Paul Holroyd with the children in Kodaikanal

Already making plans to return to India…

Paul Holroyd with the children in Kodaikanal

I first travelled to India in January 2012, a friend who I have known for many years and lived locally was a native of Tamil Nadu. She ran a charity called “Curry Aid” which supports orphaned children in a home near Kodaikanal.

It was a roller coaster of a trip full of excitement and emotion and it was then that I fell in love with India and its people.

In February 2016 I was involved in serious accident whilst working as a traffic officer, an accident which would leave me paralysed from the chest down. Upon leaving hospital I was determined to continue travelling and in particular I wanted to return to India.

This was something which having travelled there before I thought given the difficulty in getting around in a wheelchair and what I believed would be the lack of disabled facilities was only a pipe dream.

I then discovered the wonderful “Neha” at “Planet abled” and with specific requirements an itinerary was drawn up.

Neha asked every possible question about my condition and limitations, she personally checked out all of the accommodation and employed a driver who would stay with us throughout what turned out to be a road trip covering almost five hundred miles across southern India.

Upon landing at Cochin we were met by our driver “Kaleesh” he would very soon become a great friend and asset to our trip. We transferred to a CGH earth property “Brunton boatyard” in cochin to start our adventure. We were immediately impressed by the facilities at Brunton Boatyard and the staff could not do more to make sure our stay was perfect.

The following day we had a guided tour around this part of Cochin taking in the Chinese fishing nets and other wonderful sights brought to life by our very knowledgeable guide and of course Kaleesh!

Our next stop was only a couple of hours away at “Coconut Lagoon” where although I didn’t think it was possible the staff manged to transfer me on to a house boat for a day cruising the back waters of Kerela. My wife and I had a wonderful day with excellent food cooked by our onboard chef.

From there we drove to “Spice village” taking in the sights along the way accompanied by Kaleesh pointing out all aspects of Indian life. Rest stops were frequent and the places were always clean and we were welcomed with drinks, I love the Indian coffee.

We visited a spice farm and stocked up on spices for home cooking once back in the UK.

Driving through towns and country we passed tea plantations on our way to the hill station of Kodaikanal in Tamil Nadu, so far the trip had been wonderful and the three CGH earth properties chosen by Neha had been some of the best places that we had stayed anywhere in the world.

We spent almost a week with friends in Kodaikanal always accompanied by Kaleesh for who nothing was to much trouble, he really became part of the family.

Group picnic at Kodaikanal

We visited local landmarks, had picnics in the park, went shopping and had lovely meals at the Carlton hotel where we were staying.

Having left the “family of our hearts” in Kodaikanal it was time to head back toward Cochin, first revisiting “Spice Village” before heading the another and in my opinion the best CGH earth property on our trip “Marari beach”

Set on the coast the sunsets are wonderful and as with all of the places we stayed for the staff nothing is to much trouble and as a wheelchair user there is always someone to help if needed.

It must be stated that India is not the easiest place to get around in a wheelchair and in the grounds of some of the properties it can be a bit challenging. But, help is always at hand both from the staff in the resorts and even complete strangers if out and about, this is one reason that I love India so much.

Paul enjoying some quiet time in a quaint Kerala beachside

Neha and the team at “Planet abled” made my dream of returning to India a reality, their attention to detail and commitment to our wellbeing and enjoyment could not have been better.

I would thoroughly recommend them to anybody and we are already making plans to return again.


– Lord P. Holroyd

Paul Holroyd was a Highways England traffic officer who was victim to a near-fatal motor accident in 2016 on an expressway while at work. It rendered him paralysed chest down. But didn’t deter him from travelling the world like he used to earlier. He travelled to India in early 2020 with his wife, for the first time after becoming a wheelchair user. The trip was curated by Planet Abled.

Following is a newspaper article that was published in ‘The Herald’ in UK dated 15/02/2020.

Newspaper article about Paul Holroyd's trip to India

Road Trip with Windmills and Arks

This post is the second in the series of travel with disability blog by Peter Gibson. He prefers to take his wife and son for road trips.

Starts and Unexpected Stops

We set off on the road from Vadodara at 4:30 and within a very short time we were in a traffic jam on NE 1 Vadodara-Ahmedabad Expressway. A bus was parked in the fast lane with a burst tyre!

