Our Kerala Holiday experience

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#1 Jan 11th, 2009, 21:06
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#1
Hi, I have been trying to work out how to upload my experiences for a while and got into all sorts of problems with image sizes etc so I will post the text here and attach the photos. If it needs to be put in another way maybe the mod will help.


Our Kerala experience November 2008


It took us some time to plan the trip with initial concerns about the weather with all the website comments about the retreating monsoon in Kerala. We had visited Goa several times but this was our first 2 week break in India. We decided to spend the first week in Kerala with a second week in Goa to relax after. We received really useful guidance from both trip advisor and India Mike forums.

KUMERAKOM

We flew BA Manchester – Heathrow- Mumbai, then after several hours at the airport, Mumbai-Cochin with Jetairways, who managed to send our main bag to Hyderabad, having wrongly tagged it! Kumerakom Lake resort sent a car to collect us and we arrived at the hotel at 10.00am tired but excited. The hotel was beautiful, we had a duplex meandering pool villa which was very clean and well appointed, being able to go straight from the room into the pool was lovely. A seafood restaurant overlooking the backwaters served excellent local food.
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After one very restful night we transferred to the hotel’s houseboat. We had deliberated long and hard as to whether to save money and hire a boat from a local operator but I had become so confused as to the differences that we opted to pay the extra for the hotel’s boat, mainly for the assurance of good food and air con. The boat was excellent and the staff of three was most attentive. We spent the day touring the backwaters watching the locals going about their business, tending paddy fields, fishing, picking coconuts, washing etc. The slow pace and beautiful views and wildlife were stunning. We pulled over to buy some large fresh prawns at what was probably far too much money! Think it was the houseboat staff perks!
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This on top of the food we had ordered the previous night ensured we were very well fed! We pulled over in a very quiet area for the night at about 5.30 prior to another meal. Our boat had an air conditioned dining room with 3 glass walls which was great as we were able to avoid the mosquitoes. A highlight after dark was sitting watching the fireflies which were flashing all around us. After a very restful night we set off for a trip around Alleppy prior to returning to the hotel at about 9.30 for breakfast – excellent Marsala dosa’s.

TRIP TO PERIYAR
We were still trying to track down our missing bag with Jetairways and asked the hotel to help. They called the airline who, after some time, told us the bag had been found in Hyderabad. It was to be returned to Cochin that afternoon, possibly at 2.00. When would we be going to collect it? Slight problem as we were about to get our car to Periyar. I was planning to arrange to collect it when we return to Cochin to transfer to Goa but our driver very quickly got on the phone and his boss Jenny, from Fourens travel, kindly offered to collect it for us. This being India of course it wasn’t that simple. The airline required that I Emailed authorisation to them which I did but they also required a letter of authorisation with an original signature and a copy of my passport. Sanjeev, our driver, sorted this by taking the letter to a local taxi and arranging for it to be taken to meet another of Jenny’s drivers.
This done we set off to Periyar, we were pleased that we paid the extra for a Toyota SUV rather than the Ambassador originally offered as the journey was long and very twisty. Sanjeev was an excellent travel guide and stopped several times to show us points of interest, and to sort out the local police and traffic jams!
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As we climbed up into the hills we rounded a corner to see an elephant walking up the hill in front of us. We passed it and Sanjeev stopped to talk to the owner and we took photos, It was so good to hear the history and information about the elephant and his care.
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PERIYAR
We arrived at Periyar wildlife reserve just in time for the last boat at 4.00pm to the Lake Palace hotel. The boat was an experience- a dilapidated pre war 18 ft motor cutter with a coat of bright blue paint and some plastic canteen chairs placed in the back. The driver had an old office operators chair! As another visitor commented ‘ That engine is as good as it was when it was made in 1954!’
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The hotel itself was a former Maharajas palace that was converted into a government run hotel in 1963. The aspect and views were fabulous especially as we had reserved room 44 which has the best views across the lake, however the facilities in the room did not seem to have been modernised since 1963! The fridge was old and shook violently when it switched off, the shower was fed from a very small copper cylinder on the wall, when we were able to get hot water the pressure was so low as to be more of a dribble than a shower. The bed was very hard. Other guests said theirs was fine so maybe ours was at the end of the line. We shared the room with two resident gecko’s who seemed to be living in the back of the fridge. Anyway without air conditioning and no glass in the windows we welcomed their efforts to keep us mosquito free. As the hotel is so small the catering is rather limited, you can get a beer or wine but not much else, the food was fine but you get what you are given. After we settled in we walked around the hotel to get our bearings and watched a group of black monkeys playing in the trees at the back of the hotel. From our room we could see a herd of Sambar grazing on the opposite bank.http://i472.photobucket.com/albums/r...y/DSC01050.jpg
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The following morning we were up early, the early morning was when we appreciated being in the reserve, it was so peaceful, until the boat trips started at about 7.20. We caught the boat back to the mainland to join the bamboo rafting trip. Sanjeev met us and made sure everything was OK, we had taken our own leech socks and the guides rubbed tobacco powder onto them as a deterrent. Richard was wearing a red T shirt which caused concern to the guides so Sanjeev took him to the gift shop where he bought a Periyar tiger reserve T Shirt for 150 rupees.

