We arrived in Kollam ready to embark on a backwater cruise or head to Munroe Island.
The hotel we stayed in had arguably the best service we'd experienced anywhere in India. It also had a very welcome rooftop infinity pool, which was enjoyed by everyone. After being bashed and scraped by the waves in Varkala, it made a nice change to be bashed and scraped by the broken tiles instead. We whiled away many hours in competitive pool action.
We dined aboard the hotel's houseboat for Dan's birthday (complete with balloons and bejewelled spirit bottles). And we opted for the canoe tour around the backwaters of Munroe Island instead of the overnight houseboat tour.
The adults could have easily whiled away several hours talking nonsense and drinking toddy but ten kids may have gone stir crazy after the first hour imprisoned on a boat. The canoes provided more entertainment: helping to paddle, trying not to capsize them, ducking under ever decreasing bridges and spotting kingfishers (the birds not the beers). We even got a chance to swim (an impossibility in the backwaters of Allepey) and practice the newfound sport of human shot put as dusk set, before returning to our lovely land based hotel.
A visit to the resplendent lighthouse on Kollam beach and the ghost tunnel in Mahatma Gandhi park and we felt we'd exhausted Kollam and were ready to move on.
Kerala's communist ideology was in full force the next day, with a show of power from the people as shops, offices, restaurants and transport shut down all over the state. The protest was against the police treatment of the mother of a student who died under suspicious circumstances. We could have risked travelling but decided against it, partly in solidarity to the cause. We definitely made the right choice, as the papers the following day were full of stories of stranded foreigners.
We did leave, eventually, for the mammoth journey into the jungles of Periyar National Park. A 28 seater bus was hired, complete with huge base bins and neon lights, and we were off. Two of our party were still ill (Delhi belly was still hanging around) so it was with some apprehension that we began the 6 hours on windy roads.
However, it was much better than expected. A slight disappointment at the waterfall stop which turned out to be a dry rock with no trace of even a trickle but we found some good coffee and nice cakes instead so all was good.
Periyar was great. Again we'd lucked out on the hotel and had a beautiful swimming pool (with slightly fewer broken tiles) to cool off in after the day’s travel. Although the stay was only brief (just two days) we packed it in, and for many of the swarm, this was the highlight of the holiday. The first morning we set off predawn, awakened by the cheap, sweet coffee bought from the bicycle seller. We were squeezed into two open topped jeeps and we drove in convoy through the darkness into the National Park.
As the light began to dawn we spotted two wild elephants up on the ridge, followed a short while later by an enormous Goar (like a large Bison), followed shortly after by a whole herd of said beasts grazing in the hillside beside the road. Monkeys and giant squirrels were also spotted but sadly no tigers. We took a hike through the hillside where the views were spectacular but no wildlife was spotted, much to the relief of some, who had been terrified by our guide's graphic description of the death of two hikers killed by a wild elephant on the very same path we were walking.
One hospital visit later, unrelated to wild elephants, instead more sickness returning (thankfully half an hour on a saline drip was all that was needed) and the swarm was back in full force for a boat trip followed by an exhausted jeep ride back to the hotel pool.
The following day we went to Elephant Junction, where we had a great morning feeding and washing elephants. The elephant shower was a particular highlight for me. OK so not the most natural thing in the world for the elephant, but it's still fun to get the full force of a trunk full of cold water full in the face. What a blast!
Another six hour bus journey and we were back in Varkala. This time with a pool that turned you orange as well as the obligatory broken tiles, but no sea breeze. We made the most of our last days settling into true holiday mode with sun shades and body boards aplenty. Beach cricket at sunset was added to the itinerary. More hennas, more shopping, a visit to the surprisingly impressive aquarium and more great food. Our favourite restaurant made a tidy packet from us and even got treated to a show featuring all ten children.
One minor hitch when jumping on the bed saw James bounce his way to four stitches at the local hospital at 11pm one night. James took it all in his stride, wearing his bandage as a badge of honour and retelling the tale often and with great vigour. He was a trooper throughout as in fact all the children were and despite the two strikes, two hospital visits and numerous bouts of sickness, everyone agreed it was a great fortnight. It certainly was very, very quiet when we shrank back to just the four of us again.
Three more weeks in India, what to do next? Monsoons approaching, heat rising. Only one thing for it, board a plane for the Andaman Islands..
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Kelly and Mikey (but mostly Kelly). We sold up in the UK to travel with our two littluns for a year or so. If you want to know more click the about us!