One thing I failed to mention in my last post about Kerala is it's a communist state thats filled with catholic churches, next to Hindu temples, next to mosques. It's the most prosperous state in India with the highest literacy rate of the country. So is communism a good thing? Apparently for Kerala it is.
After a couple of days of feeling nauseous, I finally threw up my entire dinner in the hotel sink and I felt perfectly healthy afterwards. At last we were able to really start enjoying our trip through southern India. We drove from Munnar to Thekkady. The change in climate was dramatic, we went from the chilly, crisp mountain air to steaming, humid jungle. The weather must have known I was coming because it let up raining just long enough for us to take an elephant ride, which was FANTASTIC! Easily my most favorite part of our trip. The rain had left the ground soggy and every time our elephant Lucky took a step you could hear the squishing of mud under his feet. The rain also left a low hanging mist clinging to the surrounding jungle foliage, heightening my "cosmic universe" senses. I actually said to bill "do you think it's called mist because it makes things mystical?". Let's just say strange things happen to your brain when you have an elephant between your legs.
We went to visit a spice plantation, and the remarkable thing about that was I finally met an Indian person I couldn't stand. The most amazing thing about India is the people. No matter how destitute the area or how much trash and rubble is at your feet, there is always a genuinely warm and smiling face waiting for you. The people of India are happy. In fact, in a study done measuring happiness, the people in the slums of Calcutta only ranked slightly lower than fortune 500 CEOs. India is a country where the glass is perpetually half full, and I think that's why so many people fall in love with her despite the obvious drawbacks. This bitch, however, really pissed me off. She showed me a plant, which she said when you grind it into a powder gets rid of dark spots left by some skin diseases. She suggested I should try it. I was confused. Then Bill realized she was talking about my freckles. I laughed at first and told her that these spots were not, as she thought, the result of a horrible skin disease but part of my skin. The same thing that made her skin dark was what the spots on my face and arms were. She didn't get it. Throughout the tour she repeatedly suggested I try the powder and when we were in the shop at the end she shoved a big pot of it towards me and told me I really needed it. I just stared at her and had a quick daydream where I clocked her in the face but I ended up grumbling something under my breath and bought the eucalyptus oil instead. I'm not the first white girl with freckles she's seen, Kerala is a huge tourist area, I think she was doing it on purpose and it really pissed me off.
Moving on, we spent a night on a houseboat which was truly magical. Having your own three person crew, including a chef, on a boat of your very own for 24 hours makes you feel like a king. We sailed the backwaters and at a certain point pulled over to a little shack where the locals were selling crabs and what they called prawns. Prawns to me are shrimp; these were gigantic electric blue lobster looking things and we got 5 of them for 1000 rupees which is 20 bucks. I couldn't believe it. The chef prepared the prawns, along with a chicken dish and numerous sides. I was sooooo happy that I wasn't feeling sick and could eat all of these delicious things prepared for us. We docked for the night along a strip of the river that had electricity and bill and I got out to walk around. The village was a single row of houses sandwiched between the river and the rice patties. As we walked by each little hut children peeked their heads out of their homes yelling "Hello! Hello!" and one little boy blew me kisses.
Our next stop was Varkala beach. I imagine this is what Goa is like, only much smaller. It was a little strip of black and tan sand beach and blood red cliffs populated by Australian and British hippies. In between the Tibetan craft shops were Aryuvedic clinics and yoga studios, some even offering "philosophic talks" on the menu. The hotel we had was the nicest place we stayed in, by far, the entire trip. They had spaghetti bolognaise on the menu, which we ordered, and devoured. There were lots of little tiki bars and we took shelter from the rain one afternoon, sipping mojitos as we watched the Arabian Sea rage in the storm. It was the first drink I had since the kingfisher beer at pizza hut in Delhi 3 weeks earlier. It wasn't the best mojito, not nearly as good as the ones i make at home, but at that moment it was divine. To quote the movie Old School (best movie ever after Zoolander of course) "it's so good when it hits your lips"
Do I have a love letter to write to India? Maybe. I want to go back one day and do so many things we didn't get to do this time around. Bill will need some strong convincing though, I think he got his fill on this trip. There were moments that, faced with the fact that we still had so much traveling to do, I screamed that I wanted to go back home for good. But if someone asked me how India was I would say, without hesitation, that I adored it. It's the woman you love unconditionally no matter how many times she hurts you. Because when she does shine, it's so brilliant you can't look away.