Last evening, I met Steve, an adventure lover and friend of mine. My aim was to goad him to give me all the details of his Kerala roadtrip. He was quite forthcoming and spoke about his adventure, part by part, in great detail, over some excellent Chinese food at a local restaurant.
Steve is a dentist by profession, a passionate photographer and a connoisseur of all things fine- art, poetry and of course, food.
He had originally planned to go for the trip in January. But he did not manage to get a companion at the time. So he decided to shift it to the monsoons, and his friend Rati, agreed to come on board as navigator.
The first stop was Talavli, a blink-and-you-miss-it village, situated in Raigad. They were invited over by a friend, who owns a house there. The owner and his friends also joined them from Mumbai, later in the evening.
It’s a beautiful 4-acre property, with a stream running close by, active only during monsoons. There is also a dam and a gushing waterfall in the backdrop.
A really enjoyable part was the ‘Hout’. A hout is a seating area created inside a shallow well or pit, a couple of feet deep. The pit is filled with water, so you’re having dinner or drinks in nature’s Jacuzzi!
Breakfast, made by locals, was a variation on the ‘Appam’”, a flat bread made with rice as the base, with mint chutney to pair.
They continued to Goa and reached Morjim, the northernmost part, late in the afternoon.
Coincidentally, the day they arrived, was also the feast of St. John’s. It was a mesmerising festival, with beautiful music and colourfully decked up people.
They met a few friends in the evening. Dinner consisted of delectable crab starters and main course. But the service was remarkably slow. “You feel about it strongly when you’re a visitor from Mumbai!”
The next day, they drove to Mangalore, another coastal route. They stayed at a village called Hijmadi, at a friend’s property, just off the highway. Dinner was courtesy ‘Bitoo da Dhaba’”.
They had breakfast at an Udipi restaurant- ‘Podi Gassi’”, rice balls accompanied with a white stew. Steve couldn’t stop praising the filter coffee there, which he claims ‘is the best he’ s ever had‘. It was also super cheap-they paid 170 bucks in total.
Next halt was at Kannur in Kerala. They were greeted by the sight of boats, parked due to the off-season, extending to as far as the eye could see. Most shops and restaurants were shut on account of Eid.
After a “Sadhya lunch”, served on the traditional banana leaf, the plan was to stay at a relative’s place. But on arriving there, they found that the roof of the house had fallen.
They decided to head to Kozhikode instead, driving under a heavily overcast sky. The hotel room was a steal, because of it being off-season.
“It was so pleasant, we never used the A/C in any of the rooms!”
They discovered a restaurant called ‘Paragon’, established in 1932, which served some really tasty mutton stew. It came with mini Malbari parathas, made of maida, unravelling in crispy layers.
After a good night’s rest, Steve and Rati headed to the lush green hill station of Munnar. The hotel they had booked here was located at the end of a steep slope on a hill. It happened to have only two rooms- absolute privacy and exclusivity!
The room also had a spacious verandah with a seating arrangement to gaze at the landscape ahead.
It was raining heavily by the time they got there, which only added to the thrill of the location.
Rati and Steve visited Kodaikanal the next day. The initial aim had been to go to Kanyakumari, but because of the poor state of the roads, they decided to stay put. The temperature was about 17 degrees.
The hotel had an old-world charm to it. Its leisurely setting was complemented by the trees and greenery surrounding the estate. Lunch was at an old-school Italian restaurant, complete with cane furniture and cotton wool mattresses.
They enjoyed some local shopping at Kodaikanal- the weirdest variety of pickles- banana fruit and grape! Valleys were shrouded in heavy mist and fog, thus limited sightseeing opportunities. But the lakes were a sight to behold!
The last stop was Belgaum. A family friend’s daughter showed them around, after which, it was back to Mumbai.
This conversation had me completely hooked. ‘Enchanted‘, might be a more suitable term. Kerala is undoubtedly beautiful. But a drive along the coast during the rains makes it so much more special.
Steve promised to take me along on the next such trip. I shall wait.
If you’re looking for tips to read up on before heading on your road trip, you can check them out here.