Alleppey & Munnar in Kerala or God’s own country

My last train in India took me to Alleppey, also called Alappuzha as most of the places here have two or more names. The heat was intense although it was less hot than in Gokarna, the humidity made it unbearable. But after 14 hours in a train I felt like walking and so I did until getting to the location where I knew there were a few guest houses. On my way I had the chance to see the canals crossing Alleppey and getting to the shore and I also realised how communist was the state of Kerala: there were red flags everywhere! Even in small little stupas! Also, the face of Fidel Castro, recently dead, was here and there. I was curious about it all.

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Pretty communist, uh?

I found a guest house on budget after a bit of bargaining which I love and I am just good at it. I do it every time, everywhere. It is part of me now and I feel ok with it, I actually enjoy getting things cheaper than they were offered initially and I like the feeling of victory when you obtain a fair price after a too inflated price. At the end I got a room in a home stay for the three of us that I would be using for a cheaper price just for myself the first night, until Nicolo and Elia arrival. I took the evening easy; I got excited as I had a supermarket right next to the home stay. A real supermarket like the ones I know and the first of the kind I see in India. On top of that, it had a Santa Claus at the door, making me feel weird about the feeling of Christmas as it was so hot. But lovely, because it will be Christmas very soon and I barely have any Christmassy feeling or consciousness about how close it is.

Next day I got to the main canal and checked the boats, the boatmen and cruises offers trying to get the perfect deal for next day, when I would tour the backwaters with the Italian guys. After making my investigations, I had time for myself until the arrival of the guys, but there was not much to do in the town: there was a beach that was a bit far and honestly I have had enough of that and there were a couple of temples to check. I decided on the latter option, in an attempt to walk around and get a sense of the city and Kerala. The temples were just simple temples and on my way to the second one, lots of students were out after finishing their classes. I got distracted with a group of boys, all teenagers, that were smiling and saying hello at me and because I didn’t have anything else to do, I came closer and say hi. They were delighted and then one of them asked me where I was going and to come with me. It seemed to me a bit odd at the beginning, but ok. That was my mistake, he started asking me if I was married (which I answered I was not, I would be next year) and then he muttered something about fucking. I got annoyed and advised him not to go that way but the next thing he did was to have a depictive comment on my breasts. I had enough and almost told him to fuck off. I should have but it was still a kid and I didn’t want to lose my nerves because of something stupid that didn’t get to anything really. I didn’t give it more importance and thought Alleppey was not being particularly nice but it would change in any moment.

So I visited the next temple that was in my radar, ate some cheap fried fish in some kind of restaurant without menu and full of men (as the ones I usually go that I love the most) and kept going for a bit until I came across the general post office, which happened to be really close to my guest house. It was the moment to take all the stuff I was keeping in my backpack and send a parcel home! I really needed to, the backpack was getting heavier and heavier and I needed to get rid of things to be able to flight without checking in any bag.

Once I got that, the lads arrived to Alleppey, found the place with no difficulties at all and happy days, the rest of the day was reduced to have some dinner and discuss the plan for the tour next day. We chose to do a canoe tour trip around the backwaters. We took the public ferry in the morning and right after we headed down to the house of one of the inhabitants of a village in the backwaters, where breakfast was served and his lovely daughter Sandra would delight us with chat and recital of capitals of all our countries. She was gas, so charismatic!

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The backwaters surprised me. There was wildness, yes, but not to the expected extend. There were shops, houses, mobile shops… Like a little town but at the shore of the salty water in an inner piece of land. The greenery of it, the palm trees and the amount of different birds was amazing though.

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Amazing views from the canoe with my two ragazzi ahead

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Time for helping with the rowing

We took a canoe for the three of us and our boat man was rowing for us. He was 77 years old! I couldn’t believe it. The ride was quiet, very relaxing (at some point some people might or might not have fallen sleep) and we got to do some rowing. After a long while we stopped for some refreshments. Being where we were, it couldn’t be any other than a fresh coconut!

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Coconut time!

We finished our tour in the same house where we started and got some food: a lovely thali served in a banana leaf. I noticed how the rice grains were bigger and I fell in love with the mango chutney!

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Lunch

We came back by public ferry and even though the tour in the canoe was very relaxing, we were exhausted. My guess is that the sticky heat caused it. So we rested and took energies because we had a lot waiting for us next day. When we woke up next day, we checked out early in the morning from the home stay we were. But the guy wanted to change the agreed price we had and an argument started, resulting in a waste of our time and also delaying us to take the ferry to the next destination. Mainly myself was arguing with the guy, who called the boss and showed up in a few minutes. They wanted to charge us extra, I suppose because we didn’t get to do the tour with them and they didn’t get enough money from us (the tour with them was pretty much the same than we did but more expensive, as they get a commission). I wanted to pay and leave and so I said I would pay what we agreed because it was the fair thing to do. They got annoyed and left the room saying they didn’t want our money. Fair enough, but I like to pay for what I use and do as I agreed, so I left the money on top of the table and left in a rush to take our ferry. The guys were quite shocked, as they had never seen me angry before. I can say I was angry at 20%, mainly because I don’t like people telling lies in my face and taking advantage of me; but I didn’t take it too much seriously. It was only that I was not willing to let them take advantage.

After a bit of a bitter taste of Alleppey, we took a 3 hours ferry to Kottayam, where I had the chance to see more of the backwaters and different species of birds that kept me entertained all the way. In that location we barely had time for anything and took a local bus to Munnar, our final destination. The bus took around 4 hours and last hours were intense: the roads were uphill, extremely narrow and getting misty and cloudy at the same time that cold and dark.

We changed the sun for the clouds, the sticky heat for the cold, the beach for the mountain and the mosquitoes for a thick blanket to sleep; we arrived to Munnar, the hill station well known for the tea and spices plantations. That first night we tried to find out what to do next day, as we wanted to do a bit of trekking but were not willing to hire a guide or do a tour. We were also focused on finding a restaurant with Wi-Fi because our place didn’t have any and I wanted to say to my parents I was ok and also to check things for the next day online.

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Tea plantations in between the clouds

The next day we spent the whole day walking among the tea plantations. The green was changing with the light and the clouds were coming and going as they pleased, so we got to see different tones of green. The shapes of the plantations were pleasing my eyes and amusing them. The conversations with the guys were the best, discussing absurd matters in between plenty of jokes. It was great. And as cold as it seemed to be last night (temperatures dropped around 15-20 degrees from Alleppey), it wasn’t that cold during the day. This maybe was due to the sun, as we could see when we got back, with faces a bit burned from the strong sun during the day.

That was Munnar, quite a different place from the rest of the places visited in the South. It was great to change the beach and the heat and gave us a break from lying on the beach to actually walk around the wild mountain. We probably needed that and a day was enough to get the contrast.

In our last day in Munnar, we got to get some homemade chocolate in the Baazar. At the same time, we realised most places were closed, including the restaurant we were having dinner the night before. A few minutes after, you could feel in the atmosphere something was happening and we found out that Amrita Puri, the female Guru famous for the curing hugs has passed away. This is probably especially shocking in the South and people were visibly affected. This woman was especially loved in the South, as she was based here.

That was my short experience in Munnar and sadly enough, this means that my next destination is coming and this is my last destination in India. I feel that I miss the North of India and that I already want to come back. I don’t feel like leaving although I have to say that I am now quite excited with the idea of Thailand. I wasn’t before, but I have spent a couple of days doing some research and I am looking forward to see things and experience the country. So, ready or not, Cochin there I go in a local bus, of course!

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