So a lot of troubling things happened before I left. Nnm fell ill, people at home were getting paranoid about their daughter leaving home for the first time.. Gah. One big mess.
Finally got on the train with M and Immu, MImmu I shall call them :D Twas so nice to have company other than the regular parental thingie.
So we went to Cochin ...
It was horribly hot before we entered Kerala. The moment we did, a most delicious breeze started blowing. MImmu were amazed by the greenery, I of course had seen it before
We went to the KTDC, where there was a 'welcome to all the tourists' sign. And beside that, there was a hoarding that described the many touristy things we could do in Cochin. There it was that we noticed under something about a backwater trip, Rs. 250 per pax. 'pax' was to be found under any of the text describing tours to take. MImmu and I were confused. What the hell was pax? Then we started making rhymes with tax, lax etc. You get the mood. Every few minutes, the word pax would find its way into our sentences...
Soon the mother and dadder came out of the KTDC office and we pointed out the pax to them. We were still giggling when Mom very matter-of-factly said 'Nahi malum? Pax is a very common term used for passengers'.Somehow that didn't quite deflate us, pax came to take meanings like 'dumb people', 'gullible tourists' etc. etc. depending on the context. In fact, pax became an obsession. We took pictures making letters with our fingers that formed the word 'pax', we shouted 'paaa-aax' from various places, etc. etc. Even took a 'pax picture' before MImmu left me at the coll.
Then we went to Munnar ...
We started at six in the morning. our first experience of Kerala's bus driving. Terrifying. Hold-the-seat-in-front-of-you-with-bonecrushing-strength-or-you-will-fly off-ish. There were three of us on the seat but we kept slipping and sliding from one corner to the other.
Crushed M quite a bit :D Lots of luggage and other small items would slide to the next seat when we were going uphill, the patient people behind us returned Immu's bag, a pack of biscuits and .. a pin that was holding up M's headwrap. Lucky for us it didn't prick them ..
Funny it was, we were three on a seat and had a hard time sticking to our place, yet on the seats in front of us, two men sat comfortably without moving an inch.And all the greenery that had us wowing hardly seemed to have any effect on them, guess it was 'ghar ki murgi dal barabar' for them.
It was breathtakingly lovely. Like the guide book said, you'll fall in love with Munnar and never want to leave. The beauty lay in the vastness that surrounded you. Loooong winding roads, the only colours you can see are green, the brown of the trunks and the red of the sand. Did make me miss Kodai's colourful flowers though.
- Eating masala sprinkled pineapples
- The ickle horse ride into a wildish path with M. My horse's name was Indian Style. M said it looked like a cow because it was white with brown patches.X-(
- The speed boat ride at Sun Moon valley, just the right time to start raining! We stood at the front while our very nice speedboatman rocked us right and left using the rudder. All the spray and the cold wind! Delicious! He took a nice video of us too while rocking the boat on purpose! Found it surprising, the horse guy and this guy knew how to handle digcams pretty well!
- The sight of the Anaimudi and the various places where we could see pure white sparkling mountain streams. Spotted ibex(es) that were quite happy and not the least scared to see the tourists who pointed at them and flashed cameras. We even drank the cold water from the stream.
- The sight of the tea gardens and how I lusted to be allowed into one, but all were fenced..
- How we ended up bribing a security guard to get to run up a greeeeeen hill, a running race actually. I came last as usual but the best part was how the long, moist grass acted like a foot scrub!
- How we took pax pictures at fogged up windows and OUR room!
- The one hour we were stranded a wee bit far away from Munnar, it didn't even seem like we were stranded!
- Echo point and all the home made chocolates
I wanted to do three things before leaving Munnar - go into a tea plantation (tea leaves don't smell, but the factories sent out heavenly aromas!), walk along a kachcha raasta and to see and feel the clouds that we could spot here and there on peaks.
No matter how much we troubled our Ambassador's driver (long time since i'd been in one!), he coudn't take us to any cloud covered peaks and we were quite desperate to see them. Then after going to the Eravikulam National Park (the ibex place), we stopped at some view point, i've forgotten which, there we found a path leading down to the tea gardens. Quite a long way it was! So two of my wishes were fulfilled and we wistfully set out to leave for Cochin, not having met the clouds. When I was little and I'd heard my aunt describe how at Mussoorie, you could stand and be in the clouds, I'd thought that when I got a chance like that, I would bottle up the cloud in a plastic box (you know, like the plastic box you get for camera film?), bring it home and keep it forever.. Silly me.
Munnar seemed to say that she would be missing us as much as we would, for we had just settled ourselves in the bus when she began to cry. The clouds had been gathering for quite some time and we passed on roads from which we could see clouds that were a little far away, gathering at the peaks of hills. They seemed quite close and suddenly, there they were, right outside our bus. Visibility was nil and a wet, chilly wind that moved through the bus.
On our own road, we could see the clouds wispily floating towards the bus and I stuck my hand out only to get some drops on it. It was such a lovely feeling! Munnar was certainly very kind towards us. And everytime we sighted peaks, we'd sigh and sorrowfully mention it.
Munnar to Cochin, Cochin to Alleppey:
We took two consecutive buses and landed at Alleppey. Since it was night, we just took a hotel room (at the most kanjoos hotel ever) and waited for morning to experience the backwaters.
