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Around God?s own country in six days

Kerala has something to offer to every tourist, from tranquil backwaters to vast beaches and beautiful mountain resorts.
PTI | By Kartik Berry
PUBLISHED ON JAN 05, 2005 04:02 PM IST

With the Western Ghats on one side and the vast Arabian Sea on the other, Kerala is has something to offer to every tourist, from tranquil backwaters to vast beaches and beautiful mountain resorts

Kerala, the land of lush greenery, swaying palms, surf-washed beaches, breath-taking mountain ranges and tranquil backwaters, has a magical effect on the unwary visitor. One could swim in the tranquil blue sea at Kovalam, float in a houseboat through the most beautiful backwater lagoons in Alleppey, walk through the tea and coffee plantations, watch local dances or visit the outskirts of the Periyar wildlife sanctuary. Recently I spent the most marvellous six days there.

Day 1: KOCHI
Arrived at Kochi at 12 p.m. and headed towards Jew Town about 50 kilometres from the airport. Kerala has been home to Jews from very early times. The many privileges granted to them by King Bhaskara Ravivarman are inscribed on a copper plate and put on display at the Jewish Synagogue at Mattancherry, built in 1567. After checking out the synagogue and the local shops it was time to check into a hotel for a good night’s rest before an early morning drive to Munnar, a hill station 250 kilometres from the city.

Drove through the rolling hills upto Munnar, a beautiful hill station on the Western Ghats. A paradise for nature lovers, Munnar was the summer resort of the British in South India. This hill station offers spectacular views of craggy peaks, manicured tea estates, picturesque towns and winding lanes. Munnar in the early hours of the morning is a dream, covered in mist. Amongst the exotic flora found in here is the flower Neelakurinji, which bathes the hills in blue once every 12 years. After visiting the town, we checked into a hotel for the night, before moving onto Thekkady.

Thekkady is a hill station famous for its wildlife sanctuary extending over an area of 777 sq km. The Periyar Tiger Reserve, is accessible from here by via boat. An artificial lake created by a dam on the Periyar river is the heart of the wildlife sanctuary, and wild elephants, Asiatic deer, black buck and even tigers come here for water.

Alleppey is famous for its backwaters, sprinkled with traditional houseboats, country crafts and rural lifestyle. These backwaters consist of a huge network of lakes, canals, estuaries and curious water formations, stretching over 1,900 kilometres, providing drinking water and irrigating paddy fields. We boarded a houseboat for the night, with three caretakers and a cook, and cruised through the most untouched and otherwise inaccessible rural Kerala. The black spot fish, found in abundance in the backwaters is a favourite with tourists and locals. We were served a mouthwatering meal of black spot, chicken Chettinad and authentic vegetarian Kerala cuisine. A lazy afternoon aboard the houseboat helped us relax. The backwaters host many special events from August to September, including the boat race held on the second Saturday of August.

We disembark from the houseboat and checked into a backwater resort at Kumarakom. Peace and tranquillity is what seems to get tourists here from all. Majestic canals surround Kumarakom situated on the banks of the famous Vembanad Lake. Boat rides are available for tourists at nominal rates.

Day 6: back to KOCHI
Its back to Kochi for a day of sight seeing and shopping. Temples, churches and mosques occupy a large part of Kochi. While the walls of the temples are covered with carvings, the churches are a combination of ancient temple tradition as well as Portuguese architecture. Superbly carved wooden pulpits in the mosques are pieces of art. And one cannot return from this land without its flavours, banana and tapioca chips, back.
We departed the same evening with conviction that another visit is certainly called for.    

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