Our Kerala adventure continues. We fell in love with this part of India, green and simply beautiful, with a delicate scent of tea. Thekkady offered us a jeep safari and Munnar tea plantations showed us unforgettable landscapes. Varkala gave us a chance to rest physically, but mentally we haven’t had this much on our minds since we came to India. Have you heard about Indian government decision recently? We’re right in the middle of it. Check it out.
Tea plantations in Munnar
We have reached Munnar by bus, as trains don’t go there. It was the craziest bus ride we’ve encountered in our entire lives! Imagine a bus going on mountains’ sides, on a lane that is not even big enough for one car. And now imagine that there’s a bus coming from the opposite direction. Yup. Mhm. Every five minutes. Just let it sink in. Like our hearts during the ride. O_O
We really looked forward to seeing Munnar, we’ve heard so many great things about this place and its charm. We were also glad to stay for a few days in a place that is not so hot, has beautiful mountains and tea plantations all around. Without any booking or agenda, we tried to find a place to stay, but it turned out we were too confident about it… Not only most of places were already full (we found out that some Indian holiday has just started), but everything was twice as expensive as by the shore!
Finally, we managed to get a room for ourselves. Of course, it was a complete rip off; we paid quite a lot and still had no shower, bugs and dirt. It wouldn’t be such a problem if Munnar didn’t appear to be so ugly. Grey, wet and crowded it made you depressed by just stepping out the door. There was no reason to even take out the camera.
That first “lovely” place we stayed in was called High Range Cottage. It was organised by the guy in Tourist Information and it turned out to be horrible, as already said. It was dark, the walls were covered in mould and it was swarming with bugs. Fortunately, the bed was quite comfortable, however the blankets smelled of mildew too so all in all, the experience was quite horrible.
The next day we woke up early in the morning just to quickly change the venue and we couldn’t be happier to do it. We found this small guest house in the middle of a tea plantation. After spending there 5 minutes we already felt at home.
Niki didn’t feel well that day. We’ve had some low quality food the day before and she had a dodgy belly, so dealing with Nick’s clumsiness and scatter-brain-ness was too much for her. Still, we decided to go for a walk though.
The views were truly breath-taking! Walking around these fields of green surrounded by a subtle smell of tea was unforgettable and soothing to our minds so hungry for some beauty. It was great to explore it, we were glad we gave it another chance. It was all worth it.
Niki even got some strength to make our most popular acrobatic figure. ^^
That day we’ve had nice lunch and dinner at the guest house. Except us, there was also a British girl (we’re so bad with names…) and a French family of seven! These amazing people are making a trip around the world with their five kids aged from 5 to 11. They were truly inspiring and a great example that if you want to – you can. Children are not the end of your life, they just add to it. :) We follow their moves on facebook and keep our fingers crossed for them.
Great conversations and delicious food (not spicy for Niki!) completely distracted us, so there were no photos taken during this magical evening.
The place was simply wonderful and not too far from Munnar city – just a short rickshaw ride. On the other hand, it was far enough to enjoy the silence and crickets in the evening. It’s called Zina Cottages and we absolutely recommend this place! You can find them on their Facebook Page.
We would have loved to spend some more time there, however we’ve already booked a room in our next destination – Thekkady. We took a deep breath and got on a bus, ready for another crazy ride. Even our backpack was holding really tight. :)
Safari in Thekkady
This bus ride didn’t disappoint us because it was as crazy as the first one. However, we’ve managed to see some new things.
The sun was shining, views were spectacular and we left the place that will probably stay in our hearts forever. We are sure that we’ll come back there one day. The sense of freedom was flowing over us and Niki couldn’t stop smiling.
After seeing this sign, Niki didn’t want to take her eyes of the road, in case there really will be an elephant there. It was kinda cute, but of course – fruitless.
Thekkady was much cheaper than Munnar and we got a nice room for a fair price. The homestay was called The House of Blue Mangoes and it offered a very good price to quality ratio. The beds were clean and comfortable. Niki could finally get a good night sleep, as we got a mosquito net! We could hear them at night, angrily trying to get inside. Mwahahaha!
Anyway, they were kind enough to give Nick some decent coffee in the morning. The only drawback, though, was the smell from the toiled which obviously had old drainage system. This we could easily solve this by… Closing the door to the bathroom.
We’ve spent there two nights and during the second day we’ve had visitors. They are truly hated around here as they happen to be quite destructive to anything that lies around.
The main attraction here is the Periyar National Park or in other words – the Tiger Reserve. It covers around 925 square kilometres of land and not all of it is open to public. There is some big part of it that no one can go to, which we find really great. It’s like a true, wild jungle there!
