From Kanyakumari we caught a local bus to Kovalam, to spend 5 days on the beach over Christmas. From here we were heading to Poovar for 14 days in paradise, celebrating the New Year with my family. There are 2 buses a day from Kanyakumari to Kovalam, one leaving at 06:00 and the other at 14:00. There is the option of catching a bus to Nagercoil and from there heading to Kovalam if these times do not suit, but 14:00 worked pretty well for us. We had met two people the day before, Dean and Fern,whilst queuing for an ATM (the money crisis does help with meeting people!) who were planning to do the same thing, so we decided to meet at 13:30 the following day at the bus station. Whilst waiting for the bus we also met Floris, a Dutch guy who also fancied some beach time over Christmas. This was the first time we had proper contact with Non-Indians since we had arrived and we all ended up chilling together for the following 4 days.
The bus was due to leave at 14:00, eventually turning up at 15:00 and stopping in Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum), 30 minutes north of Kovalam, before heading back south and arriving 3 hours late at 21:00. The ticket cost 60 Rupees and things got very busy. I put mine and Holly’s bags on a seat as there was nowhere else for them to go, but I had to pay for that seat as well. I got a few dirty looks as the bus was packed but there wasn’t anything I could do, plus I technically had paid for the seat.A few months before we had panic booked a hotel over Christmas as there were hardly any left online. In hindsight this was a stupid thing to do. We were getting charged over 2500 Rupees a night for a distinctly average hotel and we both were not happy about this, so only ended up staying one night. The hotel owner was not happy with us, but I paid for my one night’s stay and set out to find a better, cheaper hotel. We ended up securing a hotel room for 4 nights, which was nicer and only a 5 minute walk from the beach and cost 2800 Rupees for 4 nights. If your planning to stay in Kovalam over Christmas do not book ahead, there are numerous hotels not advertised online and you can also negotiate the room rate. This is the first time I had booked ahead in India as I didn’t want to be left stranded over Christmas. However I should have continued doing what had worked well so far! Even after over 6 months of travelling I’m still learning how to travel each week!Christmas day on the beach was fantastic. Around 10:00 lots of boats from the surrounding towns and fishing villages started turning up on Lighthouse Beach, with each different crew wearing football shirts with their names on the back. It was great to see the boats braving the large waves in order to land on the beach and join in the party atmosphere. It wasn’t like Christmas at home, but you could feel the excitement in the air. Me and Holly decided to have a game of bat and ball and ended up having around 20 ball boys and girls, where every time the ball hit the floor they would scramble around trying to be the first person to reach the ball to throw it back. In the end we would just hit the ball into the shallows of the sea to see who would get there first. I ended up giving them a couple of tennis balls to keep and play with between themselves. Later on in the day I had a kick-a-bout with a couple of lads on the beach, each one claiming to be either Messi, Ronaldo or Neymar which I really enjoyed. One of the last boats to turn up capsized trying to land on the beach, getting hit at the wrong time by a particularly large wave. As soon as it happened people swarmed towards the boat from all over the beach, hurdling children and waves, checking everyone was okay before righting the boat. No one was hurt and it was great to see the team work and unselfishness of over 100 people trying to help everyone on this already fantastic day. It’s a Christmas I will never forget.
From Kovalam we headed to Poovar to meet my parents for 13 nights. They went all out and booked to stay at Poovar Island Resort which is only accessible by boat and is one of the nicest places I have stayed in my life. I don’t know if this is because I have been slumming it for over 6 months but I had a fantastic time. We organised a Rickshaw with our hotel for 400 Rupees, normally 1000 Rupees by taxi and arrived at 12:00, bang on check in time. I wanted to make the most of the all-inclusive food, beer, the sun, the sea, the sand, the swimming pool, palm trees and posh rooms on the backwaters, basically it has been 2 weeks of paradise.
For New Years they put on a massive party, with lots of traditional dancing, fantastic food and a great party atmosphere. They went all out and setting up the area on the lawn took 4 days, with free beer and a bottle of wine for each room from 19:00. There was a countdown at midnight followed by a great firework display at 00:00, however they didn’t play Auld Lang Syne! Because of this the six of us linked arms and belted out a cracking rendition of the full 2 verses, whilst getting lots of funny looks from the locals. After this we all hit the stage to perfect our Indian dancing, basically fancy dad dancing, I fitted right in. We invited 3 children to dance with us all night and had a great time trying to copy what they were doing. It was a fantastic night and one that will stick with me forever.
My dad rented a houseboat for 5 hours over in Kollam, around 3 hours from Poovar. We will be heading back to Kollam later in our trip but this was a great experience with the whole family. I would say that renting a houseboat is a must if you are in Kerala and it was a great, relaxing experience. On the way we picked up some beers and were greeted on the boat with cups of lemon tea. As the boat left to set sail on the lake the wildlife was amazing, with fish jumping out the water being chased by Egrits, Shags and Herons. We moored up half way through, lunch was served and the beers brought out. It was a fantastic array of food, with locally caught fish, poppadoms, rice, salad, vegetables, followed by pineapple for dessert. The boat was so relaxing we all took a nap after lunch, the boat gliding effortlessly through the water. I think the mixture of beer, full bellys, comfortable armchairs and the relaxed atmosphere had an effect on us all. I’ve only visited a small part of Kerala so far but tomorrow my family leave and we continue heading north to explore more of this amazing country, stopping at an Ashram in a few days. It’s been great to catch up with my family after over 6 months, but unfortunately for them its back to work on Thursday, whereas my dream continues!