We travelled to Kerala on a 13 hour sleeper train experience - 2nd class sleeper. Though there were mostly cockroaches in the seats, it was also a wonderful experience! We met many good people on the train, chatted for hours into the night and were amused by the array of delicacies being sold by "wallahas" up and down the carriages.
Emma on the top bunk in the train
We arrived at Trivundrum, the capital of Kerala. There was a stunning Raj palace we visited, and a unique large temple we were not allowed in, though the unofficial guide was very sad when we did not want to buy his wood carvings!
Hindu temple in Trivandrum - uniquely painted just one colour
The stunning Raj Palace - incredible wood carvings make up the structure of this huge palace
India is the land where everything is offered upon you, especially as a tourist. There are days where we become frustrated having to fend off literally hundreds of street vendors, rickshaw drivers, taxis, all offering "very very cheap price sir"! Though it is there livelihood and being a westerner is just the target for a few extra rupees.
Simon - Our favourite "throw wallah" in Kovalam - He was lovely, but we just cannot fit any more stuff in our rucksacs!
We swiftly escaped the busy city (after spending a day organising getting a sim card for our mobile) and headed for Kovalam, a paradise beach in the south of Kerala - white sandy beaches and beautiful warm waters. Guy felt like a real traveller when he heard a coconut fall from the high palms nearby, despite Emma saying he could not open it, half an hour later with a brick he peeled off the fiberous husk victoriously and cracked the hard nut inside for a tasty refreshing fruit experience. It felt all Golding's Lord of the Flies!
Half way through the husk...
The freshest coconut ever - victory!
We met some friendly travellers who have inspired our adventure:
Katharine and Tom from London who were particularly generous in paying for the evenings meals and beers, along with giving us their Lonely Planet on India. We shared stories and had a great evening chatting about their stay in Kerala - they inspired us into staying in the stunning hotel in Periyar national park in the middle of a lake which may be the next port of call. Oh and Tom, if you read this - we certainly would love to take you up on the offer of the Tunng gig, and thanks for the gifts! We hope you had a safe return journey.
We also had the pleasure to meet Micah and Rachael, cycle touring south India for a few weeks - they were an inspiration into how to enjoy life and adventure. We juggled on the beaches, eat amazing burgers and did a few days of "bodysurfing" in the sea at Kovalam and Varkala. Though they were cycling, we stayed a day extra and chased them to Varkala where we met again! Im so glad that their adventure inspired Emma to embark on a cycle tour on our return. Hats off to you Micah and Rachael, how you can cycle every day loaded in these searing southern India temperatures is beyond me! We will visit one day in the US - mainly because I'd love to check out that BMW motorbike! (Don't tell Emma!).
Micah and Emma - Ultimates
So we are now staying in Varkalla, where Guy was able to (almost) achieve his life ambition #2 - surfing without a wetsuit in tropical seas. 65 rupees later I had a previously snapped foam longboard re-shaped into a 5ft shortboard! Well I can half tick off dream #2, having stood up upon the weird board for almost 5 seconds on some tiny waves! I still did not get the dream wave; glassy tropical right-hander...
Guy (falling off)
Emma has become a sun-addict on these beaches, and is developing a lovely tan. She had a great time practising juggling with Micah on the beach and was passing "ultimates" with 6 balls. Perhaps someone might suggest a good fairytale book to replace her completed Stardust book, as she has thieved my Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance book. Grrr!
On the topic of books, my cloud spotting has reached new heights (no pun intended), with the breif encounter with Cumulonimbus, the king of clouds last night, providing a cacophony of thunder, lightning, wind and rains during the epic cricket world cup final.
We were sat in a little bar on the edge of the cliffs where we watched the final few hours of the cricket final; India vs Sri Lanka. The atmosphere was (literally) electric, all the locals chanting and drumming with the bongos for their beloved nation of a billion cricket lovers. Both sides played extremely well, but India prevailed by hitting an epic 6 for victory! Everyone in the town went crazy through the night and are smiling even more, which for the Indians, I thought not possible!
So next up - Kollam, where we will be enjoying the famous backwaters of Kerala, in boats and even canoes. I cant wait to leave this tropical beach paradise of Varkala!
p.s You may be able to see some more pictures on our Flickr page: namasteindia2011