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drifting_with_dervla Are We There Yet?

From Kanyakumari to West Cork!

USA | Monday, 23 May 2011 | Views [550]

Wow! So much has happened since my last update! The last time I was able to sit down and write up about my travels, I was at the Amritapuri Ashram near Karanagappaly. Because so much has happened from then, I'll break up my travels into sections as I have been in India, England, and Ireland since my last update.
India Wrap Up: Kanyakumari, Varkala, Munnar, and back to Mumbai!
After staying at the Ashram for a few days, Nicola and I took a train down to Kanyakumari which is the southernmost tip of India. We had an incredible time there and really enjoyed ourselves as it is an Indian holiday spot and since we were the only foreigners around, we really got to see the real deal. Kanyakumari is such a relaxing and breathtaking place and I always enjoy looking out over the ocean no matter where I am. While in Kanyakumari, we tried lots of new foods, explored the surrounding area, and I even went and saw a palm reader who thankfully only had good news for me! We only stayed there for two days as we only had about two weeks left of our trip and we wanted to move on so we could squeeze in a few more places. From Kanyakumari, we took a six hour bus up the country into the state of Kerala and ended up in a gorgeous place called Varkala.
Now I have had the opportunity to be in a lot of beautiful places (Bali, Jeju-Do, and Goa) but Varkala is truly the most immaculate and incredible beach town that I have ever been to. Is has the perfect combination of white sand, palm trees, and very friendly locals. It was such a clean and comfortable place to visit and our trip that was intended to be for two days turned into eight!! We ran into a Norwegian girl that we had met at the ashram a few days before and then on the beach, I spotted an Italian guy that we had met in Jaipur at the start of our journey, so we ended up having a great big gang for our time in Varkala. In Varkala, we spent our days swimming, lying on the beach, and doing a bit of shopping! Varkala is such a well kept secret and I can't understand why so many tourists go to Goa instead of this magnificent spot, but I'm glad that it is not overwhelmed with droves of people and I would absolutely love to return there someday!
From Varkala, we took a train up to Fort Cochin and then made our way to a bus station where we caught a local bus to the mountainous town of Munnar. Munnar is famous for its tea plantations and during our few days there, we toured tea factories, fields of tea, and most importantly, did a lot of sampling! Being the tea fanatic that I am, I really enjoyed this place and seeing all the different types of tea that there are. Since Munnar is up in the mountains, it is much cooler than the rest of India, and it was the first and only time that we had to layer up with our jackets and scarves the entire trip! Most people that go to Munnar hire a taxi and tour guide to take them around, but after all of our time in India, we wised up and simply hired a local rickshaw driver who took us around and doubled as our tour guide and he had formally worked in one of the tea factories for a nominal fee. After a few days and nights in Munnar, we were down to only a few days in India, so we had to figure out how to get up to Mumbai in order to catch our planes out of the country.
We ended up taking another local bus back to Fort Cochin and stayed the night at a lovely homestay with an incredibly warm and friendly family. The owner and husband of the homestay suggested we do a tour the next day and we ended up doing an elephant washing tour! We literally got into the river with a gang of elephants and scrubbed them down with a coconut that had been split in half. It was an equally terrifying and exciting experience and I cannot describe how it felt to be among such elegant and giant creatures but I can only advise that you all try it, if ever given the chance! After we gave our elephants a good scrub, we went to an breathtaking waterfall and hung around there for a bit, we even got in the water and splashed around to try and cool ourselves down in the Indian sun!
After our tour for the day, we returned to our homestay where we prepared ourselves for the over thirty hour train ride we were about to embark on in order to get to Mumbai in time for our flights. We got on the train on Thursday night around 9PM and didn't get off until nearly 6AM on Saturday morning. Needless to say, we did a lot of reading and eating on the train, but we're just glad to have survived the ordeal without going stir crazy. Upon our arrival in Mumbai, we walked around in the early hours of the day as our hostel wouldn't let us check in until noon. We went to the famous washing ghat, where all of Mumbai's laundry is done by a group of men in an mind bogglingly organized manner! Close to noon, we returned to the hostel and reunited with my university friend Sarah who we hadn't seen since the very beginning of my trip and we basically spent our last day resting and packing before heading out at night for a final walk around and dinner. The next morning, we were up early with the crows and at the airport by 7. From there I had to part ways with Nicola as I was flying to London via Cairo and she was flying to Paris via Kuala Lumpur.
Flying out of India was bittersweet as I had become so attached to the people and culture. India was such an eye opening experience and the extreme colours, sights, sounds, and magic of the country is something that must be experienced and could never be properly described. I've heard that people either hate or love India and either go once or can't stop going back and I can guarantee that I am the latter. I truly anticipate returning to India someday as I think that in my two months there, I only scratched the surface. From Mumbai, I flew into Cairo and spent a day there before continuing onto London, which I will describe next.
England: London, Kenilworth, Stratford-upon-Avon, and Coventry
Upon arriving in Heathrow, my Uncle Brendan whisked me off to a hotel near Paddington Station where I immediately showered and climbed into bed as I was wrecked from the journey from India. The next morning, I hopped on a double decker bus and toured the city. I did the typical spots such as Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Oxford Street, and so forth but the highlight of a day was doing a Thames River Cruise. It was freezing but it was incredible to see the city from the river and was definitely a great experience. During my eight days in London, I got to meet up with my cousins Michael and Brian and had a great time catching up with them and experiencing the London nightlife with them and their girlfriends. After a week of touring the city solo, Michael and I headed to the infamous Borough Market first thing Saturday morning and took in all of the fresh cheeses, meats, fish, and produce. From there, we headed to East London where we met up with Brian and the boys' girlfriends. We had a great day going around and doing a bit of a pub crawl. East London is a great scene to take in and is definitely where I would be hanging around if I ever moved to London.
