Magic of Kerala

Some places I travel to leave me reluctant to write, hesitant to spoil the magic of a place. Not Kerala. The beauty of this southern Indian state is so incredibly overpowering, yet at the same time extremely subtle, and it begs to be written about. I spent 4 days exploring various parts of Kerala with my host family, and to say I had an amazing time would be an understatement.

We started by flying into Coimbatore Airport, then drove a little ways to get to get to Kanjikode, a small town where we stayed with the parents of my host uncle’s wife. I quickly found out that the people in Kerala are some of the sweetest, most sincere people in the world. They greeted us with huge smiles and large amounts of delicious food. I may have cheated a bit to have some of the amazing fish Kerala is well-known for.

After settling in with chai and tender coconut juice, we walked around the property where I discovered a real well in the backyard, that they actually use to pull up water! I also found two lovely orange kitties, and I was pretty smitten with them the rest of the trip.

We spent the evening walking around the town, where everyone seems to know everyone. Everyone was so hospitable, and offered endless food and drinks, so by the time we got home around 9 PM, after having been to several families houses, I was completely stuffed. This new village felt familiar in so many ways, and it certainly wasn’t the coconut trees or endless warmth that reminded me of my home in Madison, WI, but the closeness and sense of family. I haven’t seen my own family for months, but being around such kind and welcoming souls made it feel like I had.

On our second day, we spent the morning walking around the rice paddy fields and enjoying the nature. It was interesting to see all the tiny plots of land, which is becoming a real issue in Kerala, because the fields are split up amongst the children, and as generations go on, they become smaller and smaller, and lose profitability. We settled on a rock to gaze out on the view of endless coconut trees, and behind them, a horizon of mountains. It was so serene, I could’ve spent all day just sitting there.

In the afternoon, we drove to Malampuzha Dam and Garden, a huge park consisting of a swimming pool, rivers, boat rides, beautiful gardens, statues, and a giant dam overlooking it all. We went up on the lift which crosses over the whole park, allowing for a spectacular view. Afterwards, we walked through the garden and climbed to the top of the dam, where we could see the lake it borders. The garden also had several statues, and one I was particularly enamored with, as it’s carved out of one singular stone, and is quite risquĂ© for India.

At 5:30 AM the next morning, we caught a train to Alleppey (Alapuzzha) for the next stop in our Kerala journey. Once we arrived, we drove a bit to get to a dock where we boarded a houseboat to spend the next 24 hours on. It was my first time on one of these, and I was beyond excited. I wasn’t expecting a boat to feel so homey, but with 3 bedrooms, a kitchen, dining room, and top deck living area, it felt like a house, one with a spectacular view of course. Kerala is known for its stunning backwaters and now I can see why.

Sailing down the river we could see authentic Kerala houseboats beside us, and villages that we cruised past. As well as billions of coconut trees hanging over the water, and rice paddy fields going right up to the river’s edge. It was one of the most beautiful, serene sights I’ve ever seen. It was such an understated familiar beauty, and it made me feel good. It felt like right there was the only place in the entire world I needed to be in that moment.

We made a few stops in our trip, once for food, as they have these neat river side shops for boats, and then again to eat lunch. I was craving ice cream, so our captain called out to another boat, who came and brought us some! We docked next to a village for the night, and took a little walk around before night fell. Everyone who lives besides the backwaters in Kerala has a little boat, as they need to use it for everything from getting groceries to going to school. The sunset that night was picturesque, and complete with palm trees and the reflections from the water, I was in a dream.

The next day we awoke and ate breakfast on our boat, then continued sailing until we docked to disembark. We took a little drive to the beach in Alleppey, then continued north for Cochin (Kochi). Once there, we took a stroll along the ocean-side shops, and I bought some fabulous pants and enjoyed colorful street art. We browsed a bit, bought some spices, then loaded back up to drive to lunch.

After we ate, we were just milling about when we saw elephants! I had been dying to see some the entire trip, as they have wild elephants in Kerala, and now I finally had! They weren’t wild however, they were temple elephants, brought in from all around Kerala for a temple festival. There were about 8 of them, and we watched them bathe, eat, and then dress for temple. I have a lot of mixed feelings on this one, as I believe all animals should be free, but it is an age-old tradition and the elephants are treated somewhat like gods, gods kept in chains that is. Nevertheless, it was great to finally see some real-life elephants!

Kerala is a magnificent place, and I loved being there with family. It honestly felt like somewhere I could live someday, between having beaches and plentiful tender coconuts, I would be set for life. Kerala’s tagline is ‘God’s Own Country,’ and it really felt like it was handcrafted from a divine source. With infinite kindness and bright nature, it sure is a place to be.

With love,
Leonie

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