diana_sjoerd (diana_sjoerd) wrote,

Kerala (Nov '10)

We wanted a holidays of 'blissfully doing nothing'... just sit back and relax. And what better place than God's Own Country - Kerala?
Chinese fishing nets in Kochi
After a hard week of work, we took a flight on Friday evening to Kochi in south India (Silk Air upgraded us to business class - nice way to start the trip!). We arrived late, took a taxi to Fort Cochin (Kochi's old town) and crashed in bed at our small hotel, which was a former Portuguese mansion.

The next morning we made a short walk around the old town, and were surprised by its distinctly European feel - a mix of Portuguese, Dutch, and English countryside, located in south India... quite incredible!

Houseboat trip on Kerala's backwatersWe walked by several churches and nice villas, when we got to a shore lined with large constructions called Chinese Fishing Nets. They were still actively used and there was a bustling fish market in front of them - a great photo opportunity...

We left Kochi for a two-hour drive south to Allepey, where we boarded the houseboat that we'd stay on for the next two days. Houseboats are a popular way to see the famous backwaters of Kerala, and Count the ducks...we heard many good stories about it. But we didn't expect it to be this nice and comfortable! It was a beautiful boat with two bedrooms, three staff, upper deck, dining area, etc... all just for us - yeah!

Shortly after we left, we stopped for lunch and were served the most delicious Indian food we ever had, and Diana just couldn't stop eating, and eating and eating... Blissful relaxation had started!

The rest of the afternoon we slowly cruised down the river, and watched life unfold on the river banks. It seemed very peaceful and truly showed a different face of India - far from the usual crowds and noise.
Great food on board the houseboat
In the evening, we made a sunset walk to a nearby village and rice paddies, and bought some 'toddy' (local drink made from coconut milk) on the way back. After a nice dinner, we played cards, drank toddy, and rolled into bed early.

Houseboat trip on Kerala's backwatersThe next morning, the light was great so we took many photos of life on and around the river - birds everywhere (including countless kingfishers), some fishermen in tiny boats, houseboats, villagers with their cows on the shore... It was a beautiful morning.

For breakfast we could choose between toast with jam or a local speciality of rice noodles shaped into small bundles, and egg curry with vegetables. Needless to say we didn't eat any of the toast!
After breakfast we took some more photos on the sun deck - the coconut trees reflecting in the water with subtle morning light was a great backdrop, and not to be wasted.

We slowly went down the river again and stopped a few times for sightseeing. First was a Christian church where some children were baptized (it was Sunday) - with enthusiastic singing and chanting in Malayali (the local language), which was quite a funny combination. The second stop was to check out a 'snake boat' used for the annual snake boat race - this rowing boat fits over 130 people, of which 100+ rowers.

Houseboat trip on Kerala's backwatersThe rest of the afternoon went by very relaxed, we stopped at a nice and quiet place for the night, had another delicious dinner and listened to the rain pouring down on the boat - a great end to a great day. All in all, the house boat trip was truly divine.

The next morning we left on time, to be back at the jetty by 9am from where we took a taxi to Kumily, next to the famous Periyar National Park. We checked into the lovely Jungle View Guesthouse, which is right next to the park and to the Tamil Nadu border, and which truly lives up to its name - in the first hour, we saw several monkeys and giant squirrels in the garden, and there was a porcupine and a civet in the night.
Giant squirrel in the garden of our guesthouse
In the afternoon we visited one of Kumily's many spice gardens, where there was an amazing variety of spices and medicinal herbs (pepper, cloves, cardammon, cinnamon, sandalwood, tea, vanilla, chilies, coffee, cocoa... you name it, and it was there). We bought quite a lot in their well-stocked shop, of course

Next was a viewpoint, high on a cliff overlooking a huge waterfall and a valley (which was already Tamil Nadu). We returned to the guesthouse, and prepared a pineapple for the porcupine - we were hopeful to spot it, but the next morning the pineapple was gone and no sight of the porcupine. But there was a sign of the civet (he left his coffebean-filled poo on the veranda)...

Periyar National ParkOn Tuesday morning, we entered the park for a day of trekking and bamboo rafting. This was billed as the best way to spot wildlife, so we were very hopeful - maybe this time we'd finally see wild elephants! But it would be though, as this park is 777 square kilometers, there are less than 750 elephants and 40-odd tigers, and it was the rainy season (so less chance to see animals at the lake).

It started well with a beautiful deer at the entrance to the bark. For the trip itself, we had four guides and an armed guard (for what, we don't know). Their English wasn't great, but we trusted their skill to spot wildlife (many guides are from forest tribes and used to be poachers, before the 90's when they were hired as guides - a better way to make a living and better for the park). Poaching is rare nowadays, and you can see that in the abundant wildlife throughout the park.Black langor monkey (with baby) in Periyar National Park

We started with a two-hour walk through wide plains and dense forest, where we soon spotted a group of black langoor monkeys, playing in the canopy. The scenery was spectacular, and we soon arrived to a large lake (26 square kilometer, man-made by the British in 1895). There were a couple of basic bamboo rafts, on which we's slowly paddle over the lake.

To our delight, as soon as we got to the rafts, we saw six wild elephants across the lake (one male, three females and two babies)! After looking for Asian elephants in the wild in Thailand, Borneo and Nepal, we finally had our luck.. We were delighted!
Elephants in Periyar National Park
We paddled across the lake, got on the land, and managed to get quite close. We could watch them walk around and graze for a while, until they decided to retreat into the forest. It was great looking at them grazing peacefully.

We also enjoyed a comic side-kick, a mangoose, who dashed across the grass in front of the elephants - apparently, that's also quite a rare sight.
Elephants in Periyar National Park
After lunch, we paddled back, and walked back for two hours to the camp HQ. We saw a big family of wild boars by the lake, and a bison with calf in the bushes, and of course several black monkeys. All in all, we were very lucky to see so much wildlife!

The next day, we took it easy (Diana got an ayurvedic massage), and we relaxed around the guesthouse (trying to spot more wildlife in the garden) until it was time to leave for the airport.

Kerala is one of the most relaxing parts of India, and we'll definitely be back one day!

For more photos, click here.


  • Seychelles (Nov '11)

    This holiday was our 'baby moon' - the last holiday with just the two of us, while Diana could still travel and before our baby arrives in…

  • Phuket (Oct '11)

    Diana’s best friend Viki was her for a few weeks, and we decided to go with her to Phuket for 5 days. Mid-October is generally a good time to…

  • Europe (April '11)

    Diana started the holidays a bit earlier, and spent a couple of days in Hungary and Romania visiting friends and family, eating her mum’s…

  • Post a new comment


    default userpic
    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.