Travelogue on Kerala by a young man

On December 23rd we left for Kerala. During our trip to Kerala we visited Kochi, Aathirapalli falls, Valara falls, Cheeyapaara falls, a couple of spice gardens, Munnar, Kumily / Thekkady, Gavi / Periyar tiger reserve and Madurai. Our flight to Kochi was at 6 AM and my dad woke me up at 4:30 AM. We quickly got ready and left for the airport. The Mumbai domestic airport was extremely crowded and it felt more of a market than an airport. After a lot of hushing and pushing we finally managed to board the flight. The flight landed at Kochi international airport at 8:15 AM. I was really mesmerised by all the greenery around the runway as we landed. We picked up our bags and we went our way. The airport was surprisingly small. My dad had booked a taxi from resort the previous day and we took the taxi to go to Aathirapalli falls. The ride was scenic but I was dozing in the backseat half the time. When we reached the entrance to Aathirapalli falls I was surprised to see a monkey jump in front of me. I was startled and fell back but the monkey didn’t harm a hair of my body, instead it grabbed the tetra pack mango juice I was holding and ran off with it. At the entrance itself while my dad was taking pictures, a monkey landed from the tree and went close to my drowsy brother, and took the bun he was holding and climbed back up.    

 

To reach Athirapalli falls, we had to climb down a small hill. The hike was fun and totally worth it, because the falls take your breadth away. The famous waterfall scene in the blockbuster Movie Bahubali was shot here. We took a few photographs and hiked up back to the car. 

 The hike up was a bit tiring since it was my first hike. I was also very surprised to see my little brother hike up and down the hill. When we reached the entrance we saw a coconut vendor selling coconuts and we rushed there to drink some sweet tender coconut water. It was the best I have ever had. After that we set off to Munnar, which was about three hours drive from Kochi, but to visit Aathirapalli falls we went in the opposite direction. So we had to add another 1 hour 45 minutes to our drive. On the way we stopped at a restaurant. We sat down and had our food peacefully. The food was scrumptious. The ride from the restaurant to Munnar was very scenic. On the way we saw 2 falls, called Cheeyapara.

 After some time we approached the spice garden where we had an elephant ride to a nearby river. Even though the ride was short, it was enjoyable. Next we went inside the garden along with a guide. There were so many different types of plants that the list itself will occupy 2 pages. But I can give you some examples like

1.    Brahmi

2.    Neelamari

3.    Cardomom

4.    Lemongrass

5.    Pepper

6.    Cinnamon

At about 6:17, we reached Munnar, but we hadn’t reached the resort. The Club Mahindra resort in which we were staying was about 25 km away from Munnar. But since everybody was very hungry we decided to head to a restaurant named Saravana Bhavan. It was really crowded, but we managed to find a seat. We were treated with a lot of hospitality and personal care. We were served not in platters, but in banana leaves. I like eating in Banana leaves and so I had a good time. The food was really tasty. After this we left for the resort. We reached in about an hour’s time. The resort looked very beautiful. When we entered the lobby we saw a lifesize statue of a Kathakali dancer standing in front of us for a split second I thought it was a real person standing there.

 

We quickly checked in and went to our room. The room was really good and cozy, and in some time we jumped on our beds and were out cold. The next day my mom woke me up at 8:15 AM. I wanted to sleep more but my mom dragged me out into the balcony and boy was I glad. The view from our room was breathtaking. Tea plantations as far as the eye could see. Tea plants covered all of the mountains. We could even see the Anaierangal dam and lake.

We soon got ready and then we went for sightseeing. We went by a minibus tour organised by the resort people. We went some distance by minibus and then we took a diversion into a private road.

We got down from the bus and boarded a jeep. The jeep drove for some time on a tar road and then it took a diversion into the mud track. From there we drove offroad for about 5 km to Gudampara peak. Gaudampara was the border between tamilnadu and kerala. The ride to gudampara peak was really bumpy but thrilling. I felt I was in one of those SUV ads where the car drives through different types of terrain; we even crossed a couple of streams on the jeep. The view from Gudampara valley was superb. One could see the flat plains of Tamil Nadu as if it was a miniature model.