There were ten of us in the group with one experienced ex poacher guide, 2 other guides and an armed guard – in case of need! We set off on a simple bamboo raft ferry crossing to the other side of the water. We then walked alongside the lake and into the forest for 2 hours where we saw a wide variety of trees, birds, monkeys and insects. We tasted wild chillis- very hot! Saw curry leaves, pepper and cinnamon as well as Turmeric root - very good for spider or insect bites we were informed. We then stopped for tea, jam sandwiches and biscuits. After a further walk we arrived at the bamboo rafts. We were fortunate to get the http://i472.photobucket.com/albums/r...y/DSC01175.jpg front seats as we were the only ones who kept dry feet!
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The rafting was a great experience, paddling along quietly across the water we were able to observe the wildlife on the bank, wild boar, Sambar, Bison etc as well as watch the extensive birdlife.
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The great advantage of the rafting was that we were able to travel along parts of the lake that the usual tourist boats do not visit. We saw several local ‘natives’ who live in the reserve fishing and cooking fish and rice. Two guides prepared lunch while the main guide took us for another walk for one hour. We were looking for Elephants and Bison, unfortunately some of our party were a group together who could not stop talking, and despite the lead guide requesting quiet at times were unable to cease the incessant chatter- a major problem when trying to see wildlife! We did see wild boar and some fresh tiger footprints ( causing considerable excitement for guides as well as us) and other evidence of recent tiger activity – poo and all!
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We returned to the clearing and the guides served us a tasty lunch of chapattis and vegetable curry - that they had carried all morning! We spent about an hour on the banks, enjoying the peace( when the others would shut up) and tranquility, watching butterflies and birds and listening to all the wonderful sounds of the jungle. The whole area is so beautiful.

After lunch we continued rafting around the remote corners of the lake, after a sunny morning we were glad of the cloud cover in the afternoon. We returned to the bank on the opposite side of the water from where we started by mid afternoon. As we walked back on the final leg of the trip we saw further tiger prints and the main guide, having realised we were also a little fed up in the incessant chatter, took us off the track and we found a herd of Bison. A little further on he said ‘would you like to see a spider?’ and took us to see a white striped tiger spider, it was amazing, the size of your hand. As I went forward to photograph it the guide stopped me and said to stay back as they are very dangerous. He took the photo for me!
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Then he showed us some porcupine quills, white ones indicating it is a young animal. We arrived back at the jetty later than planned at 5.15, the last boat to the hotel had long gone. Sanjeev to the rescue again, he found an official, got them to start up the computer systems to get us a ticket for entry- we needed another one! and phoned the boat man, to get us taken to the hotel. Without him I am sure we would have been stranded! The trip back to the hotel was lovely as were were the only ones on the water, the boatman pointed out Sambar, wild Boar and Mongoose, we also spotted Porcupines – or Pineporks as the boatman called them!
We returned to the hotel tired but really wishing that we had booked to do the overnight tiger spotting treck, the guide had told us that most of the mammals come out in the evening when all the other trips have left. The hotel provided a dinner of roast chicken and nondescript curry, followed by over sweetened fruit salad. Fortunately I wasn’t very hungry! The following morning breakfast as before was a choice of eggs – boiled, scrambled or fried with toast – very Indian! We returned on the boat to the mainland jetty at 10.00, Sanjeev was there to greet us and we set off on our journey to Ernakalum.

TRIP TO COCHIN
We visited a spice plantation near Periyar where we saw more pepper and chilli’s as well as cardamom. The aspect we did find interesting was the rubber trees and learning the process of producing and drying the rubber. After a quick stop at the spice shop to stock up we headed off. We stopped several times on route to look at rubber plantations, tea plantations and to watch the picking, pineapple crops and even a cattle auction. At each place Sanjeev chatted to the people involved and the locals were more than happy to tell us what they were doing.
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We stopped for coffee at a co-operative coffee house that Sanjeev said was clean. It was really interesting and obviously very popular with locals who were mostly having lunch. As we drove Sanjeev asked us if we wanted to go to a restaurant for dinner or if we would like to have a meal with Jenny at her homestay Le Royale in Cochin. We decided to eat at the homestay as they had already offered for us to go there to freshen up prior to catching the train to Goa.

