PLANNING

For someone whose heart aches to see beaches and coconut trees while dipping her feet in sand heaps, it’s surprising to remember how much anxiety travelling during corona felt. This was back in Feb 2021, when the world was healing, and we didn’t know back then that 2020 was just the first wave and we were about to be hit with a second. Real Ignorant times. People had started travelling since December and if you look at places like Goa, it was more crowded than in prior years. It was mad congested, houseful at all cafes and beaches even during February. What I meant is, we took a considerable amount of time to decide on travelling to a place that didn’t have a zillion tourist at the time.

Pro Tip: Travelling during a pandemic is a BIG NO. But things will get better, the world will heal. And if you are one of the early ones to set out to travel again, select an offbeat place, which also happens to be ending its peak season. So, you get good weather and fewer humans. There are offbeat places in every state and trust me less crowd gives you more flexibility in exploring restaurants, on the road and even exploring the hub of a city. Most importantly for your peace of mind.

We chose Kerala for the very reason. Feb end is when tourist leaves this state owing to its rise in temperature, and it worked out ideal for us. We booked flights a month prior. If you are travelling from Bangalore I would highly recommend taking a flight. Any other mode of transportation will take away 18+ hours from your itinerary and not just that, will also leave you pretty exhausted. So if you are on a short trip, book a flight and book prior, to save money.

Travelling after a full year was such a hullabaloo of emotions. Excited, nervous as hell, scared and yet so sure something extreme will come up and we would cancel our trip. And you know what, The cancellation scenario happened quite many times. I am amazed how after all that, we still made it.Planning, making a flexible itinerary, jotting down must-visits are my favourite things to do and yet, I had to resist planning too many things because there was always this looming vibe. I can tell you one thing for sure though. Even the happiest puppy (read: me) can be pretty exhausted by all these overwhelming thoughts. We all were in fact. Even at the airport, till we took off, none of us showed excitement that we really were travelling again. I remember, only after our plane took off that we looked at each other and did a proper hurrah. Fyi, this was my second nemesis (after Pondicherry) and I was just about to conquer that.

For someone who makes a pretty exhaustive to-do list for packing, it was pretty embarrassing to find out I didn’t bring my wallet (that had all my ID proofs) to the airport. No explanation will justify this. I am so ashamed. I was also terrified when the guard and the appropriate counter head official said I couldn’t travel since I wasn’t carrying even one original document.

Pro Tip: Make sure to have mAdhar on your phone. That’s probably the only online mode verification that accepted in scenarios like this. I didn’t have that then. (Of course, I have it now. That’s the first thing I did post-arrival back to the city). The worst mixed bag of emotions because I knew there’s no way my friends are gonna stay back, and we had by then pleaded enough number of times and failed. S came to the rescue. The hardcore standoffish guy that he is, he is also strangely very cordial and easy to talk to around strangers. Somehow he gets it. All variety of strangers- polite, condescending, shy, you name it. Long story short, your girl got the nod with a warning. By the time the official agreed to let me take the flight, I was literally sobbing. Yup, exciting stories started even before we took off.

So we made it. And was greeted with egg rolls by Sayo. I have a clear memory of Aunty making delish neatly packed tiffin back in school keeping in mind her friends are hungry and waiting (read: me again). So this trait I see is beautifully passed down to Sayo. 7 am flight. We all woke up by 4. And she still made us food. <3

To give you an overall idea, Our main focus was to explore the backwaters of Allepey and sink in the beautiful beaches of Varkala. Of course, we took the earliest flight out to Kochi. Neat, tidy and a beautiful amalgamation of modern meets traditional, Kochi airport is a delight. And a sneak peek into this beautiful state we just landed. We took Uber from the airport to Allepey. It’s also the cheapest way to reach Alleppey, considering travelling in local buses post covid is out of option. It cost us 1200 approx. It’s a two-hour drive. Good road.

OUR STAY

Allepey is hot. I am sure enough people have mentioned this, but you will still be surprised by its heat and nerve-wracking humidity. We bathed 3 times a day, to give you a gist. Allepey is known for its beaut vast backwaters, and our itinerary in Allepey was initially just that. We had almost zeroed in on houseboats for our stay but then we got to know that houseboats don’t keep sailing in backwaters all night long. They are docked near land at night, so if you have dreams about watching your boat sail in the dark quiet night in backwaters, that’s not gonna happen. Which is why we decided to stay at a homestay by the beach. And take a shikara ride in backwaters. Two great advantage of shikara cruises are a) they go through narrow lanes as well, which the big houseboats cannot go. You get to explore more territories and b) They are super budget-friendly.

