Monalia's World

Observations on a New Life in Spain

Skip to: Content | Sidebar | Footer

Drive from Trivandrum to Alleppy

22 April, 2011 (04:18) | Living in Europe | By: admin

Sunday, Feb. 20

We pass lots of cows sharing the streets with us on our drive through Kerala

As fun filled as our 3 days in Trivandrum have been, we are ready to move on. Rajeev will be our driver for the next 7 to 10 days. I keep a tiny notepad in my purse with some of the things I’d like to see in Kerala. Mark and I both want to spend a night or two at the Parambikulam Wildlife Sanctuary where we can rent a “comfortable” tree house and record the bison, langurs, sloth bears, macaques and flying squirrels I read about while researching this trip.

I would also love to see the Nagaraja Tantric Snake Temple in Mannarsala, but no one wants me to go to. I have read it is located in the ‘snake groves’ of Kerala. The surrounding woodlands have several statues of snake gods and hooded cobras among the trees and paths leading to the temple dedicated to the Snake King, Nagaraja. I know it is located about 35 kilometers from Alappuzha, but of course it is not marked on our tourist map, so it will be hard to insist, even though Mark and I are the ones paying for Rajeev’s chaffeur services. But isn’t that the point of hiring a driver; to take you wherever you wish? But when I bring it up I am again told, this time by Rajeev, that I would not be allowed in the temple. Bijoy agrees with him. No one seems to understand I love quirky temples and churches. I only want to photograph the site, not go inside the temple. I try to bring it up one more time later in the trip when we are driving past the general area but our driver was tired and unwilling to detour.

Both Mark and I would like to meet the famous ¨living spiritual figure” Amma, better known as the “hugging saint”. She allegedly lives in a pink ashram in Amritapuri (Southern Kerala). She hugs people daily from 10 am. My favorite aunt in Italy, Zia Fiorella, is a big fan of Amma, has met her when she was doing a hugging tour in Italy. Fiorella has urged me to make the effort. Mark is curious too; after all, a hug has never done anyone any harm and we can all use whatever magic comes our way in life… Bijoy makes a few phone calls and learns that Amma will be in Mysore for the next 2 weeks. Bad timing.

We also want to spend time on the different beaches of Kerala we’ve read about. We have a month in which to explore Southern India, and unless we change our minds we plan to explore Kerala for 3 weeks and then take a midnight train to Goa for our last week, just to see another region in India other than Kerala. We do not want a hug from Amma unless it’s easy. Keeping tabs on her schedule is not our idea of fun, so we drop that one request from our list.

There’s also a Syrian Catholic church with interesting architecture in Kollam I’d like to see, called Church of Our Lady of Velankani which is shaped like a pyramid and topped by a golden virgin. My Kerala travellers book says it is on the main road, one which we will be travelling on to go to Alleppy.
I am encouraged that I will be granted this one wish, and am hoping that once we leave the homestay, Rajeev will become more malleable.

The Church of Our Lady of Velankani, which is across the street from a Hindu temple and down the block from a mosque.

… non sequitur…:

I have developed a taste for Kerala red bananas. In fact, I love all Kerala bananas, my favorites being the red ones, and my second favorites being small yellow bananas, about the size of Mark’s middle finger. Nonna Devi delights in feeding me bananas for the rest of our stay.


There are 4 or 5 types of banana grown in Kerala. My favorites, seen in the first photo above, (on the ground, the red bananas look dark but ) are the red bananas. I learn that they are unique to Southern Kerala, that in other parts of Kerala, or anywhere else in India for that matter, they don’t even grow red bananas. I make it a point to eat as many red bananas as I can while in Southern Kerala.


Last night we met with Rajeev and Bijoy to come up with a basic road plan. We accidently left our detailed South India road map in Barcelona, so we’ll have to rely on the tourist road map we picked up at Kovalam Beach on my birthday, which doesn’t even show many of the places I had underlined (and even marked the on that map) as being of special interest. All the obvious tourist attractions of Kerala are well marked, with clear directions on our replacement map. That’s okay – we’ll find our way. Basically, although we have some ideas of what we’d like to see and do in Kerala, we are open for whatever unexpected detours that might prevent us from making it to our intended destinations. For me, just driving through Kerala is a blast. I shoot photos and little videos from the back seat and try to drink in all the activity happening in the streets. Bovines, goats, children, cars, bikes, elephants, you-name-it, they all share the one road through town with ease. Once we get on the road I am thankful to have a driver maneuvering through herds of cows, flocks of children, motorcycles carrying families of up to 5 people balanced on the bike, skateboards, tuk tuks and crazy Indian drivers incessantly honking their horns for no apparent reason.

Passing shots taken from the car window on the way to Aleppy – we pass an elephant and lots of colorful street life

We soon learn that in India people speak a very peculiar English and with a limited vocabulary, so if you don’t use common key words in a sentence most Indians will probably misunderstand you but smile as if they know what you’re talking about. Classic case in point; I told both Bijoy and Rajeev we want to see the Parambikulam wildlife sanctuary, but all that registered was “Wildlife Sancuary” – but I’ll get to that later.

Mark and I agree we want to take an overnight houseboat in the backwaters; finally an idea that is met with enthusiasm by both Bijoy and our driver! Bijoy tells us houseboats are a popular Kerala tourist activity, and he wishes he and Nisha could join us. “it will be very romantic” he says, and from another room I can hear Nisha agree. She pipes in “You will never forget this backwater trip. It is one of the most relaxing and romantic ways to spend time together as a couple.” Bijoy phones to reserve a private overnight houseboat cruise through the Alleppy backwater region.

Today is our fourth day in Kerala but it feels like we’ve been here much, much longer.

We would have liked to visit one more beach and maybe spend a couple nights in an anonymous hotel doing nothing, but instead we set out early this morning for the backwaters of Alleppy, with Rajeev at the wheel. He is a good, safe driver, but his English proves to be a liability in the days to come. In the future we will never know if he’s going to take us where we have expressed a desire to go or not. He did take notes when we all met with Bijoy, and had key words like “Wildlife Sanctuary”, “backwaters” and “spice country” written down on a notepad. He says he will take us to the wildlife sanctuary after the backwaters if we like. So far, so good, but we will decide our next plan of action from our houseboat.

The drive to Alleppy is 3 to 4 hours from Trivandrum, so we leave early in order to make it to our romantic private houseboat by 12:30. We say goodbye to Nisha, Nonna Devi, Bijoy and his dad with mixed feelings – we’re thrilled to be on our own but will miss the stimulating conversations and wonderful meals of our stay at “The Nutshell¨.

From the car window I shoot this festival we pass along the way.

So far this is one of my favorite things about India, the other being how cows, elephants, bovines, all animals I see here live in complete harmony with man. There is an implicit agreement, Indians don’t eat their animals and animals have evolved and know how to navigate city streets without getting into trouble.


1) The only photo I have of our driver, Rajeev 2) close up of toddy