It’s been a week since I’ve updated – I’ve been off blogging ill. My friends from home arrived last Friday and as of Saturday I’ve been a slave to the moods, foibles and eccentricities of the notorious ‘Delhi Belly’.
For your sakes I won’t go into the details but let’s just say I haven’t been able to stray far from a toilet since it struck. I’ve taken umpteen rehydration sachets, been on two pharmacy visits, had antibiotics, spewed off the side of a bridge, had to pretty much beg a random to go in their house and use their toilet (which was in the equivalent of an MDF telephone box in a living room full of people), had three nights where I spent more time in the bathroom than in my bed and haven’t kept one meal inside me for more than an hour or two in that time. It’s been emotional, annoying and disturbing. I was determined not to go to a hospital and have been drinking all I can to try and flush the bug out, somehow. I’m verging on the road to recovery now and hope that come Goa, the next stop, I’ll be back to my former self.
All the eating and drinking I was looking forward to with my friends has been off the cards as for what could be the first time in my life I’ve been unable to finish anything that I’ve ordered, for six days. I’ve even ordered gin and tonics and wine and not been able to even start them, let alone finish. It’s bad.
So what have I been doing?
We’ve been floating around the state of Kerala, from Kochi to Periyar to Marari to Alleppey. It soon became obvious that neither of the three of us registered quite how big India is, although after two 7-hour journeys in cars and buses we’re starting to understand. We’ve spent a lot of time travelling. We broke down on both journeys and from the reactions of our bus companions it seemed perfectly normal.
The bus we got from Thekkady would be better known as the Thekkady Rollercoaster – after changing buses after the breakdown the next one was packed and we were stood down the centre holding on with white knuckles as the driver sped round the corners of the mountain. It was tough holding on to my stomach and the rails at the same time.
– Check out these Kerala tour packages to avoid these problems!
We’ve just been wandering around and taking it in. My friends went on a three-hour nature walk and saw some elephants in Periyar, the same hike which we found out later had been some snap happy tourists’ last. They’d used a flash on an elephant and it attacked them, killing them both. Apparently there was no mention of any safety precautions thanks to this on the walk though. They also went to check out a spice plantation for the afternoon. I missed out on both thanks to my new found reliance on the bathroom.
We stayed at the beautiful Marari Beach Resort near Alleppey (more on that later) and chilled at the pool for the day. Well, apart from the 15 minutes we went in the sea and my expensive prescription Ray Bans were ripped from my face by the huge waves, never to be seen again unless a short sighted mermaid happens to come across them that is. We also went to the Thekkady Flower Show and saw some great dancers among the huge yams, pumpkins and flower arrangements. And we’ve been to see a martial arts performance too.
I sound moany but in between the toilet visits, the lost sunglasses, the epic journeys, the under researched route and the wasted meal times I’m really enjoying being with my friends and experiencing India together. Highlights of the last week include a cooking class we did at the beautiful Marari Resort, more on that soon, a Kathakali show we saw in Periyar (photo above) and the houseboat we took through the Alleppey backwaters overnight.
I’ve still got mixed feelings about India. Right now I’m on the Radjhan Express train on the way to Goa. We got on at 10pm last night to find I was still on the waiting list – the booking process is ridiculous here – but my friends’ tickets had been approved. The only option was to share my sleeper bed with Chloe and to be grateful they’d even let us do that. So the last 7 hours have been spent very cosily.
We’ve got high expectations of Goa based on people’s reactions when we’ve said we’re going, and the fact we’re all going to be healthy, full of energy and ready for anything. I’ll let you know how I get on!
What to see and do in Kerala
It’s no surprise the region is nicknamed ‘God’s Own Country’, referring to the myth of Parasurama, who threw down his axe to hold back the ocean, creating Kerala in the process. Kerala seems to contradict the fact it’s a part of India; the pace of life is much more laid back and you’re more likely to find yourself on an empty beach than in a bustling city. However, despite it’s backwater status, Kerala is one of the most highly educated states in India so you’ll have no problem finding someone who speaks English, no matter where you are.
If you want to learn a new skill, you could book a lesson at a Kalarippayat school? This martial art dates to the 12th century and is based on pressure points on the human body – perfect if you’ve ever wanted to floor an opponent with a single jab Bruce Lee stylie!
If you’re planning a trip to Kerala chances are you’re already a beach lover. You’re never far from the coast and my advice is just to explore and find your own favourite beach. But if you need a starting point I’d recommend a couple of beaches outside of Trivandrum: wild Varkala and popular Kovalam.
Varkala is not somewhere to visit for a relaxing swim; here the Arabian Sea crashes against cliffs and the undercurrents are very dangerous. Instead you should visit the Janardana Swamy Temple or get an aromatherapy massage at one of the many beach side parlours. Palm-fringed Kovalam, in contrast, is a beachcomber’s paradise. Set in a sheltered cove, the waters here are safe for swimming, making it the perfect spot for a lazy day. There are loads of cheap bars and restaurants on both beaches so you can easily make a day of it.
The beaches and backwaters of Kerala are always popular but if you want to really get away from it all head for the Periyar National Park in Thekkady. This primeval forest is home to monkeys, elephants, leopards, and a protected community of Royal Bengal tigers. Pre-booked tours are the way to go as local ‘guides’ will just rip your off. A day’s jeep safari plus rafting will cost you around 2,500 INR (£25) including lunch.
Top 5 things to do in Kerala
- Take an elephant safari of the Munnar tea plantations and experience a ‘walk in the clouds’ as the mountain mists spontaneously descend upon you.
- Choose a beach, any beach, and spend the day sunning yourself.
- Make like a celebrity chef and join a Keralan family for a houseboat meal on the backwaters around the ‘Venice of the East’, Alleppey.
- Go tiger spotting in Periyar National Park – the big cats are notoriously elusive but there’s loads of other animals to see.
- Watch the sunset from famous Alleppey Beach. It’s one of the most photographed spots in Kerala, add yours to Instagram #sunset #beachlife #kerala of course.