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Old 24th April 2014, 20:40   #1
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Default Playing hide & seek with 'Him' in 'His' own country - Bangalore to Kerala

Condemned are those who are bitten by the travel bug, to a lifetime of early morning starts and fuel bills. They live from weekend to weekend, eyeing national holidays greedily which lie tantalizingly close to a Saturday or Sunday, not shying away from bridging a stubborn Friday or Monday in between with a sick leave, perhaps more imagined than real!

With the magical lagoons and the inviting beaches of God’s own country having evaded our wheels for far too long, it was just a matter of time for us to let loose an eager engine and our considerable appetites (both for travel and maach bhaja – fried fish to the uninitiated) on the winding roads and the lush valleys of…wait, before I get carried away and turn this into a personal indulgence, I will cease and desist. Instead of the long, I will provide the short, of our 7 day road trip to Kerala along with some pics of course!

The Bare facts -
  • Dates:- 17th Apr - 23rd Apr
  • Destinations covered:- Bangalore - Thekkady - Kovalam - Kumarakom - Bangalore
  • Distance covered:- 1894 kms
  • Ride:- Alto K10 VXi

Chapter 1; The woods

Day 1, Bangalore - Thekkady (Periyar Tiger Reserve) Route - Bangalore – Hosur – Rayakottai – Palacode bypass – Thoppur – Omalur – Salem – Karur – Palayam – Dindigul bypass (take service road and right from under NH7 flyover) – Batlagundu – Theny – Kumily – Periyar Tiger Reserve (520 KMS)

As usual, in our effort to beat the traffic we started bright and early at 4AM (its a different matter that we could have started at 12 AM just as well given that we hardly got any sleep from all the pre drive excitement) The initial part was uneventful; do keep your eyes open however for the signages after Attibele toll if you are taking the Palacode diversion off the main route. The Rayakottai - Palacode stretch is a SH with excellent tarmac to drive on. Its lit up like a Christmas tree in the dark with all the reflectors on the road and even on trees! Its undivided though so do watch out for oncoming traffic. No pics of this stretch as we were too excited to remember to click a few keepsakes.

GQ as always is a breeze to drive on and is uneventful (unless of course you try looking for an element of drama at the crossings where invariably there are two wheelers playing chicken!) I was a tad shy in my driving style due to the profusion of two wheelers in the TN stretch. The section from Dindigul bypass through Theny is quite good but a tad narrow. We took a couple of bio breaks at unremarkable places. The drive to Thekkady was unable to evoke quite the romance I was expecting with only the last 10 odd kms being ghat sections. We reached our destination at circa 2 PM.

Driving up to Periyar house inside the reserve
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Thekkady (Periyar Tiger Reserve) - Stretching over an area of 925 sq kms, this game reserve is situated on the Cardamom hills with the eastern part being the nerve centre of tourism situated on the banks of the man made lake and also the location of three KTDC hotels within the reserve, namely - Lake Palace, Aranya Nivas and Periyar House - where we stayed. The prime attraction here is boating on the lake (with some animal sightings thrown in should lady luck smile, perish the thought of sighting tigers though) and treks in the forest.

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You have to buy tickets per adult to access the reserve (additional for your ride) even if you are staying at KTDC and on a daily basis should you stay for more than a night! We were too late to catch the last ride for the day at 3 PM and so resigned ourselves to taking walks on the road leading upto Peiyar House, which is quite thrilling given that there is always the promise of a biped/quadriped leaping out at you from the woods (never mind the odds) You also get to hear the sounds of the woods which is a novelty for us city desk jockeys.


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Day 2 - Began with the boat ride on the lake which was quite serene. The limbs of dead trees sticking out of the water is quite a sight, as if arms spread in a plea. We barely saw a small herd of elephants peeping from the woods and wild boars galore. The birds helped add colour to the proceedings.

Tip:- Boating becomes easier if you are staying in any of the KTDC properties inside the reserve as they get the ticketing done for you and you don't have to queue up. As we discovered, its best to take the first slot (730AM) as the weather is mellow and the lake looks pretty while catching the first rays of the sun.

