This past weekend Rachael, Anna, Kyle and I visited Kerala on many people's recommendations. Conveniently for us, Siva's friend Sandeep planned out a whole trip for us so all we had to do was follow along and have a good time! Siva was unfortunately unable to come, but I had met Sandeep before and knew he was a good guy so we didn't have to worry. There were 10 of us in the group total and we couldn't have had a better group to travel with. The 6 of them were extremely fun and joking around the entire time. They of course knew each other really well so often those 6 would sit at one table during dinner and talk in Hindi while we were at our own table. But the entire time they made us feel welcome and they never made us feel at all like we were imposing or hindering the trip.
Kerala is the nicest in the monsoon season which is right now. Luckily though, it was cool the entire time but never rainy! It was absolutely gorgeous. If you are curious where exactly we went, we went to some hill stations between Munnar and Thekkady and stayed at a guest house at the cadimum (sp?) agricultural research institute. Where we stayed was not touristy at all, and Siva's friend Murugan works there and graciously hosted us for the weekend.
To get there, we took a 30 minute autorickshaw to the train station, an 8 hour train ride to dindigul in Tamil Nadu, then a 3 hour taxi ride to Kambam, then a 1 hour jeep ride up to the agricultural research institute. It always takes so long to travel here! Especially to non-touristy places. We did get out of the jeep and walk around to see some nice scenery.
On Saturday we went hiking to the top of a hill which was fantastic. We could see mountain ranges all around us, wind farms in the distance, dams along the mountain sides. It was the first time we've been able to get out into nature here in India. Almost no trash!
Staying that night at the guest house was interesting though! The rooms weren't quite the cushy accomodations of Goa... One of the beds was covered in rat poop when we arrived and when we later opened the room, a rat scurried away! Speaking of which, a rat got into most of my food while traveling on the train, and then that night another rat got into the rest of it. There were also massive spiders in the girls' bathroom and Kyle said three of those giant flying ants flew into his ear during the night! Tent camping was sounding extremely luxurious at this point!
On Sunday we went to the peak of another really large hill and that was amazing as well. The weather was beautiful and we could see tons of the Kerala countryside.
The group we were with was really goofy and we had many long photo shoots with fun shots. We got involved too so when I get a chance I'll post some fun stuff to facebook!
The trip back wasn't quite as easy because the train was all booked up. We took a 9 seater van all the way back instead. Unfortunately, these were actual seats instead of benches and there were 10 of us so Sandeep volunteered himself to lay on the floor. Thanks to him, the rest of us were quite comfortable! Both Sandeep and Murugan were amazing hosts. Right before we left, they recommended we buy some food just in case we didn't like what we found for dinner and Sandeep and Murugan were actually arguing between each other who should pay for the food we wanted to buy! Recall here that we didn't know them until this past weekend! In fact, Murugan didn't know any of the 10 people who went on this trip. To give an analogy, this is pretty much the same thing as a friend in LA calling me up to say he has 10 foreign friends who I've never met who have plane tickets to Milwaukee and nothing else and then expecting me to drive over there, arrange for rides, food, housing, and entertainment for a full 2 days. Whats more is Murugan was so happy about hosting us and seemed to have a great time himself! It was hospitality at its finest.