Free Press Journal

Kerala : Spellbound by this natural beauty

Lush greenery, sparkling backwaters, tea plantations leave Farhana Madar mesmerised.

According to Hindu mythology, Kerala is known as God’s own country. This narrow strip of land that is sandwiched between the Western Ghat Mountains on the East, and the Arabian Sea on the West surely lives up to its title. The lush greenery and crisp fresh air, emerald sparkling backwaters, tea plantations and paddy fields are some of the many beautiful things it has to offer. However, not only is this country the land of natural beauty that spots picturesque scenes at every head-turn, but it is also a place where you will find peace and love in abundance. In Kerala, there is a blend of cultures, with churches, temples and mosques all under the same umbrella, where everyone lives harmoniously.

My visit to Kerala was a spectacular one. We landed in Cochin, which is the queen of the Arabian Sea. The drive from the airport to the actual city was long. By the time we reached, coconut trees and rice paddies were soon replaced with billboards and a fulfilling amount of shops and markets. Our hotel staff was courteous, welcoming us with an aarti and smiling faces.

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We first visited the Santa Cruz Cathedral which is the oldest in the city. The foundation of this beauty dates back to as long as 3rd May 1505. Sadly the British broke it down at a former time. What we saw was a reconstruction by the Bishop of Cochin of a previous reign. Nevertheless, the architecture was gothic and just breathtaking, with a blend of an Indo-European look to it. The place was quiet and so peaceful that I could have just sat there for hours on end in tranquility.

Cochin is also a well known for its Chinese fishing nets. An ancient art of fishing was taught to the Kochi-folk by the Chinese, and today, is used as the most efficient way of catching sea fortune. As I watched the distinctive technique of using the net and successfully obtaining week long food, every detail captivated me.

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After a day and a half in Cochin, we went uphill to Munnar which is 5400 feet above sea level. This beautiful Hill Station is known for its tea plantations and rich spread of flora and fauna. Rightly so, it was greenery on a platter. In Munnar we visited a tea factory with a tour guide who elaborately explained to us how tea leaves are processed. We were even shown a documentary on the History behind the tea industry in India. Being advised to try the cardamom tea, I bought and can’t stop raving about it.

Since our hotel was right on top of the mountainous terrains it allowed us to get a birds-eye view of the sprawling number of tea gardens down below us. During the evening the mist that enveloped the mountains was a delight to the eye. Driving down to the city was always nice. We saw a number of little restaurants and the hospitality we received there was just heart-warming, as the locals shared their utmost willingness to make us feel at home.

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We even witnessed the sight of elegant waterfalls. Being the nature enthusiast that I am, I would halt and get a little touch of this God-made beauty. Before leaving Munnar, I knew there was one thing I couldn’t miss and that was an ayurvedic massage and I got my fix of it. The massage was an hour long with quantitative portions of oil being used by very skilled hands leaving me rejuvenated and ending the visit to Munnar on a high-note.

Our next stop was Thekkady. On arrival, stepping foot in to our hotel was a pleasant surprise. We were welcomed with garlands, a fruit punch and genuinely happy staff. In Thekkady we spent a good amount of time cruising around and catching a good glimpse of the wildlife, herds of elephants and a number of deer’s, to shop hopping and handpicking the finest spices, all organic and garden fresh.

Now, a trip to Kerala is incomplete without a Katakali show, and that was something to tick off my bucket list. We went to the Mudra Cultural Centre and throughout the performance I was left in awe. The female counterparts were invariably male, the makeup and costumes were beautiful, as was the dance. However, as good and important as the hand and foot movements were, hands down, it was the eyes and facial expressions that portrayed the entire story impeccably well without uttering a dialect. The next part of the trip was solely about relaxing, and that’s what we did in Kumarakom. To reach the hotel, The Cocobay Resort, we were taken by shikara through a narrow canal. The hotel property was huge and built on the shores of the Vembanad Lake which allowed us to be a stone’s throw away from the backwaters. By the time it was early evening we indulged in some canapés and refreshments. The enormous hotel pool was rather tempting but I found my peace in watching the evening sun bed itself in an unforgettable orange sky as I relaxed on the hotels hammock.

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Next morning we got onto a large houseboat that picked us up from the hotel itself to escort us to Alleppey for our last two days. Living on the backwaters was a paradise life. Our cook, a jovial chap, prepared both veg and non veg dishes. He would pick jumbo prawns and succulent fish directly from the backwaters and serve up authentic and mouth watering Keralan dishes with bags of flavor that brought beads of sweat to our foreheads but happy smiles on our faces. Our houseboat had AC’s in every room, hot water in the bathrooms, an LCD TV, sofas and comfortable beds. What more could one ask for?

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My mobile network was erratic, but surprisingly, no care in the world was given. I was so in tune to my surroundings and wanted to thoroughly appreciate it before everyday life kicked in. Palm and mango trees, villagers using the backwaters for necessities and entertainment, ducks paddling and floating supermarkets all sung the song of nature at its best.

Two days on the houseboat went by smoothly and now the round trip of Kerala came to an end, but oh, how it exceeded my expectations! Leaving this enchantress felt very bittersweet, and although we took off from Cochin airport, I left a piece of my heart in the backwaters of Alleppey.

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