Just as we were passing Ahmedabad we saw the sun setting like a huge orange ball. Slightly unreal looking like a typical tourist destination poster for sun-starved North Europeans.

We stopped early at 7pm to top-up the windscreen wiper water. The windscreen was splattered with insects and as the last of the water sputtered to nothing our windscreen became smeared. I couldn’t see clearly through the glare of un-dipped headlight beams of oncoming vehicles.

I found a water fountain of filtered and chilled water in the fuel station! Very smart. When the windscreen bottle was full I got some old newspaper and cleaned the smeared glass until it was crystal clear again. We then had a least another two hours of driving to do before we reached the area where we needed to find a hotel (near the way into the Little Rann of Kutch – a “small” desert)


First Food Stop – One Small Step

As we were pulling out of the fuel station, where we got the water, we saw Jyot Hotel which looked like a clean and simple road-side restaurant. It had only one small step up and a large door so getting in was easy. The tables were a good height and reasonably clean by roadside standards. Luckily there was no among crossbar across the leg of the table so Jagu could get her wheelchair under the table top without banging her footrests.

The food was well presented but had suicidal level of salt and oil. I made a mental note to request less oil/salt as we head further west.

Jaggu at the restaurant

A basic but comfortable food stop

After this we moved ahead to a secluded area for a quick road side toilet stop. We carry a folding toilet chair and sadly have to use the open-toilet (i.e. wherever you can find space as there is no disabled accessible toilets within 100km).

We have only ever seen one accessible toilet which was on National Expressway 1. At all other places we have to use a folding chair. We find a secluded spot and open both doors offside passenger doors and place it between them. It gives a little privacy but it is difficult and undignified for all involved.

Portable Accessible toilet

Portable Accessible toilet


Seeing Scary Steps but Saved by Semi-Lift

Then we moved on looking for a hotel. It was getting unlikely that we would find a place as we had our turn off to the Little Rann of Kutch coming up but fortuitously the Highway took an unexpected turn towards Rajkot and although we were now on the wrong road we soon came across a half decent looking hotel. Aptly named Cross Roads.

I viewed the horrendous 30 odd steps of the metal staircase upto the hotel entrance which was on the 1st floor from the car. It gave me a horrible shiver of expectation because the place didn’t look like it had a lift. Carrying Jagu up 30 steps even with help is a dangerous and undignified process for her and us carers. Lack of accessibility at the hotel was evident.

However, when I went to scout the place it was surprisingly clean. Basic but clean and yes it had a lift of sorts! Get this. There were no doors on the Lift and there were no doors on each floor (the manager muttered something about “Karab ho gaya” – it went bad). No Kidding!!

The Lift was too small for a wheelchair, so we put Jagu in a lotus position in her chair and dosed the foot rests. We named it – The Yoga Lift.

Crazy small and doorless lift

Crazy small and doorless lift


Basic Bedroom with Bathroom Barriers

The room was spacious enough but the usual small bathroom door with a step up. It was not at all suitable for wheelchairs or people with disabilities.

The room was clean and simple and at ₹1000 for a three-bed room it was ₹8000 cheaper than the rough and ready Jogad Eco Camp which we saw is nearby (Rs 2200 per person per night with full board and a desert tour).


Day 2 Desert – Little Rann of Kutch

We drove about 40 Km to the beginning of the desert to look for the famous the Wild Ass of Kutch. The Wild Ass is something between a donkey and a horse and is indigenous to the Little Rann of Kutch desert.

Here we found several herds of Wild Ass grazing on what looked like the most bare sand with a very few tufts of grass. It is surprising that they can survive and even thrive on such barren landscape.

We drove careful avoiding the damp patches. Parts of the desert are flooded for part of the year and this is why there is salt industry in this area. This is the perfect way for a person who cannot walk to enjoy nature without having to get into a wheelchair. We have done many safaris in our Four-Wheel Drive Mahindra Scorpio. Freedom from the hugely expensive safari tours is a great boon. I have a lot of experience driving in the desert of Qatar so I know the dangers of getting stuck and how to avoid this.

