Even on a shoestring budget, there are many reasons to love India.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”
I’d just hopped off my bus at 5 in the morning after a night long journey from Pondicherry. On the one hand I was thrilled to be in Palakkad where my ancestral home lay; on the other my body and soul were completely fatigued from the week of strenuous recreational activity I’d done in Pondicherry i.e. surfing. All I wanted was a soft bed and some rest. But fate and my cousin Vinay had other plans.
I had no real agenda for Kerala, so we made a couple of phone calls to friends in Varkala and were off by noon. I’m never one to say no to impromptu trips, but Palakkad to Varkala is a 300 km drive and we didn’t even have a vehicle. I was dreading the journey because of the public transport system in Kerala. If you’re planning a long drive, brace yourself.
Cliffside view. Image source: keralatourism.org
I had travelled approximately 8 hours to reach this place and now 8 hours and a bus change later, we got off at Varkala where we were picked up by my cousin’s college buddies. Nights in Kerala are usually quiet and best spent indoors. So I stayed in and binge watched all the Malayalam movies I had missed. Morning came wth a light shower and we headed to the beach to see what the coast looked like. Unfortunately, monsoon means no treading into the water and the coast guards made sure of that. The seas were rough and we weren’t ready to take our chances. So we parked our car by a clifffside and looked down at the raging waters. God help any man who tried his luck against that might. After a good 10 minutes of gazing, we had had enough. One can only ponder at one’s own mortality for so long. We decided to go to a road that ran between the sea and the backwaters. And I’m glad we did. It was one of the most beautiful roads that I’ve been on. We also tried a masala soda at a nearby stall, which was basically buttermilk mixed with soda. It’s a must try!
Back waters on the right and the sea on the left. Image source: entecity.com
As the day turned to noon, the sun started to melt us and we headed back to the villa. Now Pattanamthitta (difficult to type and even more difficult to pronounce) is a hilly district with a lot of rubber plantations and jungles in general. It is also where Sabarimala, which is one of the most important Hindu pilgrimage places in South India is. One thing I discovered about Kerala is that there is no shortage of water bodies. I found streams, rivers and waterfalls no matter which district I was in. After dropping our bags at the next abode, we left for Perunthenarvi which is a waterfall on the Pamba river. Save a couple of locals, there were no people here, and so we were free to take beautiful photos of nature without the eyesore of crowds.
The control tower at the Perunthenaruvi waterfalls
A couple of hours later we headed back. It’s not safe to stay in the jungles of Kerala after dark. Elephants pose a very real threat as they tend to come down the mountains during dark. It’s best to avoid any encounters with them as the locals told us. Our host Vaisakh decided that now was a good time to announce that there had been robberies in the area. With a rocky road in front of us and trees on two sides, we hoped we’d make it out in one piece. Nature doesn’t seem as beautiful when it’s dark and you’re vulnerable. Eventually our car brought us back to civilization and to our rest stop – Vaisakh’s house. His mom had prepared fish curry that was lip smackingly good.
From here we moved to a house party in Coimbatore. This haphazard trip was taking us across Kerala into Tamil Nadu. On the way we decided to stop at Athirapally waterfalls in Thrissur District. Picture perfect!
At Athirapally waterfalls
Once in Coimbatore I treated everyone to beef biryani. 13 engineering students went at it with everything they’ve got. I gulped as I looked at them gobble morsels of food like they were in a professional hotdog eating contest. When I looked at the bill, I let out a sigh of relief. Being from Mumbai, I’d forgotten how cheap food is in Tamil Nadu. The bill came to Rs. 1500 for the lot of us.
The greatest of them all – Athirapally
It was finally time to head back to Palakkad. We had come full circle. But being restless souls, the next morning we made our way to Seetharkundu which is a little waterfall close to our place. Being the 1st of July it was a dry day (the 1st of every month is dry). Heartbbroken, we continued towards the waterfall. But luck shone on us in the form of a tiny toddy shop (dry days don’t apply to them). This was my first time drinking toddy and it tasted like buttermilk mixed with alcohol.
Seetharkundu waterfalls in Palakkad district
It was love at first sight in Seetharkundu. Cascading waterfalls that created tiny pools perfect to chill in. This was my own private utopia close to home. I climbed a level to avoid other tourists and found a secluded natural jacuzzi to sit in. I didn’t ever want to leave this place and vowed to come back here as soon as I could. It’s currently no. 1 on my bucket list.
Now back in a big city with its pollution and politics, I frequently glance through my photo gallery to remind myself that places like this exist. Thank you God.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are independent views solely of the author(s) expressed in their private capacity and do not in any way represent or reflect the views of 101india.com
By Karan Nair
Cover photo credit: keralatourism.org