Skepticisms were abound, when I first planned our family vacation to Kerala in November ‘12. We did not know the place, the culture and most important the language. We had no tour operators and the entire trip was planned by us.
When we landed in Kochi, we were welcomed by our driver Jeet who could speak fluent English. That put us at ease and we relaxed in our car. In Kochi we stayed in KTDC’s Bolgatty Island and the beauty of this place is that from the resort you can see the sunrise as well as sunset over backwaters. We relaxed in Kochi for couple of days and then started our journey to Munnar.
The journey from Kochi to Munnar was mesmerizing. On the way we stopped at a spice garden and took elephant ride in the gardens. The elephant ‘Rupa’ became a good friend of my daughter as much so that she still remembers Rupa. Our stay in Munnar was on the hills in one of the homestays. I feel it is the best place in the world, if you to spend some quality time with your family or even with yourself. Surrounded by tall trees and a well maintained garden added a lot of serenity to the place. Till now I haven’t got enough opportunity to flex my fingers… ahem I mean click photos. But while we took a walk in the hills and tea-gardens in the evening, I could capture some beautiful images even in the dying light.
Next whole day we roamed around in Munnar. We went to flower garden, tea garden and even got a chance to shoot the endangered ‘Nilgiri Tahrs’. Following morning we started our journey to Thekkady. I was too excited about this part of the journey, as I planned to go to Periyaar Wildlife Resrerve and get to shoot some Malabar Giant Squirrel and if lucky, see the beautiful beast.
As expect the journey from Munnar to Thekkady was awesome. In Thekkady on the day of arrival, which was also Diwali, we enjoyed the evening by watching the traditional Kerala martial arts and Kathakali performances. Both these performances were excellent and made me proud with our rich and diverse culture. Kathakali gave me opportunity to flex my fingers… yup you got it right this time :)
Next early morning or shall I say little past midnight, we started our (no just mine) most anticipated journey into Periyaar Wildlife Reserve. Braving the cold in an open jeep we reached the jungle to start our safari. During safari, we missed a group of wild elephants as it seemed they just crossed the road. Our driver was making all his efforts to show us something, but probably due to extreme cold early morning, the birds and bees and the animals, decided not to show or pose for my camera. We could spot a Malabar squirrel but I could get only a documentary shot. But near the rest house in the jungle, I found some sunbirds playing around and that gave me ample of opportunity to …. you got it, flex my fingers.
Next day we proceeded to our last stop Alleyppy. I was very skeptic about Alleppy as we had decided to stay on a house boat for a day. Considering that our first boat ride in Kochi was disastrous, I had no expectations from this ride. But boy-o-boy, the boat ride turned out to be the high point of the tour. An entire boat for yourself, with a cook that makes mouthwatering food and a driver or should I say captain, who enjoys catering to you, was more than we could ever ask. The entire day and night spent in backwaters will remain with all three of us for the lifetime. This is the first time in the trip; I did not want to flex my fingers. Yes you read it right. It was so relaxing that I never wanted it to end.
Next day, we moved to Kaits Home, a backwater village homestay near Alleyppy town. The owners of this homestay are very gentle and caring people. They gave us a boat, more of a canoe (along with a boatman, of course) and we rowed our way to the village church and the village market. The homestay was so beautifully done that we promised ourselves that we will come back to this place again. We spent the evening in Alleyppy sea-shore, where I could, yes, flex my fingers and got some lovely snaps of my lovely wife and sweet daughter.
Next morning we left for Kochi to catch our flight back home. But we left something back in Kerala, we left our heart and carried back all our sweet memories, with a promise to return again. In this journey, we enjoyed and explored, sun and sea-shore, mountains and hill station, culture and wildlife, backwaters and old heritage. All this in one trip can only be possible in only one place in the world –Kerala. Truly God’s Own Country.