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We had included trips to the Idukki dam and Vagamon in our itinerary as there isnt much to do in the reserve besides boating. Hence we took Route:- SH19/33 Kumily – Anakkara – Puttady - kattappana – Idukki dam (approx 50 kms) The road is good and winds its way through the ghats and gave me ample opportunities to chuck my ride into the corners and she came through with flying colors! Unfortunately for us, the dam is open to tourists for a short period only during Onam and the New year and hence we had to be content with just clicking this

Thus the only option left was to make a beeline for the hills and the lush meadows of Vagamon as many TLs in TBHP had promised. To go to Vagamon we went via Elappara along SH 14. The drive is nice and the greenery is a sight for sore eyes. This being the dry season, Vagamon wasnt a revelation as promised and it was quite hot and dry. We had a quick lunch at a local eatery and beat a hasty retreat. Some pics of the drive below

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With that we bid adieu to Thekkady with our appetites whetted for what lay ahead. Day 3 would see us heading for the sun kissed beaches as we slip deeper into Malabar territory.

Foodie hot tip:- On Day 1, we had lunch as 'Tasty Thekkady', a nondescript eatery located bang opposite the Kumily bus station. The beef fry was yum and the Kerala parathas were soft and fluffy.Along with fish curry, a meal for two came for less than 300 bucks, definitely recommended!


Chapter 2; The sun kissed (almost scorching) beaches!

Day 3, Thekkady - Kovalam, Route:- NH220 Kumily – Kuttikanam – Peruvanthanam – Peermed – Kanjirapally – SH8 Manimala – Ranni – Pathanamthitta – MC Road Adoor - NH47 via Attingal to Kovalam 240 KMS

Preferred the internal route over MC road for the initial part; loads of bends with curves in all the right places which kept the average speed to 31kms condition and provided many happy driving memories in return, surface is good with patchy in sections, scenic and not much traffic.

On the road again...
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I have somehow always preferred the salty breeze in my hair and sand between my toes over the solitude of the mountains. Thus it was no surprise that a visit to the famed Kovalam beaches figured prominently in our plans. The plan was to soak up as much as possible of the countryside during the drive to Kovalam and we were not disappointed. What struck me was that the small towns seemed more organized with signages etcetera in place than what I have seen in some of the other states. What hurts is the paucity of liquor stores; one has to literally sniff out the government run stores and queue up patiently; all for your fave tipple. Disclaimer - the only lubrication which happens when I'm driving is that of my ride's moving parts, my throat bides its time until the days' drive is done

Kovalam (Thiruvananthapuram) - the famed beach resort is situated on the Arabian sea about 16 kms from the city centre. Part of the erstwhile Travancore kingdom, this sleepy fishing hamlet shot to prominence on the tourism map with the arrival of hippies on their way to Ceylon on the hippie trail. The main attractions are the lighthouse and hawa beaches dotted with refreshment shacks and watersport options.

We were struck by the real estate along the highway leading to Kovalam, ushered in largely by the Technopark. Do be on your best behavior on this stretch as this is a model traffic corridor with speed guns and hawk eyes coppers watching your every move. The driving will struck you as oddly courteous if you are used to the 'no prisoners taken' attitude in Bangalore; private vehicles atleast stick to their lanes if there is a traffic pileup ahead - imagine my surprise!

The eye candy on the beach
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This was to be our home for the next two nights. KTDC Samudra Kovalam is located on the Samudra beach (about 2 kms away from the nerve centre of Kovalam lighthouse beach) You will not regret parting with your money at this establishment; located on a sprawling beachfront location this boasts of all the trappings that you look for in a beach resort, at a much lower tariff perhaps than its more glamorous brethren along the shore. The food is a tad disappointing though as it does not reflect the local flair and is more 'Indianised'

