting comes to a halt as our concentration grows

10 hours in, and the afternoon becomes slightly more manageable on the road, we reach our Hotel in preparation for our Ranthambore Tiger Safari tomorrow morning. Another 5.30 am start for us – ouch! But maybe we will spot some Tigers?? Check tomorrow to find out…

So To hear more updates from Jo in India, stay tuned to this blog! Whilst she’s out in country, you can get in touch and follow Jo via her twitter feed at @jojowarren82

you can also find out more about the challenge she is embarking on – The Rajasthan Tiger Challenge! – by clicking here. To see more information about the array of amazing challenges we have, please visit our website at www.charitychallenge.com. To keep up to date on all our challenge news, please subscribe to this blog. You can also enter your email address into the adjacent box to subscribe to our mailing list.

Essex to India Rajasthan Bike Ride Part 1 – In the City of Djinns

Throughout Denise Van Outen and Lydia Rose Bright’s epic cycle challenge across Rajasthan – “Essex2India” – arranged in conjunction with Hello Magazine and Charity Challenge, our veteran tour leader, Trevor Gibbs, was on hand to make sure that everything went off without a hitch. Below is the first instalment of his reminisces of the fascinating, and eventful, journey that they undertook…

“My name is Trevor and over the past few years I have had the privilege of working on a number of Charity Challenge trips throughout the world. My latest adventure saw me riding across Rajasthan with Denise van Outen and Lydia Bright, as they attempted to raise money for Great Ormond Street Hospital. The following is a brief glimpse into the incredible journey that they undertook…

The adventure began amongst the chaos of Delhi and, in particular, its old Muslim quarter. Built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in the 17th century, the labyrinthine streets of Old Delhi still exude a little of the magic and mystery of a city that is all but lost now amongst the bustling thoroughfares of India’s thriving capital. Once surrounded by high walls and dominated by the imposing majesty of the Red Fort, this is home to the magnificent Jama Masjid, India’s largest mosque and a spectacular piece of Mughal design capable of holding some 25,000 worshippers. This was where our journey began in earnest, as we headed out to explore the rambling back streets by rickshaw.

The city was beginning to take on a party atmosphere, with tomorrow heralding the start of the Holi festivities and, as we negotiated our way through the meandering streets, making our way past ruminating cows, spice stalls and tea houses, we could sense that celebration and mischief were in the air. The first water bomb came out of nowhere and hit Lydia. The second covered Denise in purple dye. Then suddenly, from all around us, water and dye hit us from every side. Our gentle amble through the back streets had turned into an ambush!

Now rickshaws are not renowned for their speed, or their manoeuvrability. Neither do they offer particularly good protection against a concerted assault from water bombs and buckets. As water and paint rained down on us we made a frantic, but ultimately futile dash for safety. By the time we finally escaped the alleyways of Old Delhi we were a bedraggled and bemused mess, with Denise and Lydia bearing the brunt of the afternoon’s onslaught. Conversely (and bizarrely) our team photographer, Gareth, had managed to run the entire gauntlet unscathed. Whilst the rest of us looked as if we had just swum through blancmange, he still sported a pristine T-shirt and a sparkling camera. The Lord Vishnu obvious had his favourite!“

To find out more about Trevor, and read more blogs of his adventure, please visit his website at www.agamaconsultants.co.uk. Also, if you loved these vibrant pictures of the team exploring India, you can visit  (the before mentioned Lord Vishnu favoured photographer behind these great images) at www.garethgatrell.com.

To learn more about all our Rajasthan tiger Challenge challenge and many more, please visit our website at www.charitychallenge.com, and to keep up to date on all our challenge news, subscribe to this blog by clicking on the orange RSS button, you can also enter your email address into the adjacent box to subscribe to our mailing list.

Charity Challenge of the Week: The Rajasthan Tiger Challenge

Denise Van Outen and Lydia Bright last Thursday completed their epic cycle challenge, cycling 430kms through Rajasthan, Land of the Kings. Despite the limb numbing nature of the challenge, the Essex Girls had only good things to say/tweet about their Indian Escapade!

“Just finished our 485km cycling challenge around India Bst experience of my life Ill never forget…a dream” – Lydia

“I would also like to thank @charitychall for making this trip possible. You never let me down! Best experience of my life” – Denise

We’re glad they liked it! And we’re really pleased to see that, inspired by Denise and Lydia’s fantastic effort, more and more people are taking an interest in the challenge and are keen to follow in their glamorous Essex footsteps. So if you think an Indian cycling adventure might be for you, keep reading!

The first day of our Rajasthan Tiger Challenge begins in the hustling bustling capital of Delhi, where you have a chance to soak up the atmosphere and explore it’s labyrinth of streets and markets, crowded with exotic produce and a bewildering mix of people. Journeying on to Agra, the cultural exploration of India continues with a visit to the Taj Mahal, one of the most awe inspiring and extravagant monuments ever built. The serenity of the Taj Mahal is just the peaceful interlude needed before the real hard work begins!

