Wednesday, December 05, 2012

here we go again

Christmas is fast approaching, ours will be quiet, followed by a full house for New Year and then in mid January we are off again.

We loved our last trip to India so much that we are going to continue our exploration of a tiny bit of the west coast veering off inland occasionally. We are going for six weeks and this time we fly into Mumbai, spend some time in Goa before working our way South through Karnataka to Northern Kerala and back again.

Thats the plan.

It looks like my blog is still functioning, although there was a warning message about my e-mail account associated with it, hopefully I'll be able to continue to access it. I'll keep notes on our doings here and post piccies of what we are up to on our way around.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

last days

On our way back to Cochin from Alleppey we took the coast road and pulled into Marari Beach just to make sure the beach was as beautiful as we remembered. It was. Finally we reach Cochin and the Old Harbour Hotel. As returnees we've been given an upgrade and are now currently enjoying the facilities of their Princess Suite which has its own covered veranda with the wooden windows you see in a lot of the promotion external shots of the hotel. There is a dining table with four chairs and planters chairs with arms that extend out to enable you to put your feet up. In the bedroom are the most beautiful wide polished floor boards, upon which is another great big bed and the first bath we have seen in India. It is enormous, a roll top with the taps in the middle, an invitation to wallow if ever there was one. We still opt for a shower though! Music under the stars again was perfect.

This morning I'm awake early as usual and opt for a walk along the sea wall. We've only been away six and a bit weeks and in that time they have built a new container port which opened two or three weeks ago. It has rail links to Chennai and Bangalore. Its on the other side of the river and I watch as a container ship stacked high makes it way past the traditional Chinese fishing nets. India is changing fast.

The catches of the day were being sold, the fish vendors bicycles were lined up with their plastic crates waiting to be filled with fish before being pedalled around the town to sell, their calls echo around the streets alerting householders to the approach of the mobile store.

Our final day of hard work by the pool beckons, we might splash out on a bottle of wine tonight but possibly not as we have to be up seriously early tomorrow for our fight to Dubai and then onto London and home. Its going to be tricky adjusting!

later - I don't think we will be splashing out on wine tonight as we have just found out that the first of every month is a dry day and alcohol is not allowed to be served! It is designed to stop people spending all their wages on booze.

Sunday, February 27, 2011


I get up early and go for a walk along the beach before it gets too hot to move. It's a great time of day, lots of people are exercising along the front, walking with arms swinging, doing press ups in the sand, yoga type stretches and so on, it must be a world wide phenomenon. Here it is mostly men but some ladies in saris flutter by. Its Sunday today and there were early games of cricket and footie in progress. Then its time for breakfast and another hard day by the pool at this beautifully restored heritage hotel interspersed with bouts of watching cricket. We have been lucky enough to have had a TV in our room for both the England matches, the first England v Holland and now today a big one, England v India at Bangalore. India won the toss and are batting well, Tendulkar got 115 before being caught by Yardy.

Its difficult to believe our seven week trip is nearly over. Tomorrow we move back to Cochin ready to fly out on Wednesday. We have had an amazing time, everything has exceeded our expectations.

The only thing I think we would do differently is miss out the rice boat trip, which is so expensive and not very ecologically friendly. I think we would take a small boat up the narrow canals to look at canalside life and not worry about spending the night on the water.

All our various types of accommodation have been great. We would definitely do more home stays having experienced the kind hospitality of Anil and his family at the Royal Mist in Munnar and the dear retired teachers near Kottayam. Best coffee, breakfast and veranda award goes to Villa Jacaranda. We enjoyed the space of Kingfisher House in Kovalam and the washing machine! Best jungle setting award was the Cardamon Club outside Kumily. Best unspoilt beach location has to go to Marari Villas, there we had the delicious dilemma of beach or pool, pool or beach. Best style and ambience award goes to where we are now, The Raheem Residency - the room we have has a walk in luggage/wardrobe room which is fab as your luggage isn't strewn around the room looking as though you are about to up sticks and go any moment. Its owned by an Irish woman and two Indian men. Here, we are neat, tidy and oh so comfortable. Best entertainment award was found at the Old Harbour Hotel in Cochin where we listened spell bound under the stars to some great Indian music every night. Best value award has to go to the Indian Coffee House where we can have lunch and mineral water for both of us for less than half the cost of one beer in the hotel!

Adjusting to home life back in the UK is going to be tricky!


seen on a t-shirt sometime ago in Varkala:


Friday, February 25, 2011


We've been up in the Western Ghats again this time outside Thekkady on the edge of the Periyar Tiger Reserve. It poured with rain as we were driving up so no views for us that day. The next morning Keith walked up to the ridge above the hotel that overlooks the reserve with a guide while I tried to catch up with some Renaissance reading. Frequent sightings of bison are made there but that morning the clouds parted and they looked down on Kumily instead. Keith got suckered by a leech, difficult to think they were used as medicinal purges not so long ago! But he was enthusiastic about the whole experience.

We went elephant riding in the afternoon. I had a beam on my face from the moment we clambered on from a high platform. It easy access really, I had visions of having to climb up its leg or worse hang on while it got up from a sitting position, but it was all very civilised. We ambled around a cardamon estate trying to get used to the strange gait and wondering how on earth Botham managed to cross the Alps on one!

In the evening we went to a performance of Kalaripayattu, the oldest of martial arts, at the Mudra Kalari Centre in Kumily. We were suitably impressed with the fast and furious acrobatics and weapon wielding displays of agility.

Day 2 saw us up at 5.00 am to be collected for a jeep safari in Periyar Tiger Reserve at 5.30. It was still dark when Bibindas picked us up and roared off into the night. I had not thought through what to wear properly so I froze in the open backed jeep until the sun came up! Actually it really was rather pleasant, I've been hot and sweaty for so long. We decided to avoid the Periyar Lake area which we had heard could be very busy so we opted to visit the northern end of the reserve with a smaller man made lake. Gavi is where the various treks and jeep jaunts start from, 23k in from the reserve perimeter. The whole reserve is roughly 700 sq ks and the authorities open only a small section for tourists, roughly 40 sq ks we think the guide said.

Our guide, Varghese, was a tiny, knowledgeable, energetic totally charming local man and he said elephants had been spotted nearby that morning so off we set. After one or two false starts there they were. Amazing. Just time to click, click, click before they ambled off and disappeared just like that. I cannot get my head round how something so large can just disappear as though it had put on Harry Potters invisible cloak. There are said to be about 1,000 wild elephants roaming around, due to the acreage we were quite lucky to spot them at all, at one point we could hear them crashing around and see the undergrowth moving about but absolutely no sign of them. There was no sign of the tigers either, the 40 or so that inhabit the reserve are further east deep in the jungle. We did see languers - monkeys with long tails, Giant Squirrels, hornbills, distant bison and samba deer in the utterley fabulous mountain scenery. Great day out, absolutely knackering though - the 5.30 start was a severe shock to the system!

Now we are back on the steaming hot coast at Aleppey, smack on the beach in a heritage hotel. Sunset, a G&T and supper is calling!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

We had a look at North Cliff, the other part of Varkala. It has rows of little stalls perched on the cliff edge. We think it's where all the old hippies that didn't make it home hang out!

I think if I had found this place in the 60's I might not have got home either! Its been lovely but its time to squidge those suitcases again and move on. This time we are off to the hills again and the Periyar National Park.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Temple Festival

It's party time in Varkala! Take two elephants, one with big willie, mix in some dancers of indeterminant gender, some beefcake drummers and green people and away you go! Utterly fab.