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Having been to Goa, I would rate this beach higher than the Baga/Clangutes but below Palolem/Agonda. Its not particularly long and can get insanely hot at this time of the year (which is to be expected) Do carry some heavy duty sunblock unless of course you want to experience what the seafood plated on your table had to go through
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Try this if you haven't already in any of the beach destinations, this was our first speedboat ride on the ocean and boy was it an adrenaline rush! If you like to be on anything which goes fast with a bit of thudding and bumping along the way then your search ends here. The sight of so much water around is just unforgettable.
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This stunning mosque stands next to the lighthouse on the harbour, clicked from the speedboat
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My account of the Kovalam leg would be incomplete without a description of the gastronomic delight offered by the restaurants on the promenade lining the lighthouse beach. Going by the name of Kingfisher Restaurant this unassuming joint dishes out some lipsmacking seafare at very reasonable prices. We had a kingfish steak, some chilly fried prawn and some fish curry and the portion sizes were humongous! So much so that we made a beeline for this place in the evening for some calamari.

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This pretty much sums up our time at Kovalam, dipping in the pool when not on the beach and stuffing our faces when not doing either. One can do a drive to Ponmudi if out of ideas on what more to do. We were tanned and nicely crisped and looking forward to the last leg of the trip, which promised an experience which we haven't had before: the backwaters!



Chapter 3; the tranquil waters

Day 5, Kovalam - Kollam - Kumarakom, Route:-via NH47 Kovalam – Kollam and onwards to Kottayam via Changanacherry 186 KMS

Mention must be made of the Sygic app that we used on our Nexus 7 as the navigation device. This is the first time we used it on a long roadtrip and it was a godsent. With so many turnings and bends we would have been left lurching in the dark without this. The MapmyIndia maps which can be downloaded for free onto android devices is very detailed and accurate.

Winding our way through in search of the magical waters
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We stopped for lunch at Kollam beach at this place right next to the main entrance and again the food lived upto our expectations. Try this if you are there!
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Kollam beachfront
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Last edited by hothatchaway : 28th April 2014 at 13:48.
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Old 27th April 2014, 22:51   #2
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Picture perfect churches on our way to Kumarakom
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Kumarakom (Kottayam) is one of the premier backwater destinations in Kerala. Its set in the backdrop of the Vembanad lake which is the largest freshwater lake in Kerala. We had initially planned to go to Allepey but further research sealed Kumarakom as our backwater destination. I have perhaps not visited a better place where one can lose oneself so completely to nature. The ads on the legendary 'God's own country' theme do not exaggerate; you have to be here to believe the magic of the place

We had initially booked Backwater Retreat, a resort which is closer to Kottayam than Kumarakom but is set in equally verdant settings. It overlooks a small canal and the place transports you back in time. We were all set to stay one evening here and spend the next day and night over at a houseboat arranged by the owner, but what happened was the cliched man proposes god disposes kind of an incident, albeit of a pleasant kind, bearing in mind that we were in 'His' own country!

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After we had checked in, driven back to Kottayam for some shopping and returned in the evening, relaxing in our room, the heavens decided to open up. Which was great, except for the fact that we heard the most nerve shattering of thunderclaps, moments before which the power went out. As we discovered, lightning had struck (fortunately it bade no ill omen as we discovered) and the fuse had blown with the generator refusing to work. It was quickly established that it wouldn't be comfortable spending the night there and the owner was prompt enough to make alternate arrangements for us at a resort at Kumarakom. Stars were conspiring as earlier in the evening, while surfing the internet, we came across the most magical of properties to do justice to the land of backwaters and had made bookings there for our last night of the trip. So off we went at 11 in the night driving to Kumarakom to spend the night at our makeshift motel; as BHPians are wont to do, we are never shy of a drive, no matter what time and place!

The rest of the night was uneventful and we were glad that we were already close to our destination of choice, having already decided to ditch the houseboat idea (somewhat strange but given that both of us are restless souls and wanted more flexibility to do different things) to stay somewhere else but equally closer to the action

Day 6, off to an early start into the lap of nature
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Moments from our first sighting of the numerous rivers crisscrossing the land
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...and here we are
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If by this time this TL reads like a pitch for KTDC, I assure you I have no commercial stake in them, but would be glad if this writeup inspires more visitors to patronize their hotels; nowhere else in India have I seen such courteous staff in a state run hotel. They welcome you graciously, provide you with adequate information and then leave you to your devices, never intruding but always accessible to attend to your needs. I was absolutely bowled over by the official host to 'His' own country. They even let us check in early and not charge a penny more!