We decided to take a short 6 hour ride instead of a long 22 hour ride in a houseboat. For one thing, it seemed too expensive for 5 people and then we didn't have all that much time.
Later, I was glad we did, even though the houseboats were lovely because there really wasn't all that much to see! You should take the houseboat thingie, if you've been really stressed out and need a lot of peace and serene quiet... they take you to the middle of the waters where it's wide and open and anchor for the night. Not quite our cup of tea.
While we admired the calm and the greenery, we didn't really like it much except for the rare occasions when waves from the wake of a bigger boat made ours roll from side to side and reminded us of our speedboat ride at Munnar ... sigh!
The houseboats were modern marvels, each vying with the other in sophisticated furniture and tiled kitchens! Unfortunately, couldn't get any pictures of those.
Later we went to the Alleppey beach, got the sand in our clothes, eyes everywhere. Twas fun still. The waves were coming in quite strongly too, everytiem they pushed us out, we gasped at the force. Immu mentioned thinking about tsunamis all the while. And to think I was told I was being paranoid when I imagined a lot of ultra dangerous situations at Munnar! Though, I must concede that my imagination regularly gets quite out of hand :D
Alleppey to Cochin:
What a terrible bus ride it was! The KSRTC bus did not seem to have any shock absorbers and since the three of us were sitting right above the wheels, at one point of time, we ACTUALLY went about a foot into the air. A guy behind us started shouting at the driver and ranted on for a long time. We'd almost forgotten about it and WHUMP! It happened again. I was already quite sick with an upset stomach and this one foot jump made me feel like my tummy had crumpled. I involuntarily let out a loud AAAAAAAAA! (okay, it must have been 3 seconds long) and a lot of passengers(PAXes :D) turned around to look. Kerala's bus driving is an experience in itself!
Cochin to Calicut:
We spent a whole night at the Cochin railway station (Cochin has three names, Kochi, Cochin and Ernakulam. M said that since we'd been to Cochin three times, we must tell people we went to Kochi, Ernakulam and Cochin :D) and then started for Kozhikode in the morning. That whole day was spent recuperating from the trip and a wee bit of shopping for moi.
Some things that must be said about Kerala:
- Greeeeeeeeen. Sometimes, irritatingly so :D
- There are very few restaurants that serve non-Karelian dishes ( my chacha used to call Keralites, Karelians). Initially, we quite enjoyed the appams (so light, white and fluffy!), the veg. biryani (pineapples in veg biryani taste quite good!) and even ate the aatedaar 'parotha' (Keralians must add an h after every t), but we got tired of it quite fast.
- It is extremely irritating when you cannot understand another language and important matters concerning you are being spoken about. My dad began to call Malayalam gudum gudum.
Even though there were a few similarities with telugu, we found it quite fast and very difficult to understand. Hindi too has few takers, English is surprisingly known by quite a few people but after sometime you begin to speak like 'This no washable?' 'Is washable?' 'Is North Indian food here?' (The washable part was when we were at a sandals and shoes shop.)I began to yearn to hear Gult again!
- They like naming shops with initials spelt out. So you will see quite a few places called 'Dee Pee shoes', 'Jay Enn traders' etc. While on the bus to the coll, I saw this 'Pee Yar Cee' Medicals. It was only later, when Shee pointed it out to me that I noticed what it could mean.
- The bus conductors don't bang on the ceiling or the sides of the bus to make it stop. (Or for that matter shout 'Raaaaaaayit'). They have a rope that stretches along the roof of the bus to a bell. One 'ting' to stop, two 'ting tings' to go. Pretty cool.
- There is litter to be found everywhere and this was common at every city. I never realized how clean my city was!
Unbelievably beautiful. In our director's words: 'When I joined here, I wanted to take photos of every part of the campus, then someoene told me, 'IIM K cannot be described through pictures, it can only be experienced'. SO true! Everywhere, I went I longed to take a picture. When I described it to MImmu, I told them to expect a mini Munnar minus the chill. And so it was, the best part was when I walked to the computer centre at 11 in the night, there were clouds all over and INSIDE the campus. It is ineffably lovely.
I was also lucky enough to get a valley facing room. The sunrise is spectacular and after a while you can see clouds waking up from the peaks and drifting away. Today morning, I woke up to see only white, nothing of the green hills visible. Luuurvely.
I spent the first night, quite tortured by a centipedey thing and a huge cockroach, both of which I smashed with my new jhadoo.There were a zillion insects and I could not make myself adjust to a mosquito infested ( the rooms weren't) shared bathroom. Luckily, since hte next day, they hardly made any appearance. Reminds me of what my dad said when I told him how I had to run after the cockroach and hit it repeatedly to kill it 'Ab toh uske kayi generation tak nahin bhatkenge tumhare room ke paas' :D Inshallah! :D Slowly, getting used to shared bathrooms. I quite miss the IIIT hostel, but hte view from my balcony quite makes up for that!
Food seems decent as of now. Classes start on Monday. THAT is when the scrooing will begin and why I made up my mind to have this post done before I am stretched to my limits.
May God give me strength!
Leaving you with the view from my room, sunrise, greenery and lovely cloudiness ... much better experienced in person :)