Travel in India with type 1 diabetes – introduction

In late July 2011, exactly 7 months after Amy was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, we backpacked around India for four weeks, in a trip we called Monsoon Meandering.

This is post 1 in the series about that trip and its planning and how type 1 diabetes played a part.

 

A bit of background

Jane and I have always travelled, it brought us together, we married abroad, but it all stopped when we had kids. It took some time to decide to travel again and with many nerves we took Emilia and Amy to Rajasthan in 2009, in a trip we named Big Cats and Holy Ghats, they were 11 and 8 at the time. Two years later we decided on a much more adventurous trip which would mainly focus on Ladakh, an area sandwiched between the Himalayas, Pakistan, China and Tibet. We broke the news about the trip in October 2010 during a meal in our favourite Nepalese restaurant in Winchester, the Gurkha Chef.

A change of plan

I’d almost booked the flight tickets, just before Christmas 2010, but a few days later Amy was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and our world briefly fell apart. Any thoughts of going to India at all were discarded. Within 24 hours of diagnosis one of Amy’s first questions to the diabetes nurse was “does this mean I can’t go to India anymore?” and after hearing this I was determined to go to India, as long as it was safe. It should be they said.

Diabetes forces a change of route

Diabetes didn’t actually force the change of route but I was unwilling to travel to Ladakh anymore. The road across the Himalayas goes over 5000m three times and travellers run the risk of getting Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), especially if you have to stop for any length of time. To avoid this some recommend drinking sugary drinks, something that doesn’t sit well with diabetes. This is compounded with the similarities between a hypoglycaemic attack and the symptoms of AMS such as confusion and dizziness. None of this means a diabetic can’t go to Ladakh or other high altitudes but there was no way I would put Amy, or us, through that so soon after diagnosis. We needed a new route and opted for Delhi to Mumbai – via Amritsar, which anyone who knows the area will tell is a bit of a long way round. We decided to do virtually all the travel using trains, all booked by ourselves, without a Travel Agent in sight, it seemed quite daunting.

A little research is required

We knew no-one with type 1 and we knew no-one who’d been to India with type 1, so I turned to my favourite India forum – IndiaMike – and asked some advice. They told me straight:

  • India is one of the top 2 diabetes countries in the World
  • Amy’s medication Novorapid and Levemir was available
  • food could be challenging but could be handled.
  • India has some of the world’s best Doctors.

And so it began, a frantic few months of deciding the route, researching what diabetes specific things we need to plan for and take, oh yeah, and coping with the daily difficulties of a newly diagnosed diabetic.

 

Next up: planning the trip.

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