We got great deals as this was the off season and we booked online sometime ahead. Especially for this property, the tariff was VFM and some more. I only wish their cooking reflected more of the culinary delights of this land and not pander to a more assimilated taste

Driving up to the entrance
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this one's not ending up on the dinner table!
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first glimpse of our canal facing cottage. For an additional sum, you can stay at one facing the lake, to us it didnt make a difference since the property begged to be discovered on foot and we were near the lake/canals most of the time anyways. The place is absolutely stunning with the shimmering waters providing a surreal backdrop

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The difficult part, I assure you, is in getting out!
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This is a must see even if you aren't an ornithologist. At the very least, the 3 odd km trek will help shed what all the fried fish would have added around the waistline

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well into the trek
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Our gastronomic adventure continued, we decided to head the 13 odd kms back to Kottayam for lunch and glad that we did since we ate the most amazing beef chilly fry at this joint. I can still taste the succulent pieces wrapped in caramelized onions fried to a crunchy crisp. I was even moved to contemplate if they could establish a supply line of sorts to Bangalore!

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In lieu of the HB ride that we didnt do, opting to station ourselves in the resort instead, we started Day 7 with a motorboat ride down the backwaters, watching the magic unfold in front our very eyes

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One of the mighty snakeboats, cooling its heels until its unleashed in these waters again
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A snakebird!
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Last edited by hothatchaway : 28th April 2014 at 13:56.
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Old 28th April 2014, 00:17   #3
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Things to do at Kumarakom - the answer is pretty much nothing, by which I mean that you either lie back in a HB/motor boat or put your feet up in a hammock or just gently stew in a swimming pool and watch the migratory birds flap by and leaves rustle in the gentle breeze. I truly believe you can come back from a trip to Kumarakom, a rejuvenated man.

Trivia - Arundhuti Roy's award winning 'God of Small things' is based in the Aymanam village adjoining Kumarakom where we had initially checked into the 'Backwater Retreat' before nature took matters in her own hands. No prizes in guessing what the book has done to tourism in these parts. Yet, one pleasantly notes that the grubby stains of commercialization is yet to leave its mark in these parts...and I certainly hope it stays that way

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Another snake bird, truly an amazing creature
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meanwhile, back at the resort, the ducks have been let loose
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Not sure what species, maybe a knowledgeable member can educate?
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The well appointed restaurant
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View from the hotel jetty
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The pool, though relaxing, can do with a bit of upkeep
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Your's truly, attempting to stay afloat!
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Its curtains for our 6N 7D trip, we retreat with our memories are richer and skins tanned beyond recognition. It was truly a roadtrip to remember, with a heavy heart I mash the A pedal and work the gears into our marathon 590 KMS drive back to Bangalore. We started from Kumarakom at 1130 AM and were back home in Indiranagar at 1030 PM

Route - NH47 Kumarakom Cherthala Kochi bypass (dual carriageway till Kochi followed by stretches made patchy by metro construction) Chalakudy Pallakad bypass Coimbatore bypass (ghats/patchy roads/diversions keeping average speed down to 43kms/hr) followed by good roads (though undivided) through Tirupur and Erode from where the GQ takes over via Salem to Bangalore

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A happy milestone is reached. This TL wouldnt be complete without mentioning the performance of my 'pocket rocket', running on full stock except for a pair of Philips Extreme vision which was installed days before the trip, she was like an eager terrier on the ghats and a grand (g in lower case) cruiser on the GQ. The A/C was a champ in the steamy midday heat yet performance rarely dropped below noticeable levels even with the A/C running in full blast. The compact size helped in the narrow roads while the K Series engine showed its grunt in pulling through crowded stretches; downshift and open the throttle and she would revv like a motorcycle engine, powering us through. Sadly, I paid the price in the FE front averaging about 17.8 for the entire trip

But hey, life is much more than counting beans!

