Gulab Jamun to Gulmarg: Jonty Rhodes on his Indian escapades
New Delhi: Syrupy gulab jamuns, snow-laden mountains in Gulmarg and houseboating in the backwaters of Kerala are experiences that attract South African cricket icon Jonty Rhodes to India. He believes it is the common "entrepreneurial spirit" of the people that binds the two nations.
In Mumbai to launch NDTV Good Times` "South Africa With Jonty Rhodes", a travel-based mini TV series, the world`s best acrobatic fielder recounted some of his favourite Indian escapades.
As a player, Rhodes said he loved travelling to New Zealand, which has "beautiful landscapes and many adventure sports to take part in". But as a coach, he loves traversing far and wide locales offering varied flavours in India.
"In India... such extremes - from snowboarding in Gulmarg to houseboating in Kerala," the cricket ace, who was active for 11 years from 1992 to 2003, told IANS in an email interview.
What did he like the most about India?
"The passion for cricket - it reminds me why I started playing this great game," said the advisor-cum-fielding coach of the Mumbai Indians Indian Premier League (IPL) franchise.
He also revealed how he loves to gorge on gulab jamuns, a traditional Indian dessert, thanks to his "very sweet tooth".
When asked what strengthens the amicable bilateral and cultural relations that the two nations have shared over the years, he said: "The entrepreneurial spirit of the people."
To drive this exchange further, the 44-year-old brand ambassador of South African Tourism in India took up the challenge to take four Indians on a 15-day sojourn in the Rainbow Nation as part of the "South Africa With Jonty Rhodes" show.
He himself had a ball.
"I`m an outdoor person who loves a bit of adrenaline flowing through my body; so it was great to show, and participate in, some of the extreme adventures we have in South Africa. Ours is a very diverse and picturesque country, which words never do justice while trying to describe - the show will give visual evidence of this beauty," Rhodes said.
In the show, he guides the travellers across Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban and the picturesque Garden Route, giving them a taste of his native country`s rich heritage and diverse culture.
He took them on the wildest safaris, crazy experiences and adrenaline-pumping adventures as part of an extensive itinerary conceptualised by South African Tourism.
The show, a three-part mini-series that goes on air Aug 12, is packed with information on the varied experiences that a traveller can explore while visiting South Africa.
If Rhodes had to suggest some must-visit places, they would be: "The Kruger Park area for some amazing wildlife destinations and Cape Town and the Garden Route for vibrant sights and hair-raising adventures."
As for the food, he maintained that "every taste is catered for".
"Eleven official languages and 50 million people mean that there is great diversity on the cuisines, so every taste is catered for! Although, I must confess we are predominantly non-vegetarian and my personal favourite is enjoying an outdoor barbecue `braai` with family and friends," Rhodes added.
A traveller at heart, he said visiting myriad destinations across the world gives him a chance to learn more about other people.
The more he does that, "the more I learn about myself", he said, adding that it is important that people travel safe and wise by following some do`s and don`ts.
"Do: travel with an open mind; leave time in your itinerary to be flexible - so many things to do that your travel agent might not have booked!
What about the don`ts?
"Don`t just take pictures - experience the local culture; don`t wander into areas that your hotel concierge warn you about - sadly there is crime in some parts of South Africa," he suggested.