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Old 4th January 2011, 22:03   #16
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Day 6 : Kochi

We decided to explore Fort Kochi today and Benny provided us with a bike for the same. We went to the ferry point, loaded the bike onto the ferry and voila...we were in Fort Kochi in no time. We wandered around the quaint bylanes on the bike before making it to Sant Cruz Baslica and St Francis Church. Having grown up in a convent school, I always like the peace and quiet offered by churches and love the elaborate altars, stained glasses, sculptures and the paintings. The first 6 snaps are taken using my wife's Micromax Bling....

This, am told, is the longest rail bridge in India.
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Ferry from Ernakulam to Fort Kochi
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Santa Cruz Basilica
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St Francis Church
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Brunton Boatyard beside the jetty landing at Fort Kochi
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Then we went up to the waterfront and gazed down at the huge ships making their way across the harbour and at the fisher folk working the giant Chinese nets. We were tempted to have some of the "u buy we cook" fish available there but were not in the right mood since we had not yet heard from the camera guy...We then went down to princess street by the harbour and had a nice cold coffee and some salad at the quaint little Kashi Art Cafe.

Kashi Art Cafe
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After this we moved towards Vypin and on to Mattancherry to visit the Dutch palace and the Jewish Synagogue. The Dutch palace is a rambling mansion with murals of Ramayana and Mahabharata on the walls while the synagogue only claim to fame could be that its around 500 yrs old. This is where we got the much awaited call informing us that the camera has been repaired and can be picked up anytime. This picked up our spirits and as recommended by folks at Kashi, we went to Case De Maria in a small bylane at Mattancherry for lunch. The fish moilee and fried seer fish was as authentic as they come. After this, wifey started her shopping in right earnest and drained my wallet dry!


We then, bundled the bike into the ferry and drove across to MG road at Ernakulam to pick up our camera which was perfect. Coming back, we stopped over at the Bolghatty palace viewpoint to soak in the sunset by the river.

Sunset at Bolgatty Place view point
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Coming back, Benny arranged for us to go to his Chinese fishing net for a demo. It was quite scary to get onto a canoe amidst dense water lilies in the dark night and climb onto a ricketty platform in the middle of the river but the experience of lowering the net and hauling it up was cool. To cut a long story short, we managed to catch one small fish and one single prawn after 3 attempts .

Sunset over Ben's jetty sitting in his motor boat
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Benny rowing us through the dense water lily growth to his fishing net
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Setting up the net
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The wait begins...the fluorescent light at the water level is what attracts the fish in the dark of the night
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And this is what we caught at the end of 3 attempts!
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Dinner again was an elaborate affair with chicken curry and appams with Chembally (guess red snapper) fry. Had a long chat with Benny and Anju late into the night before calling it a day!!

I have to make a special mention of Anju's culinary skills here, from the simple fish fry to the iddliaapams, from the egg curry at breakfast to the awesome thick rice appam (don’t remember the name…maybe pottu)…she is a pro...thanks Anju for being such a great host!

Last edited by nix1976in : 4th January 2011 at 22:05.
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Old 5th January 2011, 21:31   #17
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Day 7 : Munnar

Woke up easy and strolled around the jetty near the house. It was tranquil and I was able to click a few "artistic" pictures! After another scrumptious breakfast, we started out towards Munnar at around 9am. Took the NH47 till Aluva and then joined NH49 near Kothamangalam. Reached the turn-off to Pothamedu just before Munnar town by lunch time.

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Much heard and much awaited, Munnar heralded us with achingly beautiful vistas of rolling tea plantations after hours of ghat climbing. Munnar was everything I had hoped for and seen in pictures and movies. Here, we had booked up at at a homestay called Ranger Woods in Pothamedu which is a beautiful 6km drive after a turnoff over a small bridge just before Munnar town. The small house overlooking the valley is great to spend a quiet day among cardamom plantations and chirping birds.