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Like an arrow primed on the bowstring
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And finally, the trivia pieces have been sourced from who else, wikipedia, just thought it would help in adding more color and context, especially for travel buffs who like their history!


"I have travelled around the world
to see the tallest mountains
and the deepest oceans
But I never took a few steps
from my own doorsteps
to see the beauty in dewdrops
on a blade of grass."

- Tagore

Last edited by hothatchaway : 28th April 2014 at 13:33.
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Old 28th April 2014, 22:31   #4
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Moving to the Travelogue section

Thanks for compiling and sharing
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Old 29th April 2014, 14:33   #5
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Default re: Playing hide & seek with 'Him' in 'His' own country - Bangalore to Kerala

Well detailed travelogue.
Quote:
Condemned are those who are bitten by the travel bug, to a lifetime of early morning starts and fuel bills. They live from weekend to weekend, eyeing national holidays greedily which lie tantalizingly close to a Saturday or Sunday
Cant agree more.

Regarding KTDC hotel booking, I guess they provide an additional discount for online customers.
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Old 29th April 2014, 14:35   #6
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Default re: Playing hide & seek with 'Him' in 'His' own country - Bangalore to Kerala

Some more factoids which I missed out above

Total toll paid - Rs 330 while going and Rs 446 on return leg

Total distance covered - 1894 kms

Fuel Consumed - 108 litres approx

Smile on the wife's face - Priceless!
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Old 29th April 2014, 20:20   #7
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A comprehensive Southy travelogue.. Some of the pictures are simply amazing. The unidentified species on the jetty is a Heron.
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Old 30th April 2014, 01:50   #8
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Nice travellogue. Looking at the pics looks like it was hot there. But the nice resort and the houseboat makes up for all of it.

Would you mind sharing the details of the resort and the expenses?
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Old 30th April 2014, 13:03   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mpksuhas View Post
Well detailed travelogue.

Cant agree more.

Regarding KTDC hotel booking, I guess they provide an additional discount for online customers.
Thanks Suhas, yes you do shave off a bit from the tariff but sometimes their websites could be dated, the best part was that with KTDC Waterscapes I emailed them and got 20% lopped off while checking in, even without asking for one

Quote:
Originally Posted by TorqueyTechie View Post
Nice travellogue. Looking at the pics looks like it was hot there. But the nice resort and the houseboat makes up for all of it.

Would you mind sharing the details of the resort and the expenses?
Thanks. It was KTDC Periyar house in Thekkady (do check out Aranya Nivas as its closer to the lake and is also branded a 'game reserve lodging') KTDC Samudra at Kovalam and Waterscapes at Kumarakom. The first one was some 2.4k with a MAP plan and the other two were 3.5k change with a CP plan.

If its authentic food that you seek you would do well to eat outside, even the small eateries are gems especially if you gorge on beef and fish

Last edited by hothatchaway : 30th April 2014 at 13:04. Reason: typos
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Old 1st May 2014, 09:48   #10
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Default Re: Playing hide & seek with 'Him' in 'His' own country - Bangalore to Kerala

Hi HothatChaway,

Thanks for putting up this travelogue.
Lovely Kerala brought alive and also took me 19 years back, when it was our favorite destination from our Engineering College in Tamil Nadu. Any extended weekend and Kerala was the place to go.

We really liked the connectivity & public transports in south. They serve you better than a taxi.
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Old 1st May 2014, 11:00   #11
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Default Re: Playing hide & seek with 'Him' in 'His' own country - Bangalore to Kerala

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Originally Posted by hothatchaway View Post
Condemned are those who are bitten by the travel bug, to a lifetime of early morning starts and fuel bills. They live from weekend to weekend, eyeing national holidays greedily which lie tantalizingly close to a Saturday or Sunday, not shying away from bridging a stubborn Friday or Monday in between with a sick leave, perhaps more imagined than real!
You said it! +1
North , South, East or West - it's called the long weekend bug.
And you have a very endearing way with words!
Quote:

The Bare facts -
  • Dates:- 17th Apr - 23rd Apr
  • Destinations covered:- Bangalore - Thekkady - Kovalam - Kumarakom - Bangalore
  • Distance covered:- 1894 kms
  • Ride:- Alto K10 VXi
Man, that's some driving 1900 km in 7 days in an Alto! For me personally seeing an Alto do such long distances is an eye-opener. In my family, all those who own an Alto, use it as a daily in-city run-about. We would never dream of doing 1900 km in Alto. Hats off!