The following day, Michael and I went off for our Sunday Roast and after headed to a pub to take in a Chelsea v. Man U match. We ended up running into a score of Michael's friends who are also Irish and we all had a great Sunday. The next day was equally exciting as I met up with two of my friends, Jenny and Ellen, from Korea. I met both of them while living in Korea and was lucky to meet up with the two of them as Jenny is currently living in Leeds doing a masters and Ellen was in town for a wedding. The three of us did a bit of touring, stopping in the middle of the day to take in a beer garden, and then carry on to Oxford Street to check out the shops. I had a great time catching up with them but it was so surreal to see them outside of Korea! The next day, I met up with Jenny and my cousin Brian for a bit of a goodbye lunch and then caught a train up to Warwickshire to spend my remaining time in England with my mother's brother, my Uncle Gerald.
My Uncle Gerald lives in Kenilworth in an amazing old cottage that even old Oliver Cromwell stayed in many moons ago. He has an incredible house and the peace and quiet his house and surrounding countryside offered after the noise of London and India was very much welcomed. You can see cattle grazing from his sitting room and sitting there next to the fire, looking out over the fields, and reading a book was pure bliss. I love the English countryside and was so happy to be there after the hectic few months I had had travelling through Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia, and India. From Kenilworth, I went up to Stratford-upon-Avon for a day and really enjoyed taking in Shakespeare’s hometown. I did a cruise of the River Avon and followed that with a fine feed of fish and chips! After that, I did a walking tour of Stratford where we were shown Shakespeare’s birthplace as well as the houses of his immediate family members. We also checked out his theatre, grave, and a few other spots and I truly had a great time taking in all of the history and roaming the same streets, that Old Willie would have walked around while writing his plays!
Over the next few days, I went to a town called Lemington Spa to have a look and also my Uncle Gerald took me to a place called Coventry. Coventry has that typical English town feel but it has a bleak history as it had been bombed by the Luftwaffe during World War II. During the bombing, their cathedral was destroyed. Their bombed cathedral now stands side by side by one that was built next to it and it was such an eerie and beautiful sight. Walking through the old cathedral, I could really feel the greatness of the place and it stood in such contrast to the modern cathedral next to it. They are each beautiful and impressive in their own way and this is definitely a site to be taken in if you ever find yourself in the area!
I had an incredible time with my Uncle Gerald and I really look forward to visiting him again in the future but unfortunately our time together drew to an end and I had to catch a flight to Cork, Ireland where I am now!
Ireland: Innashannon, Cork City, Ballylanders, Fethard, Goleen, and Oughmina
I arrived in Ireland last Saturday on the 14th and was met by my Auntie Eileen (Dad's sister) and my gorgeous cousin Sarah. They scooped me up from Cork Airport and brought me back to the homestead in Innashannon where I reunited with the rest of Eileen's gang. We had a great dinner that night and spent the spent the next day, Sunday, going to mass and then going to my cousin Sarah's camogie match, which is the female version of hurling. From my Auntie's house in Innashannon, my cousin Sean dropped me at the bus station in Cork City and I took a bus out to Mitchelstown where my Auntie Phil (Mom's sister) picked me up and took me to go see my Great Auntie Dorella's house (near Ballylanders where my mother was born and raised) where I had an enjoyable afternoon and got to meet a few of my second cousins. I spent a few days with my Auntie Phil and had a great time catching up with her as it had been about seven years since I had seen her last. After my few days out in Fethard with her, I caught a bus back to Cork City where I was met by yet another auntie, my Auntie Rotua (Dad's sister-in-law), who just had my baby cousin Martha this last year and I spent a weekend with her and my Uncle Bernard. Yesterday, Bernard drove us out to his hometown (my Dad's hometown, as they are brothers) and I got to go back to his house in Oughmina which was formally my Grandparent's house that my father was raised in. Being back there was surreal as I hadn't been there in so long and had only been there once since my Grandparent's both passed away.
From there, we went to the Mizen Head which is the southwesternmost point in Ireland and a place that I've visited many times over the years. I couldn't help but notice that only a month before, I was at the southernmost tip of India and now here I was at Ireland's! From the Mizen, we went to a pub and restaurant called The Crookhaven Inn, in a sheltered inlet, where I spent a lot of summers as a child going out on my Grandad's boat and getting good feeds of fish and chips while the grownups were having their fun at the pub! At the Crookhaven Inn, my Uncle Kieran (Dad's brother-in-law) and my cousin Cathal came to have lunch with us and it was great to see Cathal as he was just a kid the last time I saw him and he is now a young man. I can't believe that I'm getting tot he point in my life where I comment on how fast the young ones are growing up! After a great lunch, we went to the church in Goleen where I placed flowers on my Grandparents' and Auntie Patricia's (Dad's sister who died young) graves. It was definitely sad to be there but I was immediately cheered after as we went to my Great Auntie Pat's (Dad's aunt) house where she made us hot whiskies and had us rolling with her lively conversation and great sense of humour. Her similarity to my Granny is striking and it was almost like being back with my Granny Eileen for the evening.
After our visit with Great Auntie Pat, Bernard brought me back here to Innashannon where I'm planning my next plan of attack. But for today, I'm going to stay in to stay out of the stormy weather and follow Obama's visit on the telly! Thanks for following and I'll update again soon!



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