 We clicked some photos and then went to the forest guesthouse for snacks. We had some lemon tea and plum cake and then went for fishing. I was really excited when I saw the person who accompanied us from the resort carrying two fishing rods for us. I was getting butterflies in my stomach at first but later when no fish came to me, I got bored, disappointed and quit. So I did River crossing. In this activity one had to pull himself across the rope on the river with his hands alone. I went from one end to the other, but after I did half way of coming back, I got really tired and asked to be pulled back. I was astonished that my five-year-old brother was able to cover half the distance.  From there we went for lunch to restaurant and then headed back to the resort. Then we got ready for the Christmas party in the resort. The party was really nice and there were many stunning acts. The Tandav dance group did many dance performances. They were really stunning. We were even shown Kalaripayattu an ancient form of martial arts. It is said that the ancient art was taught by Parshuram to his 21 disciples and initiated 108 Kalaris throughout the state, basically this was “the martial arts”. What It mean is that, when Chinese monks came on pilgrimages, they needed to protect themselves from bandits, so they learned Kalaripayattu from the local practitioners of the martial art. This spread as Kung Fu throughout China and Japan. There was a long performance of Karagattam by a Limca book of record holder; this is a folk dance from Tamil Nadu.

The Christmas dinner was very tasty. The next day we did nothing much, we just relaxed in the resort playing in the fun zone and having a match of giant chess. 

 

Since we were checking out of the resort the next day, my dad was trying to make arrangements of a cab to take us to Thekkady. Club Mahindra Thekkady was situated just half a kilometre from Kumily town. When we entered the reception we were given a warm welcome. They served us some jaljeera and applied sandal tilaka on our forehead. The reception was small and we were somewhat anxious about how the resort will turn out to be, but when we entered the stone path to go to our room, we were mesmerised by the beauty of the resort. Even the resort was situated in town, club Mahindra made the inner ambience of the resort like a jungle. It had many different species of plants and also had many different kinds of birds (excluding crows and pigeons:) ). Our room was a studio room with a kitchenette. The rooms looked like wooden cottages.  We stayed in the bottom cottage. The room was really nice and clean. After we got settled, my brother and I decided to go for swimming. When we took one look at the swimming pool, we just fell like jumping into it. Plus, there was a tiny manmade waterfall near the pool whose water flowed in the pool. It was really beautiful. After swimming we went back to the room and took a shower. Since we did not have proper lunch due to journey, we all were very hungry and we left for dinner at 7:30 PM itself. The food was scrumptious and all the deserts were of my liking. The dal makhani and paneer tikka masala were finger-licking good. The next day, at 5 AM we left for the Gavi forest in the tiger reserve. We had made the bookings the earlier day itself and luckily ours was the last jeep to go to Gavi forest that day. By department rules only about 100 people are allowed in the Gavi forest per day, and ours was a close call. If we hadn’t booked it our whole trip would have been ruined, since we were in Thekkady only for 2.5 days. Anyway let’s get back in the jeep, so we drove for another 30 minutes, when we reached the entrance. It was a big arch with periyar tiger reserve written on it.

