I spent almost half of my trip in the Southwest of India in the state of Kerala, along the coast. It is very, very different than the
North (see previous post). It is predominantly Christian as opposed to Hindu, has a different language and even a different political system. As a result of Communist rule in the mid-20th century and continuing Socialist policies, it has free universal education and healthcare, 100% literacy rate, cooperative working conditions, and a very low poverty rate. People just seemed more at ease and life was more laid back. It was a fascinating juxtaposition to experience after exploring the North.
I too moved slower while I was here, poking around fishing villages and wandering through mountains and tea plantations. I slept in a treehouse, met an elephant in the road, reluctantly ate food with my hands, paddled a canoe, learned new ways of fishing, and met kind-hearted souls along the way.
Here is Ft. Kochi, Munnar, Mararikulam, and Alappuzha.
“You will travel in a land of marvels.” ~ Jules Verne
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Dried spices at a roadside market.
Dhony invited me in to tell me all about the process of drying ginger. Unfortunately it was Sunday and it was the ginger’s day off.
Rooftops in Fort Kochi. It felt like how I imagine Cuba-trapped in time.
Goats are the street wandering equivalent of cows in the south.
A fisherman stands on shore and and casts his net shot put style.
Fishing rafts are often simple and handmade.
The day’s catch.
People watching is a popular pastime.
Everyone in town gathers at the beach at the end of everyday to relax and catch up.
Fort Kochi is a small fishing village on a peninsula. It is known for its Chinese fishing nets, which work like a see-saw. A fisherman invited me out on the plank to watch the process. He only pulled up 5 small fish.
The daily catch is auctioned off along the shore every evening.
The beach is an gathering place for everyone in town.
Munnar is tea country. Hundreds of thousands of acres are devoted to tea plantations which drives the economy.
Homestays are the norm for accommodations in India. This is the home of my host, Manu, in Munnar. All the guests have breakfast together, family style.
Indians are big fans of family style meals, even if you’re not technically family.
My guide took me on a 15km hike through the mountains and tea plantations on a quest to see a family of wild elephants. We came close but did not luck out.
Hiking in Munnar was good for foraging. I found tea tree seeds, medicinal berries and this funky leaf.
Working as a tea picker is a low-paying and physically demanding job but it comes with free housing, healthcare, and education for your children and therefore considered to be a good job to have.
Tea leaves are dried and ground several times before being ready for consumption.
Tea plantation, Munnar. Black, white, and green tea all come from the same plant.
Trains were by far my favorite mode of transportation. Looking out the window felt like watching a movie.
50 different types of bananas are grown in Kerala. I like the little sweet ones the best.
Thali is a traditional South Indian style of dish composed of several small portions of food. Here it is served on a banana leaf and meant to be eaten with ones hand.
A group of young men play drums in a church procession in Mararikulam.
This captive elephant is on parade as part of a festival in Mararikulam. Elephants are often colorfully decorated with paints, powders and headresses like this one known as a “nettipattam.”
A colorful beach in Mararikulam.
The backwaters of Alleppey (Alappuzha) are home to a network of canals and livelihoods that reminded me of the Louisiana Bayou. Most of it is only accessible by canoe.
Canoeing in Alleppey.
A baptism is performed in a canal in the backwaters of Alleppey. Religion is a prominent part of life here.
Taking a break from canoe paddling.
A man returns from picking rice in a paddy in Alleppey.
Indian people, especially younger ones, are extremely friendly and curious.
India feels a bit lawless at most times. You can hang out of an open door of a moving train and usually no authority will come by to stop you.
Where are you from? Where have you been? Where are you going?