Wild Ass of the Little Rann of Kutch

Wild Ass of the Little Rann of Kutch

As we were off road and there was no danger of hitting anything I let my son drive. The car is automatic so it’s easy to drive. We enjoyed few hours looking at the scenery and the birds and then set off out of the desert looking for a place to have lunch before heading West to Mandvi.

Zack Driving

Zack got his first experience of driving without his Dad’s help!


Cracks, Crannies and Condiments – Textures of the desert.

Jagu is an artist and she uses a lot of abstract textures she finds in nature. The desert with its salt-pan flats covered in cracks and crevices is a perfect place to collect texture samples. Jagu tells me what she want photos of and the angles and so on. She then imports this into her artworks which she creates using her iPad.

Salt Crystals

Salt Crystals

Texture of Desert

Texture of Desert


Long and Winding Road Passes Windmills

Soon into our second day on the road we past the famous port of Navlaki. As the sun was setting we were presented with the silhouettes of towering turning wind-turbines. We went offroad again to take a closer look. It was surreal standing next to these massive machines which make no sound other than a gentle swishing sound.

Giant Windmills

Giant Windmills


The Destination is the Journey… scary incidents or

                       – The Importance of Using of Seat-belts

Our trips are not well planned. We don’t generally book hotels in advance as we find the important information about accessibility is usually lacking. However we use google maps and Tripadvisor and LastMinuteDotCom extensively. So with these tools we headed towards Mandvi. We hadn’t planned to stop there but it looked good in TA. Zack was checking out places as I drove the last 50Km in the dark.

Just before we entered Mandvi district we had heavy traffic on a normal single-track road. All of a sudden, a bull was running across the road narrowly being missed by the heavy traffic. I had to swerve violently to avoid it and it’s horn came into contact with my mirror. I always keep an eye on motorbikes in my mirrors and so I managed to avoid hitting one on our passenger side.

Jagu cannot support her upper body and can easily fall over so the seat-belt is a great support and in incidents like this it can save a disabled person from striking their heads against the door or window. Everyone has to wear seatbelt in my car whether we are in city doing 20 kph or on the highway doing 120 kph.

Shaken we drive on into Mandvi and look at a few hotels. Some are charging exorbitant amounts for very second-rate facilities but we found a budget hotel with ground floor rooms.


Day 3 – Maiden Voyage to Mandvi

It’s our first time in this famous ancient shipbuilding port. It was much better than we expected. In the morning we drove into town and stopped to look at the wooden skeletons of amazing ships being built.

Mandvi Shipbuilding. 600 years of making wooden ships.

Mandvi Shipbuilding. 600 years of making wooden ships.

Having the car is a great boon. I could position it on the roadside so she could get a good look while Zack and I explored the shipbuilding site. It is on the riverbank running though the centre of town.


Rough and Rubbish Strewn Sea-Front but Delightful Town Centre

On our first night in Mandvi we explored a bit by driving around. We found the popular touristy sea-front in the centre of town which was noisy, dirty and generally unattractive. We carried on exploring the very narrow street and came to the town centre where, in a small Chowk (square), there were several roadside laris (shiny and well-lit food carts). All of these were selling freshly prepared local specialities like Kutchi Dabeli. This is a sweet and savoury mix of peanuts and crushed vegetables stuffed in a bread roll which is heated up on a metal plate with butter. The stall opposite the Dabeli Lari sold fantastic Limbu Pani (fresh squeezed lemon juice).

Great lemon juice.

Great lemon juice.

We had a several snacks and then lemon juice. Again travelling by car on road is a way a disabled person can enjoy these things without too much hassle of using wheelchair chairs in potholed and narrow roads. In our car Jagu is nearly at the height of us as we stand next to the door. This way we enjoy together on the same level.

Wonderful nutty and sweat Kutchi Dabeli

Wonderful nutty and sweat Kutchi Dabeli

During the day we checked out the town some more, looking at the old buildings and exploring the nearby beaches. We found a beach that we liked and decide to go swimming the next morning. We decide to splurge a bit and changed our accommodation. We found a resort on the East edge of the town that had a swimming pool, individual huts and very nice restaurant and an amazing private beach front.

It had slopes to a couple of the “Tented” rooms but they were too steep and the 40mm high door threshold was a problem for the wheelchair. The rooms were not accessible. Not even the room “allocated” for disabled but they were reasonably spacious.