Falls on the way to Munnar
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Tea Gardens...
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Pothamedu
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Ranger Woods, Munnar
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Sunil, the owner is a very hospitable guy who himself volunteered to get us some of the best Munnar tea. We sat chatting up with him in his house, learning about the various varieties of tea, cardamoms and coffee .
After a quick lunch, we decided to drive down to Top station, picked up a guide from the market and drove through. Stopped enroute at the dam for some pcitures and also at the mandatory echo point. The next stop was at the elephant safari. Riding a 10 feet tall 1 tonne beast though narrow uphill jungle lanes for an hour is not my idea of fun but wifey seemed immensely pleased. After this, we drove right up to Top Station which I was told was the TN border with Kerala. Nice views of the setting sun and a pleasant drive.

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Elephant Ride...narrow steep jungle roads...scary!
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Matupetty Dam
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Echo Point
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Munnar Tea Gardens
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Enroute to Top Station
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Coming back, on the way up from Pothamedu just before Ranger woods, is Hollyhock, uniquely positioned right on the edge of the valley. We stopped by for some hot chai and onion bhajiyas, suddenly the clouds descended and enveloped the valley. It was a beautiful sight with sounds of a waterfall that we could not see. We also ordered our dinner from here since Sunil informed us that his cook had taken the day off. Nothing special but not bad either.

Fog covering the valley from Hollyhock.
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View after the fog gave some leeway!
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The night was cold...really cold but the blankets kept us warm through the night!
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Old 6th January 2011, 11:17   #18
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Good homestay finds in both Coorg and Kochi - please do share the details of the places, tariffs and contact info.

Yes HV, will put together an excel with all details and post it once I am done with my log.
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Old 6th January 2011, 20:16   #19
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Day 8 : Thekkady

Sunil's cook was back and boy, does he make a mean sambhar. I could go back to just have that again and again. We took the car out for a small drive across Pothamedu in the morning which was a nice experience.

Early morning view from Ranger woods, Munnar
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Pothamedu
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This is the bridge leading to Pothamedu from Munnar
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After checking out, we moved over to Rajamalai and hopped on to a bus to get to Eravikulam national park. The tea plantations just dont end...it’s a sight to behold. Well, we walked from the drop off point and were greeted by quite a few Nilgiri Tahr. The weather was beautiful and the views were amazing.

Enroute to Rajamali
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View from Eravikulam Park drop off point
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Nilgiri Tahr
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The bus dropped us back and we started towards Kumily...the route is through Devikulam - LockheartGap- Pooppara - Kumily. 100kms or so of entirely steep ghat roads, enroute we paid a visit to a spice plantation and loaded up on a year’s supply of spices!!!

Views near Devikulam
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Views near Lockheart Gap
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Falls enroute to Pooppara
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Inside the spice plantation near Kumily
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Took one wrong turn at Kumily and ended up at the Periyar Tiger reserve gates...turned back and made our way to Cardamom Club situated on the Kumarakom road around 5 kms away from Kumily. These are quaint little cottages situated 2 kms off the main road amidst a cardamom plantation.

Cardamom Club, Thekkady
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Had our first taste of tapioca with a very spicy chutney here but I must say that no offence, I like the sweet potato's available on the streets of Delhi better!

Relaxed around the place for the rest of the evening and conked off for the night early since we had to get up early to catch the Periyar Ferry, we were told that being a Sunday we need to be there early.

Hope to catch some wildlife!

Last edited by nix1976in : 6th January 2011 at 20:19.
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Old 7th January 2011, 08:56   #20
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That is a really great thread.
Reminded me of separate trips I had taken in 2003-2004 of Belur / Helibedu / shravanabelagola and Madikeri on bikes. I will try and upload a couple of pics from the madikeri trip when i reach home from office. We also loved the Tibetan temple and town.

Great narration. I will be following this thread for sure.
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Old 7th January 2011, 09:07   #21
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Awesome T-log there! Beautiful write up too spiced up with awesome pics.

