Closing the Circle

Trip Start Aug 12, 2009
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of India  , Kerala,
Thursday, February 18, 2010

Leaving Varkala was a major challenge. We had met a couple from Leeds one day over a long and lazy breakfast who as we were saying goodbye said, "whatever you do, just don't end up staying here for the rest of your lives". And it is easy to see why people do stay, lazing in a hammock, staring out to sea, sunsets on the beach, but we have a lot more to see and we need to stay ahead of the weather too. The simple facts are that India is starting to get too hot so we really need to move away by April ish, otherwise temperatures will be in the forties and April and May are generally considered the best months to see Nepal. Then we just have to deal with how to handle China in the height of summer and which monsoons to avoid come autumn time. Perhaps what helped us to leave Varkala ultimately was, well let's call him Cedric. One evening having had a lovely meal, Steve was sat on the balcony staring at the sea when an almighty shriek came from the bathroom. In her defence Tania's not usually squeamish, but this was the largest spider I have ever seen, bigger than my hand! Cedric went out of the window along with Tania's yoga class and off we went to Aleppey.

This is known as the "backwaters" whereby you hire a boat which can be anything from a canoe to a floating gin palace with servants galore and you explore a series of beautiful and tranquil canals. So Steve treated Tania to a canoe and as we floated along enjoying the twitterings of Kingfishers and the like, you could hardly believe you were in India. In case we have not mentioned this, India is immensely noisy!

Back at our crumbling, but sociable guesthouse, we met the lovely Ale and Vale from Italia and should any of you be heading to Italy seeking something new, take a look at the National Park of Ancona, it sounds fabulous!

All in all we could not have been in a more chilled out state of mind. Solar eclipse, beach days, good food, swaying palm trees, boat trips, great books and lovely company had been our diet for the past few weeks. Now we were off to Periyar to see some wildlife and stress was a distant memory.

Stress is defined in many ways and appears in a variety of guises. We shall call this version Sanjay the demented bus driver! We did a four hour countryside bus journey in three hours! It may have saved us an hour, but it has taken years off of our life expectancies. As we alighted at the end of the insane journey, we noticed a huge gash in the side of the bus, pretty sure it wasn't there when we had got on.... This is why we see so many imaginative Indian road signs and we decided to share some of these with you:

Take heed, don't speed

Better late than never

Left is right

Speed thrills, but kills

Don't be a hell mate, wear a helmet

Driving rash, causes crash

Arrive home in peace, not in pieces

Reading an interview with the boss of Volkswagon recently, he explained that they have had to redesign their car horns for the Indian market as according to their own research, Indian people use the horn on average (are you really ready for this?), nine thousand times per month!!!

The Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary is a stunning area and although we did not see a great deal, our early morning trek was extremely beautiful. Stopping for breakfast afterwards, as Tania sat down to enjoy her paratha, there was utter pandomonium as a monkey bounded across and stole it right from her hands. Anyone who thinks monkeys are cute, sadly we have had numerous bad experiences with them over many years. However, without the monkey we would not have subsequently got chatting to Airika and Gerald, a really inspiring couple from Seattle. They had quit their jobs and become wedding photographers who travel all over the USA shooting weddings and as we shared a boat trip with them, the photographs they took were simply amazing. We have since looked at their blog photos which are so impressive and we wish them all the best with their future endeavours:

One of the great joys of travelling as we are is that the food and southern India has been superb. What we miss though is actually cooking ourselves so when we heard about an affordable cooking course, we had to go. We were joined by Maryle and Marlous, two wonderful Dutch/French ladies who are great fun and have embraced life in an example we could all learn from. Much laughter and about seven courses later we were ready to sit down and enjoy our feast, fish tikka, okra massala, spiced potatoes, fish molee, parathas, poppadums and more. We have taken notes, but hopefully Marlous will have her garden cafe in South-West France open by the time we get back to Europe and we can become customers.

Of course going out to dinner every night month after month can also become quite predictable so when we get the chance to eat an alternative cuisine we are quick to take it. It may sound terrible when we say the first place we went to in Syria was a branch of Costa Coffee, our first two nights in Lebanon consisted of Italian and Chinese food and perhaps our finest meal in Damascus was at a fantastic pizzeria, but sometimes you just don't fancy a curry and so on. When we discovered Our Place in Periyar, we were in for an incredible culinary treat, bread and butter pudding with custard. Surreal, but we left as two very happy customers indeed! We also got to meet Tommy, a fisherman from Swansea who had decided to take a sabbatical for a year. We meet lots of interesting characters along the way and listening to Tommy talk about what it's really like out at sea was really enlightening and at times frightening too. Whether Tommy's partner has yet noticed that he has taken a holiday remains to be seen, apparently he forgot to tell her he was off to India....

Distances in India can often be truly overwhelming. From Periyar, if I say to you how do you fancy five hours on the most rickety bus you have ever seen with no windows and a 50/50 chance of the bus driver thinking he is Keanu Reeves in the Speed movie, I guess you may not be too keen. Thankfully we had a rather sedate pilot and the most scenic journey you could ever wish for, it was five hours of bliss as we criss-crossed the Western Ghats that make up such a perfect view.

Arriving in Munnar, it was noticebly cooler for which we were grateful. This is hill station/tea plantation territory although trying to get a decent cup of tea proved to be impossible. But Munnar is a wonderful place for trekking and and we somehow hiked for about ten miles on day one as we sought out tea museums and sunset points.

From Munnar we took a bus to Kochi and finally closed a circle. Three months ago, we arrived in India courtesy of Kochi airport. Ninety days on and we have still only travelled around the small and narrow part of what is an enormous country. To give you some perspective and as we mentioned, distances can be overwhelming, it was now time to embark on a 28 hour train journey just to get to Hampi.

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Grant and Gill Petherick on

Heh guys

Loving the blog and travel stories...!!

Gill and I got married on 27 Feb with a great day on North Stradbroke Island, Qld.

Keep up the blog and stories and let us know if/when you get to NZ!!


The Popes on

Hi Steve & Tania! It was so wonderful meeting you in India, and it's been so fun to continue to follow along on your journeys. Thanks for the photography shout-out. We're posting more photos on our new blog, so we hope you are able to take a peek at them someday too! Be safe, and stay in touch. Airika & Gerald

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