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Published: March 12th 2017
We leave Madurai early and drive west heading for the Western Ghats - a chain of mountains, up to 4000ft, running north to south in Southern India. Hairpin bends, steep slopes, forests and distant views become the norm until we reach the border town of Kumily. A bustling small town where banana chips are the speciality - we all crowd into a small shop and purchase plastic bags bursting with bright yellow discs of delicious crispy deep-fried banana!! Overnight is at Periyar National Park, where, the following morning, we are up at the crack of dawn for a 3 hour nature walk before breakfast. Colourful birds with exotic names - Paradise flycatcher, Raquet-tailed Drongos etc - are a delight. After a late breakfast we are on the road again, with breaks to visit tea and rubber plantations. Lunch consists of tasty home-cooked curries at an old traditional plantation house surrounded by mango, rubber and teak trees.
We eventually arrive on the coast, staying at Coconut Lagoon Resort, an apt name, as we are surrounded by palm trees, small canals and large lakes - at the gateway to the Keralan Backwaters.
Next morning we board our houseboat - a wooden
traditional boat with four cabins, galley, dining room and covered viewing top deck - and set off serenely across the Backwaters. After a curry lunch, we dock near a small village and after walking through narrow lanes we hop on to a smaller canoe-type boat and are paddled through the narrow waterways watching the locals carrying on with their everyday life - a peaceful, although slightly uncomfortable and very hot afternoon. Back on the houseboat a couple of cool beers and a dramatic sunset is a good end to the day!
We spend the next couple of days in Cochin, a busy popular city looking out across the Arabian Sea - we are staying close to the harbour with large container ships, oil installations and an occasional cruise ship!! The Chinese fishing nets bring us back to a bygone age - and while a good photographic opportunity, the demonstration of how they work results in only a small number of tiny fish!!
In the evening we attend a Kathakali Dance Performance - a traditional South Indian dance performed with exaggerated eye and facial movements enacting tales from Hindu legends, wearing bright flamboyant costumes and accompanied by music. While
the show itself was dramatic, the 45 minutes watching the actors apply their make-up was initially interesting but became somewhat tedious!!
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