Arriving in India

Nearly two years ago now I had what I can only describe as the holiday of a lifetime when I went to Kerala, India, it was such an epic experience I may have to reminisce over several weeks so I apologise in advance.

We started our holiday by flying to Trivandrum which is the capital of Kerala, we only stayed one brief night there as we arrived in the wee small hours and there were so many places to visit and we had a very packed itinerary.

Early the next morning we went to Trivandrum railway station, a little jet lagged after having half a nights sleep to catch the train to Kanyakamari. Here we experienced our first truly Indian journey, it was like being in a film, our cases were whisked off us by porters who appeared from nowhere and we were hurried to the correct platform, our cases held aloft on their heads and we sunk into our respective seats, all for a few rupees.The train was slow but comfortable which allowed us to familiarise ourselves a little with the passing countryside, the green rice fields, the simple colourful housing with washing flapping in the gentle breeze the motorbikes carrying whole families, baby and toddler included in a neat row.

We arrived at Kanyakamari and stood politely waiting to get off the train first with all our luggage to find that in India, you literally fight to get off and on a train as it stops for just a brief time. So after a tussle and a great deal of panic we had to literally jump from the high train to a non existent platform of warm baked earth. With a gasp of relief, we were off all five of us and miraculously with the right amount of suitcases. Where were the magical porters when we really needed them?

Kanyakamari is in Tamil Nadir and is the southern most point of India. An important pilgrimage site and most famous for watching the glorious sunset and bathing in the holy waters of the Western ghats. It was really busy, probably the most touristy place of our whole holiday but a great first stop.

I tasted fresh coconut water for the first time, this was in itself an experience as this involved a great pile of fresh coconuts which were selected, then hacked a hole in with a type of saw and a fresh straw pushed in, you drink the delicious liquid then took the coconut back to one of the stalls where it was sliced in half, then you ate the soft sweet flesh, it was soft like the fruit that it is in comparison to the hard coconut we are used to and Snow White, almost translucent in colour. Discarding the hard husk to be left in the piles later to be collected and made into matting or rugs which you would see for sale.

We took a ferry trip to the temple of Kanyakamari which was 3000 years old and on an island. Extended families with the children dressed in their best clothes took this trip together, all ages and generations chatting together. Big bins of lifejackets scooped up by passengers and worn over saris and above dhotis, everyone was expected to wear one for a five minute boat ride. It is important for all Hindus to visit the site.

Lifejackets for 5 minute ride contrasted oddly with the motorbikes we continued to see everywhere, for many families the only mode of transport and with that spectacular, surreal site of whole families, including babies, their shopping, elderly relatives all with no helmets just reassuring arms wrapped around each other.

Kanyakamari is vibrant mix underwritten by persistent and obvious poverty. Begging men with crippled twisted legs, scruffy tiny girls carrying big bundles and pressing hair grips into your hand for a rupee, dogs with limping skinny puppies, palm readers with crooning green parrots in small cages vying for your attention. All this alongised the enrichment of witnessing the importance of the place to the Hindi worshippers and the epic sense that this has been happening for hundreds of years.

Our next stop was Verkala which was a bohemian paradise, we arrived at Villa Jakaranda and I thought I had died and gone to heaven.

To be continued....