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

Latifa in front of fresco entrance at Id ma-ud- daula

My homecoming to India

About a year ago I decided to take a leap of faith and journey ‘home’ to India. Being a wheelchair user, this thought had always terrified me. But being in my mid-20s, born and raised in Aotearoa and having my only image of the homeland from pictures and stories, I figured if not now, then when?

In my initial research about accessible travel in India, I came across a company called Planet Abled. They organise customised travel plans for tourists with disabilities with any access need, including accessible accommodation, a driver, tour guide, local sign language interpreter or travel buddy – just a few examples!

By this point I had already decided to leave my electric freedom behind and take my manual wheelchair with me instead. Everyone told me there are steps everywhere and I should try to keep my movements as flexible as possible. I realise this is a privilege I have, but for me, being able to sit in any car with my collapsible chair and having my chair lifted into shops was the safest and most logical decision.

When we arrived in Mumbai, our driver was waiting at the airport to take us to our hotel, which we had no issues with. Over the next four days, we went on our various adventures to historical monuments and shopping spots. The first thing I noticed was that even though the built environment was almost entirely inaccessible, the people made it accessible for me. In a city where a huge part of population lives below the poverty line, I found the people to be very accepting about everyone’s differences and therefore willing to help when they noticed the need.

Latifa with her Dad at Gateway of India with Taj Palace Hotel in background

Latifa with her Dad in Mumbai

Few people looked twice at my wheelchair, but when I needed help, at least five people would come to help before disappearing back into the chaos without me having a chance to express my gratitude. Considering all the social and economic issues India is currently dealing with, I was beautiful to see how the people make things work under such circumstances, both for themselves and for others.

Following Mumbai, we spent 10 days in our village in Gujarat before flying up to New Delhi. Here we spent a lot of time in famous tourist sites, such as the 700-year-old Qutub Minar and Raj Ghat (Mahatma Gandhi’s memorial site). Ramps had been built in and were therefore easy to navigate.

It was the same situation in Agra, the city of the beautiful Taj Mahal. The Planet Abled team knew exactly where to go, where the best spots were, and took great photos. All hotels were perfect – very accessible and the service was great.

Latifa with her parents at Taj

Latifa sharing a candid moment with her parents at Taj Mahal

The drivers were super friendly and helpful, as were the storytellers.

I really fell in love with India. It was such a beautiful experience and place. Every place we went to had its own unique personality which I loved.

My time in India showed me what can happen when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, and let our common humanity take over. It’s a team effort, but the outcome filled me with hope. I’m looking forward to coming back soon to explore other parts of India.

Latifa lives with her family in New Zealand and works in the disability advocacy space. She has her roots in India.