As we stepped off the plane onto the tarmac of Cochin airport, the humidity grabbed hold of us, a bead of sweat ran down my neck. We were back in India for the first time in a couple of years…our last visit left us wanting more and it was great to be back. India is like marmite, you either love it or hate it, but one things for sure, it leaves you with a travel experience you will never forget. It seriously is like nowhere else in the world. One billion people fighting for space in some of the most populated cities on our planet.
The smells of spices, masala tea and incense. Endless food stalls serving up fresh dosa’s, pakoras, chappatis and all sorts of fried donut looking things! Tuk-tuks, rickshaws, cars, cows, buses, trucks, motorbikes zipping round hand on horns and people going about their daily business; organised chaos. But for some reason, it grips you and doesn’t let go.
We took the public airport bus to the area known as Fort Cochin, an area which in the past few hundred years has been ruled by the Portuguese, Dutch and British before independence in 1947. Old colonial buildings spread out along the seafront including The Dutch Palace, St Francis Church and the oldest Jewish synagogue in India. The Jewish community dates back to the 12th Century, now only one Jewish family remain here.
We spent the day wandering the streets and sampling an array of street food and Chai tea. In the evening we watched a traditional Keralan Kathakali performance and after indulged in more food. This time Tibetan momo’s and headed back to our homestay; The Wright Inn. Our shoe box sized room felt like a sauna, after a few minutes swatting mosquitoes, we fell into a deep sleep.
The next day was spent cruising the backwaters on a luxury yacht, or should I say a sort of rotten old sinking boat! Anyway, the sights and sounds of river life were truly amazing. It was our fourth wedding anniversary so we treated ourselves to a lovely meal of Keralan fish curry and onion pakoras. Kochin was a good place and a couple of days was a perfect introduction to Southern India.
The next day we took the 7.30am bus to Munnar. A six hour journey of hairpin bends and total Indian driving madness through the mountain roads into tea country. For me, driving in India is a terrifying experience, I can’t begin to explain. It’s extremely cheap but you feel like you could die at any turn! We eventually arrived in Munnar, celebrated with a Chai and thanked the lord we had survived!
Our homestay was 20kms through a beautiful landscape of tea plantations. At dusk, we walked through small villages to a waterfall, sat and drank refreshing ginger tea. During the evening, a guy named Santosh knocked on our door and offered to take us trekking through spice and tea plantations up to his family home in the mountains. We accepted and walked for hours the next day. He showed us a whole host of spices on the way, Cardamon, Pepper, Ginger, Cinnamon and Cocoa. An abundance of fruits: Mango, Banana, Papaya, Jack fruit and Guava. You truly can live off the land here.
Santosh’s home was very basic, but you could tell there was so much love and happiness there. He was extremely proud of his daughters, showing us medals they had received in school for shot putting and running! They cooked us some food and of course some Chai tea. As soon as we got there, Santosh kicked his shoes off, took off his top and was up the the tree in a flash, picking us some fruit from the top! We had such a wonderful time.
Munnar is famous for its tea plantations which stretch for miles, changing translucent shades of green as the sun changes position, it really is an incredible sight. The next day, we arranged a trek with the local tourist information. The guide Anjit, led us on a memorable hike along rolling hills, tea plantations and eucalyptus forests. We met a great couple from Spain and Romania, a special day finished off with some tea and a huge Masala Dosa – Yum!
We had arrived at Marari Beach, a 20 minute rickshaw journey from Allepey. The plan was to relax for a few days…think crystal clear waters and coconut trees fluttering in the sea breeze. Well you wont get it on an Indian beach apart from in busy Goa!
Marari beach is a fisherman’s beach; extremely rustic with a beautiful charm. A cup of chai and some freshly grilled seafood from a handful of wooden shacks are as good as it gets. In a way, I love this type of beach, you get to chat with the locals and get a real castaway feeling. The feeling of isolation with only a few options is really appealing, well for a few days anyway!
Our time in Kerala had come to an end, next stop… SRI LANKA!!
Hope you enjoyed it, loads of love Mizark x