There is something about picking the right destination for your vacation, so many parameters to consider – chance of getting off at the same time as your husband and child, season, range of activities, finances, the Internet, the opinions of a million and finally the actual interest of wanting to go to that place , all in the same order as mentioned!
We brainstormed many places before finally sealing it -Kerala it was!A lot of our friends cited that the monsoon could play spoilsport but trust me , the monsoon was the icing on the cake! It made the scenery look like ‘photoshop green ‘!
The first thing that caught my eye while driving from the Kochi airport were the solar panels. A hoarding just above them mentioned that this was India’s first airport completely powered by solar energy ! Wow! Impressed, I stared out of the window across lush green fields and secretly began looking forward to a great trip.
Our first stop at Kochi was the famous Athirapalli waterfalls ( touted to be one of the top three hidden treasures of South India ). In the recent past it has gained more popularity, thanks to the magnum opus – Bahubali!
Anyways, the route to Athirapalli is scenic to the say the least -grey roads fringed with lush green flora on either side, gushing waterfalls at regular intervals and a light drizzle in the air…aaahhh too good to be true…
Coming from one of the rain deprived states of India, we stopped at every water body – waterfalls, beaches, lakes, rivers, rain and even puddles!
Before stopping at Athirapalli, on advice from our friends we decided to visit Vazhachal – the source of the dense Athirapalli. The area was fenced and swimming was not allowed much to the disappointment of my husband and child!
Athirapalli of course more than made up for this and they had a royal dip and hours of uninterrupted water fun.
We as a family our obsessed with water so obviously when given a choice between the little Dutch colony of Fort Kochi and the munnambam river mouth, we chose the latter.
One of the lesser known places at Kochi is the Munnambam river mouth. It is a spectacular sight where the Periyar river meets the sea. The place has been developed and maintained very well. There is the river on one side, the beach on the other and they converge to meet at the river mouth – awesome wonders of nature.
Our final stop for the day was Cherai beach , however owing to the monsoon we didn’t venture into the beach.
All tired and wet ,we dried ourselves and hit the bed. The next day we left for our next stop – Thekkadi. Words fail me to describe the journey up the hills to this popular hill station. The forest here is home to at least 1000 elephants. We kept watching out for a chance meeting with these giant mammals but much to our luck! The manicured tea estates on either side of the road and a mild whiff of fried bhajjis from the little tea shops were a constant on this route.
In order to experience the feel of a forest , we had booked ourselves into one of the three guest houses at the Periyar tiger reserve situated amidst the forest. The guest house was good, the food was great and it had a lot of options for children – a dart board, a play area, board game rooms and a small library.
That evening was spent exploring these little things. The next morning was the big safari morning. Being veteran ‘safari -goers’, we have set some rules for ourselves – never go with the expectation of ‘spotting animals’, always get into the jeep to ‘ soak in the forest’ and forget the previous two rules the minute you sit in the jeep!
The core area of the Periyar forest is known as the Gavi zone. It takes about 45 minutes by jeep to reach the core zone. Due to the monsoon season, we couldn’t spot a single animal – not an elephant, not a monkey, not even a deer.
The package to Gavi zone includes a 45 minute boat ride in a man made lake in the forest. It was during this ride did we see the beautiful Neer Veezhcha waterfalls. So inviting was it that we just had to get wet!
We got off the boat and walked on a make shift bridge made of differently shaped rocks and stones to reach the waterfalls.
Post an hour of water fun, we jumped back into the boat and back to the land we rowed. Our last bit of adventure was a little trek into the Periyar forest. Owing to the rains , there were a lot of leeches. But we decided to go for the trek anyways. Leeches were climbing up our legs, hands and neck, but a little salt on the affected area would make the leeches just fall off!
The thekkadi trip was seeming very incomplete without spotting the elephant, a wish that came true when we went on a boat safari in the mighty Periyar. We spotted exactly one elephant who had reluctantly stepped out to sip water. Finally !
Our last stop in Kerala was Kumarakom- land to the famous backwaters. We had booked ourself into a resort right at the backwater and couldn’t wait to check in.
One glance at the resort and we knew we had hit bull’s eye.
The cottages, the pebbled pathways, the view of the backwater and the beautifu in house pet rabbits of the resort. It was a perfect end to our vacation in Kerala.
But not before a houseboat ride in the backwater. The first sight of the little islands in the backwaters was beautiful – surreal.
We enjoyed island hopping in the backwaters. We had hot Maggi and cutting chai in one island, a pet eagle perched on my husband’s hand much to his surprise on another island and we enjoyed a few traditional handicraft shops in a third island.
Completely satiated with the the trip we began retreating homewards on a highway that had Rajnikant posters from his new film Kaala on either side!! There’s something about the south – the people, the food, the simplicity, Rajnikant….