Solo travels in Kerala
Another blog entry written by Nicky Millar, for more about who she is, and about her awesome travel/volunteering adventure check her blog.
It will hardly come as a shock to anyone planning to take on India that Kerala is one of the “go-to” states. From rolling tea plantations, sweeping game reserves to mystical backwaters, not to mention the food, people and climate—this place has everything!
Visiting Kumily and Periyar National Park, Kerala
I started my Kerala adventure in Kumily (mudslides prevented me from getting to Munnar, which is supposed to be the place to go to see tea plantations) and although the weather was a bit grim, being the tail end of the monsoon period and all, I felt it to be a worthwhile trip. Deciding to get me an auto rickshaw tour guide (first time I had done this sort of thing, but given the distances between sites it is well worth it) I ventured from a coffee factory to an ayurvedic spice farm, a tea plantation and finally a view of the town that I hear is breathtaking (but given the torrential downpour at the time I am unfortunately unable to personally vouch for it!)
The only downside was not being able to visit the Periyer Game Reserve due to extortionist prices if one is travelling alone. For some bizarre reason the safaris are priced per vehicle and if you don’t have any friends to fill that vehicle with, well then sorry for you! To be fair, I believe that you could go on the boat, which I am sure is fab, but I highly doubt whether wildlife spotting would be the greatest of priorities on a ferry full of families.
Visiting the Backwaters, Kerala
So after only one night (enough if you are not doing the parks) I got the bus to Kottayam and then the local ferry to Alleppey. Although seemingly long-winded, the trip is well worth your time as you meander through the backwaters, at not even a tenth of the price of tourist cruises, and you have the added bonus of getting a sneak preview into the lives of the people who live along these canals. Being the only foreigner on board there was a fabulous atmosphere and feeling of authenticity that you could not buy for any amount of money!
Once in Alleppey, my lack of friends was glaringly obvious again as houseboats are rented out individually (instead of being able to join a group as is the option with most places) at unattainable prices (for a single-backpacker budget anyway). Having spied them from my ferry ride I have no doubt that it would be a special experience, provided you are able to go for more than one night (so you can get away from the throngs of other houseboats moored up alongside you on the same river) but for the reasons already mentioned I decided to move on after one night and got an easy bus to Ernakulam and then caught a ferry to Fort Kochi.
Exploring and eating in Fort Kochi!
What a wonderful city, super quaint with an eclectic mix of tourist shops/restaurants and local flavour. Exploring the old Jewish quarter and its surroundings by foot (totally feasible and advisable) is hungry work and boy was I rewarded that night. Possibly my single most favourite meal to date was had here; right near the Chinese Fishing nets (you cannot miss them) is a fish market where you can pick out which of the days fresh catch(es) tickle your fancy, for me it was squid, snapper and a dash of tiger prawns (I did share with a fellow solo traveller, don’t worry). Once that’s sussed, the hard part is done and a little man magically appears to guide you to his restaurant where he cooks the seafood to perfection; grill/fry/spicy/herby you name it, he does it! All for a nice Rs. 210. I could get used to that!
Another activity I decided to do in Kochi was a proper backwater tour as there are companies that conveniently source a whole bunch of singles/small groups and take them together! Although I ummed and ahhed for a long while about going, I am so glad I did! While the ferry from Kottayam was great, it is unable to give you a sense of the smaller, more jungle-like backwaters —therefore a full day trip, with lunch included, was certainly time well spent!
Overall, while Kerala has some of the most spectacular scenery on offer, it may be worth your while doing some research into prices if you are doing it solo or perhaps looking into tour groups, in saying that though, as long as you are flexible and willing to adjust, you can get just as much out of it as a travelling football team!