We stayed at Lemon Dew Beach house. And took shikara rides from Oscar Cruise. They are owned by two best friends so, it worked out well for us as well. I remember while booking Jensen told us “just come and everything will be taken care of”, and it worked out just like that. Be it arranging tuktuk at 5 am to take us to kayak or suggesting places to eat at they pretty much took care of everything. Lemon Dew is right on the beach (dead right on). It gives you a private beach feeling. Early morning and sunset are magical here. But nothing compares to walking up to the beach late at night with silence engulfing you.

SHIKARA RIDE

The ideal time to take a Shikara cruise rice along backwaters is of course sunrise and sunset, but my vote definitely goes to the latter.

You see, the first few minutes is a hullabaloo of everything. You want to soak every view you lay your eyes on. You want to take innumerable pictures. Its happiness, laughter, lots of stories exchanged and by the time you are done, you still have enough hours to have actually enjoy the beautiful backwaters.

It’s magical, and with the setting sun and crimson horizon, it’s even better. The sun is almost down, the breeze is cooler, the water isn’t as busy. Everything is quieter, darker and the serene vibe is overwhelming. It’s the best feeling.

Endless hours on this tiny boat in this vast backwater. It’s exactly as you dreamt. All your senses are heightened, and it doesn’t matter if you are with company. This little paradise is just yours to experience. Totally made up for all the days we quarantined in our rooms. Hell, it did more than that.
Personal Observation: Kerala is more of a human network than anything else. It’s unlike any other city I have ever seen before. You see it’s more reliable to just tell your home stays to arrange autos/cabs than trying an Uber/Ola. Trust me we tried and wasted some hours while at it. And in the end, the home stays came to our rescue. It also works out easier, if you are heading out to the city or even intercity travel. Especially intercity travel. Never depend on Uber for that.

ALLEPPEY BEACHES

You know, everyone talks about their backwater, but nobody tells you how clean and mesmerizing their beaches are. It was ridiculous how easy access we had to the beach. Right in front.  To top it all, you could go at all odd hours you fancied. We went at midnight, and no loud parties or lights. It was if I am being honest, secluded with one or two souls here and there but never unsafe. A full moon keeping us company. Occasional light flickers on the far end.
A quiet town dozing off for the night, leaving you with a vast beach all for yourself. The sands are cool, partly moist as you dip your feet far in and the waves roar not far from where you are sitting. You have company, everything is quiet and peaceful. You realise you don’t have any thoughts at the moment. You were playing some beach perfect songs but now it’s time to turn off that as well. You played for a while, you described in detail how much this exact moment is everything you dreamed of and so much more. The cool breeze, the loud crashes of the sea, your people- everything played out just right. You then turn to some quiet time, walking by the shore having your moment. Hypnotic, grateful, bursting love. Only the beach can make you feel such things. Eventually, we headed back. To a table full of beer, biryani and a pile of chicken waiting for us.
Pro Tip: choose an AC room, you will need it at night. You will need it every time you come back to relax.

KAYAKING IN BACKWATERS

One of the reasons I had zeroed in on Oscar Cruise was not just their Shikaras which are priced super decent. (Costed us only Rs1200 for 3 hours as a group of 4. Not per head). It’s also that they do kayaking in the backwaters. We chose the sunrise one. It was a treat.
You see, when you are in a houseboat or Shikara, you are way above the water like safely nested in a cocoon. Kayak is exposed and intimate. You are right on the water level. In the beginning, you are simply trying to manoeuvre your way, finding your balance and comfort. But that settles in pretty soon. Trust me, I am terrified of deep waters. Not that it has ever stopped me from being in it. But you get my point. And it still just takes you minutes to get all this erratic feeling in control. And then, vast has a whole new meaning.
The fact that all there is, all you are surrounded with, are the backwaters. You feel everything, the slight waves, the sensation of a big houseboat approaching long before its insight, the bigger sway its leaves, the balance you so desperately try to control only to realise you can very much not do anything and enjoy it – its arguably one of the most cherish able feeling. Every other time you are always around friends but in a kayak, it’s just you. This can either intimidate you or excite you. or Both. Whatever it might be, never forget to try one.
For us, Allepey ended pretty much after it. Except we booked an Uber which never arrived, then all of us frantically started booking Uber from 4 different phones and making calls to all private cabs we saved coz now we are running late. Eventually, it was our stay that got a cab for us.  See I told you, might be a little expensive this way but takes away all the hassles. It was time to head Varkala, a three-hour road trip we could not wait to get on.

Stay tuned for Varkala.

Happy Blogging! Waves n Curves