Dangerous Slopes

There were slopes to the restaurant and the poolside. Both were too steep and both had no hand-rails. There were no accessible toilets anywhere on the site. Despite this we enjoyed our night there and went to the beach in the evening.

Nice resort but limited accessibility

Nice resort but limited accessibility. Slope too steep and no handrails.


Beach Sunset

We carried Jagu over the small gate to the beach as it was too narrow for the wheelchair and then took her in a plastic chair down to the beach. Zack and I swam for an hour enjoying the clean and warm water.

Nice beach but very limited accessibility

Nice beach but very limited accessibility


Day 4 – Safe Swimming – Tetraplegian Style and Heading Back East

The following morning, we took Jagu for a swim in the pool. It was very clean and not too cold.

We have devised a good technique for getting Jagu into the pool. First of all, before we go out we put on her swimming clothes while she is lying on the bed in the room. Then when we get to the pool we need three people. Zack is in the pool to guide her once she is on the pool-edge. I lift her from the back and our assistant lifts her beneath her knees and we transfer her from the chair to a wheelchair cushion we have put not the pools edge. Then I lower put on the floatation ring and lower her into the pool while Zack makes sure she doesn’t roll over. It’s a bit complicated but once she is in it is very nice for her to feel “weightless”.

Jagu enjoying a swim.

Jagu enjoying a swim.

We really enjoyed Mandvi but we wanted to see more of the desert so we decided to start our journey home and come via the north side of the Rann of Kutch. On the way we stopped to look at an ancient fort. We could drive all the way up inside the perimeter wall. There I found some interesting sandstone walls that had stones that were worn in a strange way that looked like 3D writing. Jagu loves this type of textures so I took some pics for her.

It was nice for Jagu to see this all fairly closely as most forts are totally inaccessible to wheelchairs.

Fortress outside Bhuj.Ancient stonework with texture like writing.

Fortress outside Bhuj. Ancient stonework with texture like writing.

That day we arrived late at night in a hotel north of the Rann of Kutch. It was a typical low level roadside hotel. So no lift and a lot of stairs. The management and staff were very helpful and kind. The room was clean and large so despite the difficulties we managed a good night’s rest.


Day 5 – Arriving at Rann Riders Ranch

The next day we set off late morning and arrived at a Safari lodge where they offer riding and jeep safaris. It is a beautiful place with interesting and comfortable rooms in a garden full of small ponds with lotus and fish. They even had a very small swimming pool which was nice for cooling off.

Jagu in the garden

Jagu in the garden

Jagu enjoys the swing seat

Jagu enjoys the swing seat

Jagu really enjoyed all the plants which she had me taking lots of pictures. We had really nice food and enjoyed meeting the many domestic animals including geese, cats, dogs and best of all …horses

The open sided restaurant of Rann RidersBeautiful Ancient gateway to a town on the East side of the Rann of Kutch.

The open sided restaurant of Rann Riders. Beautiful Ancient gateway to a town on the East side of the Rann of Kutch.


Day 6 – Safari and Homeward Bound

Early in the morning safari and saw more Wild Ass and birds in the desert. Also, we saw an amazing gateway from an old trading town. In the afternoon some local tribals came to sell their beadwork.

It was difficult to bath Jagu because the bathroom was so inaccessible but we managed to give her a sponge wash.

On our way home we stopped on the National Expressway 1 where there are “Accessible” Toilets. They aren’t correctly arranged or equipped but they have a good slope and adequate space. It is an attended toilet, so it is clean.

Accessible Toilet on National Expressway

Accessible Toilet on National Expressway

It was a really enjoyable trip for the nice surprises. The best way to travel is to let it just happen as you go along. Too much planning leads to disappointments. Flexibility is the best but for the disabled this has extra challenges. Having our own car and own equipment helps us adapt. Also, we always travel with a helper.

Things that help for paraplegic travellers: a helper to lift the person in and out of the car, for bathing, toilet help etc. A folding toilet seat. Wet wipes. An ample supply of “Sense of Humour” and a lot of patience.

We plan to go to Kutch again… we feel there is much more to enjoy there.

