Southern India is not as hard core as northern India – it’s slower, safer, friendlier – the poverty is not as confronting – the dogs and cows are better cared for. Naturally there’s rubbish everywhere, the hygiene and toilets can be questionable and the feeling of being unclean never seems to quite leave – covered in sweat, sunscreen, mosquito repellent and just the humidity that clings to the air like a limpet.
From last week’s post I’m continuing my southern India posts with some more details of our adventure.
Our holiday began with two nights at Marari beach near Mararikulam. We slept off jetlag in our basic but clean beachside hut, lazed on the beach, swam in the ocean and enjoyed amazing home-cooked delicacies. I would recommend this area for anyone who wants to take some time to relax and enjoy the simple things. Although it’s still touristy, it’s spread out, the beaches are not crowded or dirty and the sea water is clean.
From there we headed to Fort Kochin where our two week G Adventures Best of Southern India tour started. The tour itself was fantastic – naturally the pace was fast, but to cover a decent amount of India in two weeks there’s no go-slow option. There were 11 of us (plus a fantastic tour leader and driver), no one was terribly weird and there were no major disasters or setbacks. Phew!
It only took a few days before our tour leader was pointing out the local restaurants where we could taste authentic Indian fare without the endless chatter of other tourists. Often there was no menu and we would just point at bubbling food items and nod enthusiastically. We took to skipping hotel breakfast buffets in favour of trotting the early morning streets for bananas, deep fried bread snacks and fresh pineapple juice. I’m going to write a separate blog dedicated to food because… well it deserves it.
The landscape was stunning – in my opinion similar to Sri Lanka at times – palm trees encroaching on buildings, huge rises out of the landscape ensconced in tea bushes and spice gardens adorning. Monkeys lazed everywhere and of course I’ll also be adding to my monkey memes from our Sri Lanka trip in the weeks to come.
The roads were ever crowded with cars, tuk tuks, motor bikes, people carrying various things on their heads and of course, cows. Because cows are sacred in India they are free to roam as they like… and roam they do – though it seems all the animals in India at least have a bit of road sense (I guess it’s survival of the fittest). Driving on the left was reassuring for me, but in reality, driving tends to take place in the middle, avoiding cars and potholes as necessary and honking incessantly. There were a few tense moments as cars coming toward us took to passing on both sides, but in all honestly I never felt really unsafe.
Our train adventures, 2nd class, were surprisingly clean and air conditioned to the max – in fact the only time we needed a jumper on the whole trip! Sure, the toilet waste just dropped straight out onto the tracks, but it wasn’t overly smelly and I actually find it reassuring that the toilet can’t block up!
We covered a lot of miles in the bus as well as traversing city streets on foot, and it was damn hot! Coming into March, southern India really starts to heat up and temperatures hovered in the mid-30s for most of our trip – not that I was complaining after leaving the sub-zero temperatures of Austria behind.
I began the trip suffering from a cold and ended it with a bad back, but it didn’t take away from the epic time I had. Now I just need to give my body time to recover before we look toward the next OS adventure!