Just to enter the park foreigners have to pay 450 rupees per person. To have a proper in-park safari we would have to spend more than 3500 rupees, which was still doable, but we weren’t too up for it. They offered elephant rides and boat rafting (with additional payment of course).
Niki really wanted to go on safari, but we both agreed that we don’t want to ride on elephants that are practically imprisoned and forced to do so. They don’t treat them well in here and we didn’t want to be a part of it. We also didn’t want to spend as much money to see the wild ones. We’ll do it next time. ;)
Instead, we took a jeep to go around the park. Niki was ecstatic even though she was aware of the fact that we will probably not see any animals.
I think that a few seconds after taking a photo of Niki standing in the jeep, she almost had her teeth knocked out. The trails there were completely undone (hence the choice of cars) and it was a hilariously bumpy ride! Taking a not moved photo during this trip was almost a miracle.
We had some stops on the way and the guy showed us plantations of tea, cardamon (yuk! – Niki), coffee and pepper. Did you know that pepper grows on trees? :)
Still, even so far in the wild vendors were able to find their way. We needed a jeep to get there yet they were up here with their small vans or on scooters. I ask here: HOW? This truly was impressive.
The only animal we’ve managed to see (except dogs) was a cow, just hanging out. Just chillin’.
The day after it was high time to move further. Our next stop was Varkala and its laid back atmosphere…
Crazy news in Varkala
From Thekkady we went to Varkala. We were really happy that this was going to be our last bus ride for a long time! To get to our destination we also had to take a train afterwards. And a tuk-tuk. Yup, they ripped us off but we had no choice…
The place we were staying at was a mixture of CouchSurfing and a hostel. We couldn’t have chosen a better place – everyone there was friendly, adventurous and curious of others. It was called Heavenly Breeze and with those people, with this place, we hit a jackpot. Check their Facebook Page too.
We shared our room with Ryan, an American guy. He was just at the end of his 15-countries trip and woke us up the next day with sad news that Trump is winning the elections. Poor guy, that’s what he’s coming back to! We don’t follow politics but his sadness got to us a bit and we hope everything will work out just fine.
Another news that hit us (but still the same night that we got to the place) was an information that the government of India cancels notes of 500 and 1000 rupees, starting from midnight. Banks and ATMs were not supposed to work for the next two days… So basically, we were all f***ed. During our stay there we could only go to a restaurant that allowed card payments and that’s it. Fortunately, Clafouti was this one food joint and if you ever eat in Varkala you have to go there. Food is simply delicious and the service was great.
The next day, when they opened ATMs and bank, the money was gone by midday. We couldn’t buy anything! And all the street vendors were suffering. Doh!
Our stay in Varkala was shortly interrupted by this little guy.
It was a domesticated puppy living on the premises. Not vaccinated, playing with stray dogs… Nick was playing with it and so was our other new friend, Grant the Welsh guy. Grant got bitten, Nick got scratched. One thing let to another and they both ended up with a trip to a hospital and a set of vaccinations for rabies. Good job, guys! Grant’s sister, Lauren, had the same opinion on the matter as Niki. They both had a feeling it will not teach them to play more carefully with dogs they don’t know anyway. Next shot is Chennai.
(I will still play with puppies! And dogs! Especially that I will be immune to rabies for the next 5 years! Ha! – Nick)
Nick and Grant share a passion of working on their bodies. They were so happy to train together! Nick could take out his gymnastic rings and introduce them to people. Unfortunately the rabies shot made him feel bad the day after, so there wasn’t any other chance to train.
Thanks to Grant and Lauren we could ride a scooter in Varkala. Such a crazy experience! :)
We’ve also had our laughs at the restaurant.
Not all people by the shore were friendly. Some made it really clear that they don’t want you near their property. ;)
We spent our evenings in a friendly circle of people, playing bridge (we taught them all! mwahahaha), drinking chai, talking and laughing. We would love to mention them all by names, but we simply forgot them. :( There was a nice British lady Jenny and we hope she continues teaching people the game of bridge after we are gone. Simon, the funny Italian guy. And the Indian couple, so lovely and with a great life philosophy. Alsin, our host, was very busy, but he did everything he could to make our stay comfortable. I think that the group of people he has gathered there was the greatest thing of this time spent there.
It was hard for us to leave this place, but it was time to go to Chennai, as our flight to Thailand is just in a few days. Let’s hope we’ll still manage to get money in India and buy some more of their wonderful fabrics!