Thursday, December 30, 2010
Backstroke in the Backwaters
The Malabar Coast - where the backwaters kiss the sea and the coconut trees beat a tattoo against the sky.
Four long years in the making (or should I say dreaming) my ‘I-don’t-know-where-but-it sure- as-hell-‘aint-what-everyone-does’ Kerala plans boded its time patiently, nestled comfortably amidst my Lakshadweep diving and Rishikesh rafting pipe dreams.
A week of heavy duty armchair planning, a lot of research and route changing - the idea boiled down to this - I wanted to do all that Kerala Tourism does not promise in its relentless pursuit of luring tourists to where all OTHER tourists go.
In other words, there had to be this secret part of Kerala which the Keralites like to keep to themselves, space they can call their own and you bet your boots, we found it. Very ‘The Beach’ (if you remember the movie or loved the book as much as I did), we had our own adventures finding beauty in unknown places.
In all honesty, the North came about more from a sense of economy than adventure, but as my North Kerala thesis progressed, the sense of adventure sharpened all right.
You want to sit in a houseboat, we canoed across the backwaters. You want to sit neckdeep in tourists, we find beaches where you can swim where dolphins laze, we find an incredible sanctuary that take ecotourism and turns it on it head. You want a luxury resort, we find adventure getting to a waterlogged homestay - the view making EVERYTHING worth the effort. Imagine seeing a river and the sea in one sweeping glance. You want a regular hotel, we stay at a mussel farming resort feet away from the best pool I have ever swum in - the crystal clean backwaters that stretches as far as the eye can see.
I daresay in due course, the hardworking folks at Kerala Tourism will neatly package, label and sell the Malabar Coast - creating a santised package that will appeal to the Indian mind - houseboat (check), cruise (check), sea (check). But for the moment, the average ‘outsider’ only knows this part of the world by his palate- courtesy the Malabar Parantha and the Malabar fish curry.
The route was a simple, stick to the NH given how lousy (and this is hearsay) the local Kerala roads are. So we dutifully followed the NH 47 and the NH 17 through broad roads and tiny lanes and villager packed ruts just taking slight detours to reach our varied destinations. I plan to blog in detail about it, but that's for later and for a separate blog for the footloose and fancyfree who also happen to have a toddler.
So our car stalled several times and the shock absorbers are breathing their last. So I did not get a soothing hot oil massage, did not go shopping and never found anyone selling either coconut water or banana chips. So I drove two babies, one friend and her uncomplaining husband over the narrowest and worst roads ever to reach a Theyyam that refused to materialise but what the heck, this was my Kerala dream vacation and it was scrumptious, no two ways about that!
The only shopping I did, was to buy a Parambikulam tee and cap - and that is only because I fell desperately in love with the sanctuary which is always going to remain on my list of places to visit again and again and again - forever and forever.
I am typing this with my feet in the water, my fingers drumming the keypad in tandem with the sound of fish plopping in the water.
I slip into a reverie that includes buying property off Kasargode and setting up a homestay, I dream of hell, mussle farming - (according to farmer entrepreneur Mr Gul Mohammed it is easy-as-pie and dead lucrative). I dream way too much but as always my logical side rudely brushes the gossamer soft illusions and it is back to business
So perhaps I will sell Jet Wings or Outlook Traveller articles on offbeat vacations, maybe I will write that book or get back to illustrations but I know I won’t.
I will get back, settle down to being a small cog in the advertising machinery, selling stuff to people who yearn to be bought. I will go back to being an impatient mother and juggling all the stuff I HAVE to do with all the stuff I want to do.
But somewhere in the back of mind will remain the ripple of the backwaters where time refused to stand still.
Coimbatore - Parambikulam Sanctuary –Thirussur/Trichur (Punnarkotha Temple Elephant Park) – Malappuram – Kozhikode (Calicut) - Kannur (Muzhapilangad the Drive In Beach) –- Bakil/Nilswaram/Valiyaparamba (Kasargode)
PLACES WE STAYED (DESTINATIONS AND ENROUTE) - All highly recommended, reviews will be up on TripAdvisor and will link the same to my travel blog
Parambikulam Sanctuary http://www.parambikulam.org/
Lulu International Convention Centre, Thrissur http://www.luluicc.in/
Kappad Beach Resort http://www.renaissancekappadbeach.com
Kappad Beach Resort http://www.kannurbeachhouse.com/
Oyster Opera at Padanna (Kasargod) http://www.oysteroperaatpadanna.com/
GGT Grand at Gudalur (return journey) http://ggtgrand.com/