It was time to bid goodbye to our biking brothers at Kochi and move on down south to explore the southern parts of Kerala. Kochi was slowly waking up from the Onam lag with a beautiful sunny day ahead. After crossing the city limits we saw a milestone. It read: ‘Kanyakumari :300 km’. We looked at each other and uttered only two words: “Lets ride”.
The next hour or so went on riding through the narrow single lane and potholed roads of Central Kerala blessed with early morning traffic. We halted at Alappuzha (formerly known as Alleppey) for a boat ride on the famous backwaters of Kerala.
The backwaters are a unique network of waterways connecting many cities and towns in Kerala. Some of these natural or manmade canals and inlets connect the rivers and lakes, making them an alternative mode of transport and trade. These brackish waters run parallel to the Malabar coast of the Arabian Sea and boasts of a rich diversity of flora and fauna. Its uniqueness lies in the mix of saline water from the sea and fresh water from the rivers flowing down all the way from the Western Ghats.
We took a short boat ride from the main jetty and sailed through the backwaters of the “Venice of India”. The coconut trees alongside the canals created the perfect frame captured long back in my mind as the undisputed image of Kerala. We observed little abodes of luxury in the form of resorts on small islands and houseboats, known as Kettuvallams in the local language.
After a while, we landed in the vastness of the longest lake in India, the Vembanad Lake. The moving clouds on the sky meeting the lake in horizon, created an astonishing sight leaving us spellbound for quite some time.
“At times, our lenses fail to capture the enigma which our eyes can” – I thought, while switching off the camera after a couple of failed attempts. We anchored at a small island on the lake and feasted on the fried Karimeens and fresh prawns, complemented by tender coconut water!
The free spa from the greenery and rejuvenating massage from the moistened air brought the perfect invite for a night stay but we decided to head back to the jetty, as the fire of riding to the end of country was still burning in our bellies.
As we hit the road we were welcomed with traffic snarls and bad roads till Kollam. The road sign indicating “Ashtamudi Lake” caught my eyes and we took a left turn to catch a glimpse of the houseboat building industry there. But alas! Nothing could be found in near vicinity, except a few canals. We took a turn back from the road since we were running far behind the clock and had to reach Kanyakumari before sunset.
The roads improved dramatically as we entered Thiruvananthapuram district and continued to be the same till Kovalam, Kerala’s southernmost beach town. We headed for a dip in one of its famed beaches but dropped the idea looking at the hordes of tourists all around. With palm-fringed white sand beaches and scantily clad men and women on their tropical-tan mission, Kovalam looked like Goa’s younger cousin and an icing on the cake for anyone visiting Kerala. With a promise to be back again with a bit more time to spare, we left Kovalam and headed to the border of Tamil Nadu.
In another couple of hours, we exited Kerala continuing on the windy roads to Kanyakumari, ending our weeklong wander in the God’s Own Country. Kerala was fading away from our lives but not before the aromas from its kitchens, the hospitality of its people and the beauty of its landscapes made a special place in our hearts.
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