We received a great welcome at Le Royale by Jenny and her husband Jose, and were reunited with our missing bag. It had taken Jenny over four hours at Cocin airport to get the bag, Jet airways would not release the bag to her as our nametags and labels had been removed and the name of the person on the incorrect baggage label had replaced them. Then Jetairways tried to tell her it was our fault as we had failed to collect them from the BA flight! It was so fortunate for us to have a local to sort it all out for us- and she wouldn’t even charge us for her time at the airport as she ‘had offered to do it’. We were given a lovely cool room to change and shower and then had a lovely meal including a home made soup, kingfish, chicken and spicy beef dishes ( Sanjeev’s request to Jenny after we told him we like Beef whilst at the cattle auction.) dal, rice etc

TRAIN TO GOA
After dinner Sanjeev took us to the train station to catch the Rhadjani express to Goa. He came into the station and was very concerned that we had not been allocated a carriage or seat number. He spoke to several people and then took us to the correct place along the platform. He waited with us and ensured we were sorted on the train, I thought at one point he was going to be stuck on the train! I cannot recommend Fourens travel enough, I just wish we had found them earlier and got Jenny to organise the whole trip! We will know what to do next time.
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We thought that we had reserved a two berth first class cabin but after much deliberation the guard on the train found our names on his list and took us to a 4 berth cabin, there was a rather scary looking man fast asleep on one of the bottom bunks. We sat quietly rather unsure of what to do when someone came in to bring us our sheets. We were joined by a student travelling back to university who at first kept his attention on his phone, texting etc. Once the ice was broken he turned out to be a chatty lad and we enjoyed a pleasant time with him before we all went to sleep. In the morning breakfast was brought round, not too bad actually! We met the sleeping man, who turned out to be a colonel in the Indian army and not at all scary when awake! We had a really interesting discussion with him. The train accommodation itself was pretty much as we expected, if rather basic but the toilet facility was pretty gross, there was a western toilet but it was little more than a hole in the floor onto the tracks with toilet perched on top. My one real disappointment was that the mesh across the outside of the windows severely restricted vision, the only way to see the passing scenery was to stand by the carriage exit door with the door open, as I saw some people doing – I’m not that brave!
We arrived late at Margao station and eventually found the driver from the Taj Exotica, where we spent a very relaxing week and included a 4 ft cobra to our wildlife sightings!
Last edited by Aishah; Jan 13th, 2009 at 09:04..
#2 Jan 13th, 2009, 09:08
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#2
Mod Note: Well yes, the mod did help, tripsammy. We don't allow large photos to be posted here - you may post links to the photos or thumbnails only. To do the links I took out all the IMG's from the url's to your photos. This is a lot of work! Please don't post any more large sized photos on the Forum.

Nice trip report and photos. Thank you for taking the time to do this here for us. And now that it all fits on my screen and I don't have to move it across, it's so much easier to read and view.
Every cloud has a silver lining!
#3 Jan 13th, 2009, 16:24
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Many thanks and apologies, When I added the links I was under the impression that they had already been reduced in size. I will know next time.
#4 Jan 13th, 2009, 16:33
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Thanks tripsammy for writing such an enjoyable trip report.
#5 Jan 14th, 2009, 05:00
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Aishah

Would it be better if I was to resubmit this with thumbnails or are you happy with it as it is? We received such help from IM that we wanted to share our experiences.
#6 Jan 14th, 2009, 05:14
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#6
...Another mod replies!

Yes, I think thumbnails would be fine.
~
Life gets aadhar every day.
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#7 Jan 14th, 2009, 05:34
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How do I go about this, do I resubmit it as another thread or is there a way for me to edit the existing one?
#8 Jan 14th, 2009, 05:49
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If you can no longer see an EDIT button (it is time restricted) then Hmmm...

Yes, I guess the best way is to start a new thread. A passing moderator can then delete this one
#9 Jan 14th, 2009, 05:52
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Thanks, I'll try to sort it tomorrow
#10 Jan 14th, 2009, 12:23
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#10
Enjoyed reading your trip report Tripsammy. Im glad you enjoyed your visit, mishandled baggage notwithstanding, and I absolutely love the pug mark photo. Ive seen some of your other good pics on photobucket.
#11 Jan 14th, 2009, 12:44
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Thanks for a fun report, Sammy, and for the great pics.
#12 Jan 16th, 2009, 05:32
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#12
There was no shortage of pud marks and other fresh evidence of Tigers! None close enough to see unfortunately.
#13 Jan 22nd, 2009, 04:16
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#13
Great report, I am hoping to visit Kerala this year so you have given me some really good ideas.
#14 Jan 22nd, 2009, 05:01
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#14
enjoyable reading and nice photos. thank you, tripsammy. kerala is a beautiful state. one of my favourites.
#15 Jan 27th, 2009, 04:16
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#15
Hi Tripsammy. Enjoyed your trip report, as I am planning first trip to Kerala having previously been to Goa Mumbai Delhi.
I am partially retracing your steps from Manchester.(I always go 1st two weeks in April though)
Always seeking the cheapest route - could I ask however what you paid MAN-LHR-BOM ? This will be my 4th year and despite the 'credit crunch' the pattern is the same - each year is cheaper than the last
I am trying a new route this year
MAN-Helsinki(2hr layover)-BOM with Finnair for 290 inc tax and 2750Rs single to Cochin with Spicejet
Previous Long hauls were:
2008 MAN-Abu Dhabi-BOM with Etihad 330
2007 MAN-Zurich-BOM with Swiss 350
2006 LHR-BOM with Virgin (drove to LHR)400
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