a tour guide crisis and health and safety on Indian trains

Posted Sunday July 23, 2017 by Hazel Durbridge

FB has been sending not very nice emails as though criticising me more is going to make me go running back. I did try to unpick what happened on the holiday in an email to him at the week-end thinking a bit of time had passed for some reflection, but he just wrote back saying it was all self- interest and no feeling.  I thought about sending you the emails as I would value a second opinion – you feel like you are losing touch with reality in these circumstances, but then I thought, it’s not appropriate and secondly even if I was totally in the wrong, the bottom line is he is not making me happy and I have been having doubts way before the holiday so just let it go.  My problem is I don’t cope well without any romantic attachment so try and avoid being in that situation at all costs.  I am just going to have to get a grip and man up.  He is wrong that I have no feelings about it though.  I feel very hollow and sad.

It’s very lucky that I have work which forces me to put one foot in front of the other and just keep going.

You were interested in the group dynamics on holiday. I am sure FB’s and my disintegrating relationship must have been noticeable at times.  There were two New Zealanders aged 33.  One was quite a famous radio host and had been sent free to do travel research so kept getting upgrades.  He was with his friend Rick who was something to do with trees and the heart throb of the group.  Unfortunately Rick got very sick and had to be hospitalised at one point.  However it was quite good fun being part of team Tim and we had two trips to glorious old colonial 5* hotels and paid to use their swimming pools for an afternoon that were generally deserted.  FB did not bring his trunks and never swam.

On the Aussie side there were two ‘country’ girls, as their Aussie compatriots described them, who live 2 hours north of Adelaide. They opted out of lots of group activities and ate a lot of fruit, but complained a lot (more on that later).  There was also an 18 year old woman who was amazing for her age and a guy who worked as a security guard who was lovely.  The two Brits were both 30 and gorgeous looking, one an actress who never stopped talking and the other a psychiatrist.

The drama of the holiday was that one of the trains started up and left the station before we could all board. Two people jumped off leaving the Brit Psychiatrist and the Aussie 18 year old on their own.  This degenerated in to general dissatisfaction with the tour guide.  He is actually in danger of losing his job over this so I tried to do my bit below on the feedback as one of the Aussie girls wrote the most awful feedback.

Secondly I would like to address the grief that was given to our tour guide.

A number of our group had come straight from the North India tour and were raving about their tour guide from day 1 to the detriment of Dhillip.  Unless Intrepid are making clones this is unfair.

My considerable experience of tour guides is that they normally lay the ground rules at the first briefing – no lateness, obey instructions, be nice to your fellow travellers.  They retain a professional distance.  Dhillip, being close in age to most of the group was probably too nice.  He also did not ask the group to introduce themselves to each other or make sure we all had his mobile number.

Being a tour guide is not a popularity contest.  Nor are they walking encyclopedias relating to archaeological sites or country history.  There are local guides for that and guide books.

I found their complaints about his lack of specific site knowledge strange as they were often the ones who went round palaces and museums in 5-10 minutes and then left to do their own thing.

I assume the use of the private mini-bus was only when getting cross country by public transport would have been torturous.  The group benefitted from extremely regular toilet breaks and opportunities for water, crisps and fruit buying.

The younger women also complained that he touched their arm and leg, but I didn’t see any inappropriate behaviour.

The train incident.

I don’t know what image those in authority at Intrepid have of this, but if there were a legal case it would rest with the train authority who need to address the most basic health & safety issue of not starting the train when people are still boarding.  You know India.  Boarding trains is chaos with local people pushing between us and separating the group.  The first door was locked, the second door blocked with boxes (also a H&S issue resting with the train authority).  Dhillip had put his bags on the train then came back to the back of the queue to make sure everyone got on.

His reaction?  First we have two trip members jumping off then he is running down the side of an accelerating train to speak to the two girls.  As far I am aware their concern was being told where to get off and in that moment goodness knows what options ran through his head.  Their complaint was that he was not quick enough to articulate.

After that he did everything in his power to make sure the young women were safe, ringing the transport authorities etc.  I was stood by him and heard it.

If I have a criticism it is that the two girls should have been the ones who spoke to Intrepid that night.  I understand culturally that you might gravitate to the oldest male in the group to make representation, but he was not affected and this added unnecessary fuel to the fire of two assertive young women who expected to be heard.  After that he should never have mentioned it again.

I felt he was incredibly attentive to everyone on the trip.  One young woman on two occasions that I was witness to got somewhere with the group and decided she didn’t want to be there so he walked her back to the hotel.  He tried to appease the demands of the group, altering meet up times at their behest.  He went to the hospital.  He took me to the astrologer, but only after he had sorted out the rest of the group.

I think tour guides are put in very difficult positions with their countrymen.  I was witness to one incident where he asked us to look out for the rest of the group’s bags while he went to join them.  A local standing close by turned on him in a vicious way insinuating that he was labelling Indians thieves which he wasn’t.  Likewise I heard the story of the man in the hotel at Hampi complaining that he was ‘dark’ because he was annoyed we didn’t all have the evening meal there.  No one on the tour was forced to eat anywhere they didn’t want to and many opted out at different times.

If there are lessons for Dhillip from this it is to be more professionally distant.  I am also sure you have a tick list for that introductory session.  I think Intrepid should make a formal complaint to the train authority.


Generally the group were really fine and I was grateful they were there. The holiday would have been terribly difficult without them.

Do let me know how your plans are progressing for Tasmania. I hope you are having some luck on the date front too.


Mum xx

The link below gives you a bit more detail about the South India trip.

seeing a bigger picture – the addiction of travel

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