Why visit …. If you are in need of a change of pace, head to Kerala to enjoy India in slow motion. All the sights, sounds and smells of Incredible India, but at a languid, almost leisurely tempo. Except for the auto-rickshaw and taxi drivers who didn’t receive the ‘slow travel’ memo and approach the winding roads as if attempting to outpace a tornado. Should you make it from the airport in one piece, you will discover a slice of paradise. Literally meaning ‘Land of Coconuts‘, you can drift along on a peaceful raft, sip tea at one of Kerala’s many plantations, cycle the hill stations, go boating on Periyar Lake, or rejuvenate with a Ayurvedic massage.
Why not … Go bamboo rafting in Periyar Tiger Reserve. We rose early, a little after sunrise when the light was magical and fragrant with the scent of morning dew. The journey to the lake was a nail-biting 20 minute auto rickshaw journey to the gates, followed by six kilometre stroll through the national park. You will most likely encounter leeches, but fortunately socks are supplied. A standout moment was having an inch-long bloodsucker nudged off my Converse with the barrel of our guide’s rifle. Did I mention there are tigers too? Around 50 of these striped stalkers are resident in the park, but they are more likely to see you, than you them.
Stay at … Shalimar Spice Garden, hidden down a blink-and-you’ll-miss it lane in Thekaddy. Situated 1,300 metres above sea level the air is pure and scented with a hint of honeysuckle.
The plantation is more than six acres with 20 cottages and suites with gorgeously aged teak doors and rosewood balconies. Upon arrival you will be greeted by a gong and a traditional bindi. Later that afternoon during a stroll around the plantation and its kitchen garden with our host, Shirley it became apparent that guests will never go hungry, thirsty or indeed be starved of beauty. Guava, mango, pomegranate, lychee and ginger grew in abundance whilst lemongrass, turmeric and coffee punctuated the air. Wild lily and poinsettia dotted the grounds and butterflies darted on the breeze.
Eat … Everything on offer. Perhaps it was because we were dining outside, or because we knew everything had been grown locally, or appetites swelled. From chilli laced masala, to flavoursome thali to tomato fry, my tastes became simple. Delicious fresh roadside coconut, or ripe pomegranate, even my snacks became a riot of colours and flavours.
Go green … Kerala proudly boasts the world’s first solar powered airport. As you approach, a casual curve of the plane reveals lush greenery stretching for miles, punctuated only by fleeting glimpses of your own bird shaped shadow.