Starting from Taj Mahal, the serene and classical Indian vision quickly becomes the wildest dream of a Mountain Biker, as the roads terrain turns from tarmac stretches, to country lanes to smaller more pothole ridden dirt tracks.

As days pass, the sheer variety of Rajasthan’s roads is matched only by the beautiful and imposing nature of its landscapes. Your eyes can’t help but stray from the road as you cycle through dramatic desert landscape, lively cities, tranquil country-side and old forts seemingly frozen in time.

On day 7 the roads and backdrop take a backseat to the spectacular array of Indian Wildlife that make their home in Ranthambore National Park. As your journey takes a meandering route through the park, keep your eyes peeled for sambas, cheetahs, wild boars, leopards, sloth bears, jackals, hyena and of course the eponymous and majestic Tigers, the namesake and symbol of this challenge!

On day 9, you’re forced dig real deep for the final 80km stretch from Bhanderej to Jaipur. For many these final few hours are turbulent, as emotionally and physically you’re spent, but glimpse of villages and locals waving to you in support spur you onwards on road to Jaipur. And what more jubilant place to celebrate the victorious end of the challenge than “the pink city”. Jaipur is  Rajasthan’s vibrant metropolitan capital, where colours, cultures and seemingly traffic combine as vegetable laden camel carts thread their way through the streets jam-packed with rickshaws, bicycles, tempos, motorcycles and traffic dodging pedestrians! If you’ve got the energy, there’s plenty to do in Jaipur, there’s lot of beautiful and historic sights to be seen or you can take a leaf out of Denise and Lydia book and hit the shops!

So if you’ve been inspired and want to take part in one of our Rajasthan Tiger Challenges, please click here to see all our available departure dates, and click on the date you’re interested in to see the itinerary, costs, kit lists, and much more!

This month, in honour of Lydia and Denise epic challenge, we’ve also got a £50 discount on our Fri 15 February 2013 challenge, check it out here!

You can also click here to see a Lydia and Denise Essex eye view of the challenge, and watch this amazing video that was filmed on location in Rajasthan last year.

To learn more about all our challenge, please visit our website at www.charitychallenge.com, and to keep up to date on all our challenge news, subscribe to this blog by clicking on the orange RSS button, you can also enter your email address into the adjacent box to subscribe to our mailing list.

#ESSEX2INDIA – Essex girls Densie Van Outen and Lydia Bright to cycle across India

First the immense challenge of reaching the summit of Kilimanjaro, a 6 day trek to Machu Picchu in Peru and now a 485km cycle for charity across Rajasthan in India. Much loved TV presenter Denise Van Outen is unstoppable! This time she’s taking her friends Lydia Bright from The Only Way is Essex (TOWIE) and Kirsty Williams from The Insanity Group of Companies.

The girls have chosen to raise money for Great Ormond Street Hospital which desperately needs money to provide vital up-to-date equipment and fund research into better treatments for children.

The challenge is being organised by Charity Challenge, and Denise, Lydia and Kirsty started preparations in early January 2012 as they began their pre-event training.  They were each provided with a fantastic hybrid (road/mixed terrain) bike from Specialized and a top of the range indoor exercise bike from Hire Fitness; a nationwide company that hires gym quality fitness equipment to use at home.  The Hire Fitness bikes proved an essential part of their training as the snow fell outside and temperatures plummeted!

As they embarked on their strict fitness regime, they realised they were becoming hooked on cycling when they started turning down opportunities like VIP seats at premiership football matches in favour of checking out the best cycle routes!

“I’m turning into a biking geek” Says Kirsty, “cycling to and from work and at weekends and using my Hire Fitness bike at home”.  A quick 24 mile cycle is now nothing to them but it’s not been without challenges along the way! For one, It’s really NOT easy fitting 3 adult bicycles into the back of a car!! But the girls just about managed to squeeze them into Denise’s Volvo XC60.

So challenge #Essex2india is nearly here.  With just a few weeks left before the big event the girls are training hard, through everything the weather has to throw at them!

“Going cycling today to train for my Essex2India bike ride – I must be crazy it’s freezing out there!” tweets Denise.

They’ve prepared well but what they can’t prepare themselves for is the extreme heat that they will be enduring as they cycle across India.  And what will they do after all this with so much free time on their hands you may well ask?  Perhaps another Charity Challenge?

Click here to for learn more about our Rajasthan Tiger Challenge – the challege Denise and Lydia are so bravely taking on! To keep up to date on all our challenge news, and hear the latest updates about the Essex girl’s challenge, subscribe to this blog by clicking on the orange RSS button, you can also enter your email address into the adjacent box to subscribe to our mailing list.