Peter Gibson is an avid traveller and also the founder of Enable Me Access promoting Barrier Free Access for People with disabilities in India. This post is the second one in his series of travelogues which he would be writing regularly to inspire more and more people with disabilities to travel and explore the planet.


Road trip sign on the road

In the Beginning – Early Adaptions to Disability

Jagu and I were married in ’92 after a very short and socially controversial courtship.  We were classmates; typical college love affair except she was a Brahmin and I, British, white and obviously non-Hindu.

Our first dates alone together were on my Enfield Bullet.  We would go to the Mahi River where I taught her how to swim.  At that time, there were regular riots in Baroda and so after the Fine Art Film Club viewings I took her home on the bike… stopping at what we thought was a safe distance from her parent’s house.  This was very naive as inevitably people saw us together and it got back to her parents and soon we realized we needed to get married or not see each other again.  What followed were a few weeks of social/cultural dilemmas for her family which eventually lead to our getting a Hindu marriage.  Our first trip together as a married couple was on the bike to The Dangs in south Gujarat.  It was great fun.  In the years after this, we found the best way to travel was by our own transport and this became more critical as Jagu’s paralysis progressed.

11 Years later we had a son, Zack.  Soon after he was born, Jagu was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.  This is a progressive disease damaging the nerves and leading to paralysis.  Soon our adventurous trips became difficult as we learnt to deal with her being less able to walk.  At first, she was using a walking stick and if she needed help I would support her.  Horse-riding became out of the question but we could still manage swimming and boating with some extra care.  When she started using a walking frame it was more of challenge and getting to the water meant picking her up on my back and carrying her down to the water’s edge or to the edge of the pool.  With her wearing a lifejacket she was still able to enjoy our river and lake swims.

An old picture of Gibson and family when the travelling just started

An old picture of Gibson and family when the travelling just started

Our first road trip in India, after returning from our 5 year residence in Qatar, was in 2005.  We had just bought an old Scorpio.  Not having to rely on public transport meant we had more room for luggage and it was less difficult for me lugging all the bags.    Also, as we needed more assistive equipment a dedicated vehicle became critical.

We went to Ranakpur via Udaipur and stayed in a newly restored Haveli.  It was a very touristy trip with all the hotels pre-booked. We had to rush from place to place as the travel agent had a crazy itinerary of rushing from one place to another.  It was exhausting for me and uncomfortable for Jagu but we made the most of it.  It was way too hectic.  We subsequently learnt that slow and steady is much more satisfying.

Shot from one of the recent travel sojourns

Shot from one of the recent travel sojourns

From our first couple of road trips we learnt some basics.  Most of the places were not accessible and no advertising information to the contrary should be trusted.  We learnt that it was better to use our own vehicle and factor in time for finding suitable places to have food stops and search for suitable accommodation.  This became my method.  Find a restaurant, park bench or comfortable corner to “park” Jagu and Zack and then run around the hotels looking for a suitable room.  I became very good at quickly sizing up the pros and cons and making and resigning myself to the compromises.

We started to adapt our style.  We had to carry more equipment like special cushions, walkers, and sticks.  Wherever we could, we tried to keep doing the same things but adapt for Jagu so she was never left out.  We always like horse-riding and we used to go on proper three hour treks through the countryside.  This time at our regular stop at the Krishna Ranch, Udaipur we managed to adapt for Jagu.

They had a horse drawn buggy!  A bumpy ride but fun and it didn’t require much balance.  We jammed her in with cushions with someone sitting next to her to prevent her falling out.  She enjoyed being with us, looking somewhat regal, having an escort of handsome out-riders leading the way.  She got to enjoy every lane, view and bird call.  In those back lanes and dirt tracks around the fields we saw Mongoose, Kingfishers, Black Ibis, and the brilliant blue Indian Roller.  Bliss!

It was a bumpy start but we learnt that there was always a way…. and I had Zack as my trainee wingman from the start.  Helping with bags at 4 years old (ok mum’s handbag…).

….in my next blog there will be more photos… A Journey to the Sikkim and the Chinese border and how we escaped the rapids in our raft.

Peter Gibson is an avid traveller and also the founder of Enable Me Access promoting Barrier Free Access for People with disabilities in India. This post is the first one in his series of travelogues which he would be writing regularly to inspire more and more people with disabilities to travel and explore the planet.