The first time I went to Kerala was in 2010. Having lived in Bangalore for five years and knowing that I will be leaving in a few months for uncharted territories (I was graduating that year and starting work), made it important to see and enjoy all that was there. Hence, the trip to Munnar.
Avi and I took an overnight bus from Bangalore and reached Munnar some time in the morning. The drive after Theni was beautiful as we entered the narrow roads on the hills and could see the tea estates and the waterfalls. Though it was May, it was slightly cold and the joy of being at a hill station was already seeping in. We stayed at a small hotel in Devikulam, approximately 5 kms from Munnar town. The decision was initially taken to save money (we were college kids) but turned out to be a great one. While Munnar town is crowded and noisy, Devikulam is a small quiet hill station. The hotel was located beautifully in the middle of greenery, just off the road, served brilliant Pakoras in the rain and had really bad sound-proofing. We enjoyed the food, the weather, beauty and the noisiness of kids staying at the hotel in the same spirit.
I fell in love with Munnar on my first walk from Devikulam to Munnar city. We did not have a car with us and therefore, decided to walk to the town to find some mode of transport in and around Munnar. The road goes through tea estates and woods. Instead of heading straight to see the tourist spots I decided to walk into the woods. The woods and hills hold wonderful surprises as we found ponds with beautiful views that were not mentioned in any guidebook. We took diversions into the hills and generally spend a good couple of hours covering the small distance.
We finally ran into an auto rickshaw driver who agreed to take us around for 400 rupees a day. Thus, we started the journey to Mattupetty Dam, Kundala Lake and various hill points. Mattupetty Dam was beautiful. The water from the lake reflected the green hills and made it a great place for boating. It is famous for being so deep that Indian navy does its diving practice here. We clicked photos to our heart's content, enjoyed the breeze and did some boating.
After the lake, we decided to see the waterfalls around Munnar. Attukal waterfall stood out among them. While it is usually dry during summers, we were lucky as it had been raining for last few days. The passage to the base of waterfall is narrow and allows very few cars to be parked. We walked to the base of the waterfall and sat listening to the sound of water. I have always found it quite invigorating to sit next to water. A small shop nearby was serving tea and Maggi which made my day. We returned to the town in the evening to gorge on everything from beef roast to Spanish omelette.
We had set aside a day for visiting Eravikulam National Park which is famous for Nilgiri Tahr and the views of Anamudi peak. Private vehicles are not allowed in the park. It uses its own buses to ferry the visitors and queues for the bus can be very long in peak season. The park is often closed between February to April as it is the breeding season for Nilgiri Tahr.
We reached early and spent the day there. Nilgiri Tahrs at this national park are very comfortable with people. We walked with them, played with them and even took photos of their calves. We got to see a wide range of plants, flowers and birds. The national park is also famous for its butterflies but we could not see any at that time. The view of Anamudi is beautiful. It is situated right in the middle of the tourist section of the national park and we drove around the majestic black hill that appeared to be frozen in time.
Munnar and the memories of Munnar never cease to amaze. The tea gardens, the rains, the waterfalls, the hills, hot Maggi while shivering, bright sun-light in the afternoon and above all a quietness strange to a city dweller like me will remain in the memory and be a reason to come back again and again.
I had left Munnar in 2010 with a promise to come back and made good on it in 2012. Since we had seen some of the hills already, Avi and I chose the beaches and the backwaters this time. We had planned to go to Cochin, Alleppey, Varkala and return via Trivandrum. It was our first holiday since we started working and we were super excited.
We landed in Cochin in a balmy August morning and headed to Cherai beach which is 30 kms from Cochin. The drive from the airport to Cherai was beautiful as we crossed the backwaters and saw fishermen casting their nets. We were staying at the Cherai beach resort which is perfectly located with the beach on one side and the backwaters on the other. Thus my first introduction to the beautiful Kerala backwaters was sitting on a hammock outside our cottage. We stayed in a fisherman villa, modeled after Kerala style tribal houses. It was a different feeling from a standard hotel room where we stay often enough.
Cherai beach is beautiful, clean and not very touristy. It is a perfect place to spend an evening at after a day of hectic travel. However, Kerala is a conservative state and therefore, unlike Goa, it is not always possible to swim in the beaches. After relaxing a bit, we chalked out our plan for the next few days in Cochin. One the next day, we headed to Fort Kochi. The promenade makes for a great walk. The Chinese fishing nets at Fort Kochi are said to be a beautiful sight though I was not very impressed by them. We walked from Fort Kochi to Santa Cruz Basilica and St. Francis church. Santa Cruz Basilica is built in old Portuguese style and is famous for its stain-glass work and paintings. If you are a history buff, do visit St. Francis church as Vasco Da Gama was buried there for 14 years. It also contains artefacts and relics including candlesticks, banners, chalices etc crafted in European style which give a glimpse into the history of Cochin.
The next day we headed to Athirappilly and Vazhachal waterfalls which are approximately 60 kms from Cochin. Athirappilly waterfall originates from Anamudi mountains from the height of 25 meters. The drive up to the hills is beautiful. It got cooler as we got to closer to the waterfall. After buying the entrance tickets, we walked through the forest to get to the top of the Athirappilly waterfall. We could hear birds on our way to the waterfall and enjoy the fresh air. The waterfall feels massive and the roaring sound appears to call you to nature. The forest is supposed to be great for trekking though we were not geared for it on that day.
A small pathway from the entrance leads to the base of the waterfall where you suddenly get and idea of the height and size of the waterfall. The rocks are uneven and slippery though it is worth getting closer to the waterfall as the sound of water is mesmerising. Due to high current, we did not get into the water though a number of enthusiastic souls did try. Small restaurants near the waterfalls serve local delicacies such as beef roast and chicken stew. We had a lunch of beef roast and Kerala parathas before heading back to our hotel.
The next day we headed to Alleppey in a cab. Like always, I fell asleep during the drive and woke up only when we arrived. We stayed at Citrus resort which is cut off from the mainland by the backwaters and can be reached by ferries run by the hotel. The resort was beautiful. with open green areas. We watched boathouses pass by and locals catching their daily meal in the backwaters. The next day we took a boat on the backwaters and went through a route of canals, trees and greens.
However, I did not really enjoy Alleppey much. The backwaters are good for a couple of hours but after that it is an endless maze of water. The natural beauty has been destroyed by the developments around the backwaters- for the longest while you see just a series of hotels or houses. The water is also not very clean. We also visited Alappuzha beach. The water is clean but the beach has no life of its own. It was awfully quite and the scenery was not great either. We walked across to Indian coffee house for some snacks as there are not too many places to eat near the beach. Unlike our experience of the coffee house in Kolkata, this was not very great.
In general, if you are planning a Kerala trip, I would recommend not spending more than one day in Alleppey.
This post was originally published on Travel diaries and more.