Another successful season at the hotel and so another holiday planned. Because of Toby's health problems, for a while we weren't sure if we'd make the flight we'd booked a couple of months earlier to Kerala in southern India. But in the end (and having made sure that Toby was recuperating from his operation) we disembarked into the 30 degree heat of Trivandrum airport.
|Phil had visited Kerala almost twenty years previously, but then had stayed at the - reportedly now overdeveloped - resort of Kovalam. For this trip research had steered us towards Varkala, with its laid-back reputation. On arrival, we were more than happy with our choice, including of the hotel we had picked. The Krishnatheeram was situated at the far north end of Varkala's cliff path which was the resort's main drag, with it's bars, restaurants and tourist shops. The main beach was reached by a set of steps, but we preferred to use the smaller Fisherman's beach which was both closer to our hotel and easier to get down to. And every evening found us, Kingfisher in hand, watching the sun set over the Indian Ocean from the hotel garden.|
We sandwiched five days of travelling through other parts of southern Kerala between two beach-based segments of our holiday. The first day was spent cruising the backwaters around Alleppey on a converted rice barge, complete with viewing platform, kitchen and four staff. We also spent the night on the barge, in one of the two en-suite cabins, although this was less successful due to both a broken air conditioning unit and the broadcasting - from 5am - of Indian pop music from loudspeakers at the local village. We were quite bleary-eyed when our driver Babu met us for the next stage of our trip.
We spent two nights in a 'homestay' (Indian B&B) in the town of Kumily, near
the Periyar national park. (Another) five am start saw us being picked
up by a Jeep and driven into the park.
After an early (and largely unsuccessful - unless you count leeches) attempt to spot wildlife, we were first taken to a viewing point in the mountains before being brought down to a lakeside lodge for breakfast. A 7km hike around the lake (suitably attired in leech-proof socks!) was followed by lunch and then a row across the lake to a photo opportunity by a waterfall.
It was on the return journey to Kumily that our closest contact with wildlife occurred. After spotting some wild elephants at a distance, we then became aware of a family - much closer - to our right. At one point we were only three metres away, and the baby elephant trumpeted to let us know that they were not amused!
|The next morning Babu drove us north, higher up into the mountains. Munnar is an old hill station, surrounded by tea plantations. We didn't stay in the town itself, but 20km outside in a new hotel called Cloud 9, surrounded by the spectacular scenery.|
|Only one night in the port of Cochin, so we treated ourselves to the top boutique hotel in the main tourist area. Largely recreating Phil's visit eighteen years before, we investigated the Chinese fishing nets and spent an informative (and long!) evening learning about Kathakali dancing. A late-night meal listening to Indian classical music in the hotel courtyard, and the following morning saw us refreshed for our return to Varkala and a last few days of the beach life.|
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