Woke up at 5.30am as the temple next to the guest house felt it was a good time to blare music out… Whether it was a call to prayer or a religious festival, it was not greatly welcomed by either of us! Begrudgingly got up and ready, shuffling out to get breakfast which included a very strong coffee! Seems like we weren’t the only ones woken up at the hour as the other three residents in the guest house ‘restaurant’ seemed equally shattered and half-asleep. Ate my omelette and toast in silence whilst I looked on in disgust as Jayne made herself a banana, strawberry jam and omelette toast open sandwich. Grabbed our bags and made our way to the State Water Transport Boat jetty. We had been told that the boat would leave at 9.30am so we were both feeling a bit nervous when 9.25am rolled by and there was no sign of a local ferry… Needn’t have worried. At 9.27am, the boat turned up, unloaded its passengers, turned around, we got on board and at 9.30am it was on its way to Kottayam! The journey across Vembanad Lake was peaceful and intriguing. We were able to see some close-up village life as the boat zigzagged its way through the backwaters from island jetty to island jetty. It was a very scenic and leisurely way to get between the two towns, taking nearly two and a half hours to go 25km.There were some stunning water plants in full bloom that the backwater birds used to nest in and I spotted a water snake amongst the greenery. Arrived at the temporary alighting point (as they are building a bridge over the canal and have a floating pontoon blocking the canal) were we were offered a TukTuk to take us the rest of the way to Kottayam for an extortionate price. Fortunately, the boat conductor had told us that we could walk up the road for 200m and catch a local bus which we did after being told by the TukTuk driver that we weren’t allowed on the bus as it was for ‘locals only’. Arrived in town and managed to find our way on a bus that was leaving for Kumily, 50 minutes before it was due to depart! Gave us time to organise our stuff, go to the toilet and get drinks/snacks before heading off on the four hour trip back up into the mountains. Jayne watched a film on her iPad whilst I enjoyed the view as we meandered a lot slower up the hillside than our bus yesterday. Still a few hairy moments when the only thing between us and the bottom of the cliff was a few blades of grass but this bus driver at least had the decency to pay attention to the road and its bovine obstacles!! Arrived in Kumily and were immediately greeted as we got off the bus by a guesthouse man trying to get us to book with him. Amusingly, it was the guesthouse that we had already made a reservation for and, once we told him this, he insisted on walking us to the guesthouse, talking to us along the way about the coffee, tea and pepper plantations in the village. Arrived at the guesthouse, checked in, dumped our bags in the room and headed up to the roof terrace to drink local coffee and get a sales pitch about the walking tours offered by the guesthouse in the nearby Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary. Since we have five nights here, they weren’t too pushy when we said we wanted to think about it and we sat watching the sunset. After it got dark, there was a stream of bats flying across the roof of the guesthouse, apparently returning to the grape plantations to spend the night. It was quite magical watching thousands of massive bats fly overhead for about 30 minutes, all in a narrow lane rather than spread out across the night sky. Went to the nearby restaurant for dinner, where I had the nicest cucumber salad (I’ve been craving cucumbers for ages!!) and Jayne got a hot & spicy pizza (which was hot but not spicy!!). Got into bed to discover that the bed was perfect for us as a couple – Jayne’s side was really soft and my side was really hard. Hopefully we’ll both get the good nights sleep we desperately need!!
Wednesday 20th January 2016