Loved the pictures too! Some of them are really good. Keep them coming. Your description of the gastronomic delights to be had en-route, has me updating my copy of the HOMP book
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Old 2nd May 2014, 11:03   #12
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Default Re: Playing hide & seek with 'Him' in 'His' own country - Bangalore to Kerala

Lovely write up hothatchaway.
A very interesting read, tangled with snippets, trivia and humour.
Loved every bit of it.

Good photographs too.
However, I would say that summer is not the time to visit Kerala.
The April heat in the state, if you call it "scorching" is an understatement.

Even the greenery in the hills of Thekkady, Kuttikkanam etc are not in its lush prime.
You might want to consider visiting the state during August, immediately as the monsoons are subsiding and before the tourist season starts.
Believe me, you wouldn't repent the "imaginative sick leaves" you feign in the office
The green during that would be pulsating green and not the dry green as you see now.

Irrespective of all that, as a true Bhpian, its the travel, destination and the thrill behind the wheel which matters.
And it is abundantly clear that you have achieved that and more.


Happy travelling.
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Old 2nd May 2014, 11:46   #13
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Default Re: Playing hide & seek with 'Him' in 'His' own country - Bangalore to Kerala

I just thought hmmm..another Kerala log, but your writing hooked me into it. Beautifully written. Though as Dhanush says, the timing is bit off - summer, never the best time in Kerala, but good to know that you enjoyed it nevertheless!!
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Old 2nd May 2014, 19:33   #14
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Hi HothatChaway,
We really liked the connectivity & public transports in south. They serve you better than a taxi.
You said it Sir, add to that the smooth tarmac with curves in all the right places, perfect recipe for a mouthwatering roadtrip!

Quote:
Originally Posted by joybhowmik View Post
You said it! +1
North , South, East or West - it's called the long weekend bug.
And you have a very endearing way with words!

Man, that's some driving 1900 km in 7 days in an Alto! For me personally seeing an Alto do such long distances is an eye-opener. In my family, all those who own an Alto, use it as a daily in-city run-about. We would never dream of doing 1900 km in Alto. Hats off!
Dada - am a firm believer one should know one's car as well as one's lover. Like a perfect relationship, everything then falls in place. The K10 can be a great mile cruncher yet delight with her frugality. Your back however would complain stridently which we conquer with our love for travel. In states like Goa and Kerala where roads have narrow waistlines, small cars can zip into gaps which the bigger ones would eye suspiciously. Eventually, you are the fuel

Quote:
Originally Posted by dhanushmenon View Post
Lovely write up hothatchaway.

Even the greenery in the hills of Thekkady, Kuttikkanam etc are not in its lush prime.
You might want to consider visiting the state during August, immediately as the monsoons are subsiding and before the tourist season starts.
Believe me, you wouldn't repent the "imaginative sick leaves" you feign in the office
The green during that would be pulsating green and not the dry green as you see now.

Irrespective of all that, as a true Bhpian, its the travel, destination and the thrill behind the wheel which matters.
And it is abundantly clear that you have achieved that and more.
Happy travelling.
Thanks Dhanush, chance and circumstances meant we had to do the trip now, but in many ways this felt the beginning of a budding romance which should see more rendevzous' in the years to come!

Quote:
Originally Posted by mallumowgli View Post
I just thought hmmm..another Kerala log, but your writing hooked me into it. Beautifully written. Though as Dhanush says, the timing is bit off - summer, never the best time in Kerala, but good to know that you enjoyed it nevertheless!!
Many thanks, glad that I could help rekindle your interest in Kerala!
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Old 5th May 2014, 10:38   #15
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Default Re: Playing hide & seek with 'Him' in 'His' own country - Bangalore to Kerala

Thanks for a well detailed travelogue . I will use it for my next trip to Kerela.
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