This particular section of Periyar tiger reserve was called Gavi forest. In front of the arch was a forest department check post, my dad and the driver went and showed our details and booking tickets and then continued. As soon as we entered, we drove for about ten minutes, and then suddenly my mom saw something rustling in the tree top, it was like a fat squirrel and had a orange face and really black bushy tail. We later found out that the creature that my mom saw was actually a Malabar giant squirrel. According to authorities, the Malabar giant squirrel is a rare sighting. As we continued on the road we saw elephant marks, their footprints, half eaten bamboo plants and trampled grass, we even saw (no intention to disgust) fresh elephant poop along the road. After some time we saw a line of 2 jeeps and one bus, my mom thought it was another check-post but our driver disagreed. We got down and soon enough we found out. Through the bushes we had a clean view of a wild boar. Its short tusks and brown skin were clearly visible. It was there for a long time, but after it might have seen a person on the road, it ran away. I started feelling that all the animals might have teamed up to form ‘The Gavi anti-tourism project’, because all the way to the forest guest house we just saw elephant tracks, half eaten bamboo, few langoors, and you guessed it fresh elephant poop. When we reached the forest house, we checked in, used the washrooms, had breakfast and left for the Sabarimala temple view point. The guide from forest department told us there are total of 44 tigers in the Gavi forest. He also told us that each tiger needs 25 sq hectares of land all to itself, if another tiger steps in its territory, it chases it away. The tigers each eat about 54 bisons or wild buffalos a year. Our guide said that if a tiger eats a bison, it doesn’t need anything to eat for a full week, there are plenty of bison and buffalos so most of the time the tiger doesn’t step out. The trek up the hill to the sabarimala view point was really scenic and beautiful. At the view point we saw a herd of bisons on the other hill, our guide said; they might have seen a tiger which is why they had come out into grass land. While we were returning my mom saw something white on the same hill as the bisons were on. It was in the bushes and was turning its head. After we did some research we just realised that the white animal we saw on that hill was a white tiger. Then it made sense to me, the bisons saw the white tiger and came out in the open. After the Sabarimala temple view we went for boating in the Gavi Lake.  By boat we went to another waterfall, but this time I wasn’t too excited to go since I got bored of waterfalls, well I’ve seen 3-4 waterfalls on this trip and so I thought it would be no different. But I was so wrong. The waterfall was beautiful. It wasn’t coming down with so much force and the river wasn’t so deep as well.

We crossed the river by some stepping-stones and then went near the waterfall. The river was not at all deep and I crossed the river a couple of times. Near the waterfall there were very few stepping-stones, so with a force flow it was a bit dangerous. Then I went and stood under the falls. By under I mean just a couple of centimetres in front of it. The experience was thrilling. We took quite a few photos and then we got back on our boat and did I tell you, since I was wearing sport shoes, they got completely wet. When we got back, we had lunch, sat and enjoyed the beauty for some time and then at 3:45 PM we left for the resort. We had dinner at 8:15 and then went to sleep. The next day we checked out and left for Madurai (I even had another dose of the “welcome drink” at the resort while checking out). I slept for half of the journey. After some 5 kilometres of hills, we entered flat highway. We reached Madurai at 4:30 PM. We quickly freshened up, to go the temple. On the way we stopped at Murugan Idli for snacks. The idly was really awesome. It was so soft and spongy. After that we went to the Meenakshi temple. There were five gopurams; the south tower was the tallest. We thought we’d come back the next day morning again for detailed viewing, so
we just came to pray to god. We took the quick darshan ticket and then went on our way to see goddess Meenakshi. 
Anyway we went in and it was a good thing we took the quick darshan ticket, because we were able to skip a HUGE line. We then went to see goddess Meenakshi. She was wearing a white dress and was looking really beautiful. After this, we went to see Lord Shiva. The Lingam was adorned richly with flowers and milk. We then took some Prasad and left. The next morning at 6:30 we reached the temple gate. We took the quick darshan ticket only for goddess Meenakshi this time. But this time there was no one in the quick darshan queue. As soon as we finished worshipping the goddess a huge queue appeared behind us. After this we went to worship lord Shiva, there wasn’t any rush there either. After this we took some Prasad and went to see the hall of thousand pillars. It was actually a museum. There were many idols and ivory carvings. By the way I tried seeing the pillars from any angle and boy, they do look straight. 

We then had breakfast and went to catch our train to Mumbai. It was a fun ride and I enjoyed a lot. Well I guess this is farewell, thanks for reading.

For my travelogue on Rajasthan which i visited last year, please visit Travelogue on Rajasthan by a young man

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