I am sure you have had a great trip ! And 1000kms in 1 day is just splendid driving ! Didnt you guys feel the fatigue?
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Old 7th January 2011, 13:59   #22
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Very nice trip and great selection of places during Winter.
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Old 7th January 2011, 14:14   #23
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Wonderful pictures and good writeup.1k in a day, o0o0..you are a sprinter in a marathon.
All places are very well chosen.. Can you pls share on how/where you selected the choices of your stay.Looking forward for the rest of the TL.
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Old 7th January 2011, 18:12   #24
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That is a really great thread.
Reminded me of separate trips I had taken in 2003-2004 of Belur / Helibedu / shravanabelagola and Madikeri on bikes. I will try and upload a couple of pics from the madikeri trip when i reach home from office. We also loved the Tibetan temple and town.

Great narration. I will be following this thread for sure.

Thanks Buddy, The tibetian temple and Madikeri town itself is beautiful. I am planning a 2-3 day trip down to Coorg soon since it a destination by itself!
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Old 10th January 2011, 10:43   #25
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Yes HV, will put together an excel with all details and post it once I am done with my log.
Trying to beat HVK in his own game???
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Old 10th January 2011, 15:34   #26
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Awesome TL, Munnar looks great. Trust you guys had a great time
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Old 10th January 2011, 23:31   #27
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Day 9 : Periyar and Kumarakom.

The morning started early and we raced through the dark streets at 6am to get to the Periyar gates. Well, our fears were unfounded as we were the 1st ones to get there. The doors opened exactly at 6.45 and we made it to the checkpoint where the cars need to be parked. From the parking point, the ticket counter is almost 1 km away, luckily a rickshaw guy agreed to drop us off to the ferry ticket counter and we were the first ones to book the ferry tickets.

Entrance to the Periyar Tiger Reserve
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Views from the Jetty and boat
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We set sail at 7.30am through the tranquil waters of the river through the early morning mist, just like in Muthanga, the excitement was rising by the second and there was pin drop silence but as the minutes passed without a single sighting, murmurs gave way to guffaws.

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Initially, we spotted some birds, a bison (looked more like a tame buffalo to me), some more bison atop a hill (looked like 3-4 black dots) and a pack of wild boar however the views more than made up for this dismal display but more was in store.

The guide said its a BISON, Looks more like a buffalo to me!!
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Wild Boar...what a bore!!
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On the return leg while approaching the jetty, the guide drew our attention to a pack of wild dogs and some sambhar in a stand off on the opposite side of the river. Soon a drama unfolded with the dogs chasing the sambhar and isolating one by the river bed and making a meal of it. We stood by watching for almost 15-20 mins...gruesome but then it’s the jungle!!

Dogs having a meal, I guess the Sambar are having a roll call to check who is missing...
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The chase begins...
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The dogs manage to corner one deer by the river edge
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Poor guy makes a dash into the water...Big Mistake!
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I have seen this a zillion times on NatGeo but couldnt bring myself to click the actual assualt...here the dogs have killed the sambar and are gorging again.
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Coming back to cardamom club, we had breakfast and checkout to move to our next destination...Kumarakom.

Some snaps from Cardamom Club, Thekkady
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The route from Kumiy to Kumarakom hugs the NH220 all the way...no bypasses. We had booked another homestay named Kodianthara here. It’s the 150 year old ancestral house of Crispin Kodianthara and his family. Crispin has renovated it but has maintained the spirit and aesthetics very well. It stands overlooking a small canal which leads into the Vembanad river. I guess actually all houses in Kumarakom stand on some rivulet or the other and the main mode of transport still seems to the old trusted canoe. We spent the afternoon lazing around the house, playing with Jenny, the 7 day old kid of the in-house goat.

Canoe in the canal outside Kodianthara, Kumarakom
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Jenny, the 7 day old kid
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My steed at Kumarakom outside the 150 year old house
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In the evening Crispin suggested that we attend the Kathakali demo at the nearby art house. He personally dropped us off and arranged a rickshaw to pick us up after the show. The Kathakali demo was very elaborate starting with the makeup, the explanation of various facial expressions and mudra's to the final storyline depicting the Narakasuravadham. We watched mesmerized for almost 2 hours taking in the intricate performance. All I can say is that if this was the demo, I cant wait to catch a full performance.

