A short account of the excellent trip we(Sandesh, Pascal, Barbara and I) had to Kerala(God's own country).
20th June, 2009: Left from Mumbai, Lokmanya Tilak Terminus at 11:40am by Netravati Express. The train journey was essentially uneventful with us eating stuff we had brought from home. We avoided the train food as much as possible since it is known to down your spirits.
21st June, 2009: Anyhow, we couldn't avoid calling for breakfast when an undercooked dossa greeted our bile-infested stomachs and was probably digested. We got off at 2:50pm(the scheduled arrival time for the train.. surprise! surprise! the train was on time!!) at Ernakulam Junction. We did run into some (very little) trouble locating our driver for the trip(Pradeesh), but we eventually did find him. He took us to the first place we were supposed to go to: Kapithan Inn at Kochi. This is a nice home-stay run by a very friendly lady named Pushpa. The time spent there was really nice. We visited the beach, which has fisher-folk that use Chinese Fishing Nets to catch their prey. Kathakali dance performances take place every evening at 7pm. After a nice stroll, we decided to get something to eat. Finding a good eatery wasn't easy, but we did manage to find one called "Elite Inn". The waiter there was really over-worked but was good.... The food was good, and we ate well.
22nd June, 2009: Breakfast was at Elite Inn, and we and headed off to Kumarakom for the House-boat stay in the back waters. This was really the bestest of times we had.... There were 3 people waiting on us, The Chef(Anish), the driver(Meneesh) and the third took over when the driver was tired. Frankly speaking there was nothing to get tired about, but what the heck!! And I guess these guys must be finding it slightly monotonous to do the same thing every time, and greet everyone with the same enthusiasm and show them around.... This however, was a truly amazing experience.... Neither words nor pictures would do justice to what we experienced on the house boat. The back waters are a very still mass of water where the house boat just slithered along beautifully. We had fresh sunari(golden) coconuts and good food all around.
23rd June, 2009: Again, amazing breakfast and a very serene ride back to where we started off. This ended at about 10:00am. From here, we took the car and headed off to Thekkady. This was a slightly tiring and longish drive(about 41/2 hrs). We had stopped at a small place to have some tea. These long drives on hills really get to me cause there are so many sharp turns and when you are turning on these roads, all the food in your stomach starts to move about, and you feel giddy and sleepy. Well, we reached our place of stay -- Cardamom Club. This is another heaven on earth. There are about 4 small cottages on a small hillock over looking a treehouse. Behind the cottages is a hill on which Cardamom Club's plantations reside. The porch(the hillock on which the cottages are) is also filled with cardamon, vanilla and pepper plants. There are also jackfruit, papaya and mango trees here. The staff(Lijo and Shibu) was really co-operative and the food was really awesome! We had mango juice and papaya from fruits that grew in their own plantations. There is a old lady that did the cooking. She had the most amazing smile.... It reminded me of happiness.... :)
24th June, 2009: Went to a spice garden(Deepa Spices). Didn't like it so much. We would recommend other places like Abraham's Spice Garden, which is recommended by Lonely Planet. The one that we went to didn't show us much and the spices there were very highly priced. At 3:30pm we left for a boat ride in the Periyar Wildlife Reserve. We made it _just_ in time for the 4:00pm boat. However, Shibu had already bought tickets for us(you get them an hour before the boat ride) which is why we were able to go. The boat ride was nice.... It reminded Sandesh of scenes from Jurassic park. We didn't see to many wild animals though. We saw cows, bull, deer, pigs and some birds(the name of whom I do not know). The place closes at 6:00pm(which is also when the boat ride ends). We bought some spices after moving about in many shops and retired for the night after dinner.
25th June, 2009: Left for Munnar. Stopped on the way at a Spice Garden that was a home-run place. Really liked this place. Just bought stuff from here. They have the plantation, their home and the factory in one place. They grow their own vegetables to eat as well!! Again, longish drive that I didn't like too much. However, Pascal stopped us on the way and we took a nice 2 hour break at the Kannan Devan tea gardens. We spotted some cow munching grass and not doing much ;-) On reaching Munnar(about 4:30pm) we had lunch at some restaurant. I don't remember the name, but it was alright. We reached the home stay(Aranyaka) at about 5:30pm. It was too late to move out after that because of the mist so we retired for the day. The person who owned and was managing the home stay was a lady named Poornima. The person who was entertaining us was named Suresh.
26th June, 2009: We has good breakfast(tea, toast and omlette) and left at about 9:40am for Mattupatty dam. We thought there would be pedal boating out there, but there was only speed boating there. We were told that this time last year, the water on the dam was 120ft, but this time it was just 60ft, so there had been lesser rainfall this year as compared to last year. We were told that pedal boating would be available at the dam about 10km ahead. This dam is called Kundala Dam. We reached there to find out that we had not been lied to and in fact had pedal boats!! So, we hired them for 30min each(up to 3 ppl. in each pedal boat, but since there were 4 of us, we too 2 each). This was a really nice experience!! There were ducks in the lake too. Halfway, we decided to stay on for 30 min more. We were able to cover the whole lake :) After that, we went to echo point. There was nothing much interesting happening here[interesting incident with Barbara...]. Then we went back to have lunch. We hunted for some nice place and finally settled on Hotel Saravan Bhavan which we thought would be good. And it turned out to be an excellent place to have authentic South-Indian food. We would recommend it to everyone who visits Munnar.
27th June, 2009: We had to start off early(about 8:30am) for Ernakulam Junction since we had a train to catch at 2:15pm. The trip to the station was said to take about 4hrs 30min. We bought halwa, chips and bananas on the way and reached the station just in time(about 15mins to spare).
28th June, 2009: I didn't have any breakfast in the train, but had lunch. They had nice big kerala rice along with sambhar. I was really hungry at that time. When I reached home, I had khari puris, shrikhand, karela ki sabzi(bitter gourd vegetable) and daal(pulses). A truly relished meal!!!! I then topped it off with vanilla flavoured milk that I made with the vanilla that I had brought back from Kerala :) Ah! End of a really nice trip.... :) :)