|Backwaters from Kottayam to Alleppey|
Every once in few months the itch to travel becomes difficult to resist. This time the new destination selected was none other than ‘God’s Own Country- Kerala’. I was reminded of the times spent in this haven when I had just started my career. It was a two night journey by train to Cochin Harbor Terminus from Delhi in those days. The memories of sight of the Cochin harbor with twinkling lights of the harbor are unlikely to fade. This time the journey by flight was much shorter and the welcome appearance of the lush green coconut groves, the blue lagoons and backwaters looked spectacular as the aircraft landed on the sun kissed tarmac to a comfortable warm 29deg C compared to cold 11deg in Delhi!
|Kathakali performance at Cochin Cultural Centre|
The drive through the congested streets of Ernakulam where a new metro line is under construction took almost 1.5 hours. I tried to recollect the familiar sights of hotel Woodland and a few more which still existed on the MG Road. Next two days were spent in zipping across to Fort Kochi on ferry to see the Chinese Fishing nets, the Old Portuguese and Dutch churches, cemeteries, the Jewish synagogue and a Spice market. A New Naval Museum has also come up in the last few years which were very interesting and the best part was to get a warm reception from the ones managing it when they learnt of my naval background. A live performance of Kathakali at the Cochin Cultural Centre including one hour of makeup done by performing artists is a ‘must see’.
|Tea Gardens in Munnar|
Next on the itinerary was Munnar, the lovely hill station in Kerala which has a salubrious weather and had hordes of tourists at this time of the year. The best way to see this lovely place is to head out of town to Madupetty Dam and Top Point in one direction and towards Erviakulam National park in the other! The serpentine queues at Periyar Wild life sanctuary and Erviakulam National Park was unnerving. The loud mouth tourists ahead of us with buxom ladies and matching potbellied gents kept us amused till our turn came for the tickets at Erviakulam.
The sight of tea gardens and lakes, waterfalls and exotic flowers is almost uninterrupted and one can close his eyes and click in any direction to find a ‘picture perfect’ result! Those with young children must visit the Tata Tea Museum at Munnar that tells the story of tea and a treat of ‘hot cup of tea’ waits on the exit.
|Elephant ride in Thekkady|
After two days of foray in the hills we continued our journey to Thekkady and Kumli the twin towns separated by a distance of just 4 km. The place is known for Periyar Wild life Reserve, The Spice Gardens, Spice Market, performance of Indian martial arts ’Kalaripayattu’ and Kathakali, elephant rides through jungles, the Ayurvedic massages ! This is one place where one can grossly indulge in things of which dreams are made of. The people are very polite and hospitable, law abiding and helpful. Evey other house has a Spice Garden in the backyard where coffee plantations, cardamom, cinnamon, vanilla and many more play hide and seek with tourists! How time flew in this haven, we just did not realize.
|Cinnamon tree at Spice Garden in Kumli|
The next destination was Alleppey, but by a freak stroke of good luck we landed in Kottayam to be informed that we can traverse to Alleppey by boat through the backwaters. What more could we have asked for. Next 3 hours through the backwaters was an experience one must have in a life time. One can see the nature in its full glow and there is a galore of surprises in waiting! Exotic birds, wildlife and quaint houseboats, small houses, churches and smiling locals greet at every bend on the waterways. It is not uncommon to sight Grebes, a small bird that can swim, dive and fly in hordes in the backwaters besides, petrels, pelicans and tropic birds. After checking in the hotel, we headed to the beach which is pristine white with huge waves bouncing against the coast. Since, the clouds appeared in horizon , we missed seeing the sunset. Next morning we explored the back waters yet again right till Krishnapuram for four hours. A truly rewarding experience!
By evening we were on the last leg of our hectic trip as we landed in Trivandrum late in the evening! A crispy dosa for the dinner lulled us to sleep.
|An unusual sight of fledgling birds in backwaters at Alleppey|
Early morning we woke up to the sounds of conch shells and music coming from Padmanabhasamy temple located barely 1.5 km away. An appointment with god, on the penultimate day was very satisfying. The huge statue of reclining Lord Vishnu in sanctum sanctorum attracts thousands of visitors every year to this one of the richest temple. Later we headed for the “Kovalam’ beach which is about 16 km away from the city. It was a sunny day and the beach was thronged with crowds. Having seen this place, our final destination was to see the Chitra Art Gallery that houses the paintings of Raja Ravi Verma an artist par excellence. The creations have a ‘3D effect’ and appears will talk any moment.
Next morning our return journey commenced to Kochi by train. We visited Fort Kochi by ferry one more last time before bidding goodbye to Kerala carrying loads of memories of the holiday.