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A traditional dinner awaited us at the house cooked by the lady of the house, Soni. Amazing Kerala parathas and chicken curry to along with Karimeen fry. Coversation flowed and we were enlightened on a lot of aspects of Kerala's culture and history.

With a full stomach and in anticipation of the houseboat the next day, we crashed for the night.

Last edited by nix1976in : 10th January 2011 at 23:34.
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Old 10th January 2011, 23:58   #28
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In 2 pages you packed almost all of South India and that too amazingly well!
Very nice indeed. The Periyaar Snaps have come out really well.
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Old 11th January 2011, 10:19   #29
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Hi Nikhil,
A loooong trip but definitely worthwhile especially when done in ones own vehicle. Your photos say it all. I especially liked the Munnar photos. You have captured the picturesque valley very well. I also like the Kushalnagar monastery snaps . I did not go there when I drove by from Mysore to Kerala but seeing the photos I will plan it for my next trip for sure. Thanks for sharing. So did you hit Tamil Nadu ? Do we have the pleasure of any more photos ?
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Old 11th January 2011, 20:39   #30
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Day 10 : Kumarakom Houseboat.

The morning saw us strolling in Crispin's courtyard followed by another heavy breakfast of egg curry and appams. On Crispin's advice, we drove down to Kumarakom bird sancutuary and walked around for almost a hour with absolutely no luck...but the walk through the mini-jungle was worth it.

Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary
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Coming back, Crispin had arranged a canoe ride through the canal's for us. Absolutely amazing experience, we rowed along with Rahul (Crispin's help) through narrow canals watching the locals go about their business. The views were like the ones that we normally see in a KTDC brochure, we even managed to see a kingfisher fishing!! We spent around 2 hours weaving through those canals’s up to the river mouth and turned back with a heavy heart. I could spend a lifetime there!!

Some Pics of the Kodianthara heritage home

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Canoe Ride...this was the most amazing experience
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Ducks in a row!!
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Now I know why they call Kerala "God's own country"
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Kingfisher with his catch
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Crispin also owns a heritage houseboat which we had booked for a day, he led us to the docking point from where we started our journey through the Vembanad river. Lunch was served shortly by Sanju, the boat captain who is also an amazing cook. The spread was awesome with Karimeen and chicken curry. Crispin's houseboat has a room on the upper deck also and the sit out there is great to lie back and take in the sun. We curled up on the sun deck to enjoy the breeze as the boat made its way to Muhamma which was the docking point for the evening.

The houseboat making its way out to the river
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Upper Deck. They have a room here too...
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The vast expanse of the Vembanad Lake
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Duck farming
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A tugboat dragging along canoes...one by one all the canoes hooked on to each other and formed this train...was quite a sight.
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Life on the Vembanad is bustling, canoe with dredged mud, grass and fish make their way around the many houseboats that traverse this river. We even bought a 500gm huge river prawn off a fisherman selling his ware right off his canoe.

Is'nt this huge...and was tasty too!
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Sunset on a houseboat is by far the best experience I have had...the birds making their way back to their homes in the fading light, the sun playing hide-n-seek with the clouds and the gentle noise of the swaying palms...its all surreal.

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Paddy fields near the docking point.
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The houseboat at the docking point. Its covered with the tarpaulin to keep mosquitoes and other insects out!
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We then, tried our hand at fishing with a rod and wheat balls as bait and actually managed to catch 5 fish between us . The plan was to fry and eat them up but had to let them go as my wife put her foot down.
Crispin has arranged for an elaborate dinner feast for us....Duck roast, beef chilly, Prawn in Kerala style topped with Chicken curry, chapatis and rice...absolute lip smacking!.

One of the 5 fish we caught....
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After watching some TV, we were lulled to sleep by the gently swaying waves. Looking forward to hit the beach at Kovalam tomorrow.
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