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Mark's World Tour 2007-08

Day 61: Getting nowhere fast in Kerala

INDIA | Saturday, 5 January 2008 | Views [865]

The Backwaters, Kerala

The Backwaters, Kerala

Saturday 5th January

I had planned out my route to Varkala, and it was to involve two bus journeys with a boat trip through the famous Keralan 'Backwaters' in between. So, not the most direct of trips, but it would give me the chance to see some beautiful scenery on the way, which would obviously make it more interesting than the average journey.

The bus left Kumily at 08.30, arriving into the town of Kottayam at around 12.30, much quicker than I had expected based on the trip I had taken to get to Kumily a few days before. I took a rickshaw to the boat jetty from where I would take the short trip to Alleppey. After lunch, I boarded the boat, whose passengers were made up largely of local people, making it less of a vehicle for tourists, of whom there were only three of us. The three hour journey was very pleasant, passing through palm tree-lined canals and wide open lagoons. Along the way, we saw many people going about their daily business: women washing clothes in the water, kids swimming, and old men on fishing boats. There were many kettu vallam, large boats made of wood with rooves made of wicker, and on which tourists can sleep and have meals cooked for them. These went at a very slow pace, but looked quite luxurious and clearly ideal places to unwind for a day or two.

We arrived in Alleppey at 17.00 and were met by a few young guys touting for business on behalf of local guesthouses. After two months in India, my natural default is to tell these people quite firmly – but politely – where to go. Instead of persisting with his efforts, the guy who approached me just walked away as his friends killed themselves laughing at him on the quayside. It was an over reaction on my part as, after chatting with them for a few minutes, I found them to be nice guys, and they even helped me get on the right bus to Varkala, the last leg of the journey.

The bus was going all the way to Trivandrum, the state capital of Kerala, and I was to get off at a stop 10kms outside of Varkala. I was led to believe by the name of the road we were on – the NH17 or 'National Highway 17' – that the 70km trip to my destination would be relatively quick. I really should have known better at this stage than to expect to get anywhere quick in India. The journey seemed interminable, and matters were made worse when we ran into one of the many parades that we being undertaken that day throughout Kerala by the Communist Party (the governing power in the state at present). This was my last significant journey before leaving India, and it brought back memories of that first, long bus trip that I took through the night from Chandigarh to Shimla back in November: my bag lodged between my legs and my arse turning numb, and with no sign of the end in sight!

After covering 70kms in three hours, I finally got off the damned bus and onto a rickshaw that would take me to Varkala Beach. I got to my hotel and was very pleased with the room, and it was very good value for the peak season in Varkala. My only task for the evening was to get some food, have a shower (to clean the layer of dirt that had built up on my face during the course of the day), and to get some sleep.

As I strolled along the clifftop (with the beach directly below), I could see that Varkala was very busy and full of western tourists, with the crowds well catered for with many hotels, restaurants and shops located along a single seafront pathway. It was a lot more built up than the 2005 edition of my guidebook had suggested, so it had clearly undergone serious development in the intervening period.

I got some food – grilled blue marlin, which was very nice – and went back to the hotel and crashed out for the night. I was completely wrecked. It had been a very long and tiring day. I will miss India, but I will be very glad to wave goodbye to those bus trips!

Tags: On the Road


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