When travelling to India, I never dreamed there would be a part of this incredible country that would be able to quench my thirst for adventure. While famous for its mouth watering food, friendly people and contrasting landscapes, it is not exactly known to be the adventure capital of the world.
While there are many things I am excited to tell you about from my two week tour of Kerala on the Kerala Blog Express, first I want to regale your with all our stories of adventure in India from the past two weeks. I will try to give you as much information as possible so if any of you plan on visiting this beautiful part of India, it should be easy enough to retrace my footsteps on an adventure tour of Kerala. Here are my favourite activities from from our time, in no particular order!
One of the highlights for most people on the Kerala Blog Express was the day we spent hiking across the Western Ghats near Munnar with an adventure tour company called Kalypso Adventures. We rose fairly early and after a delicious breakfast cooked by the amazing staff at our campsite, we hiked up, up, up through tea plantations and forests. For me, it was a fairly tough hike as the fist 2km was entirely uphill and it took close to two hours to compete. After about one hour of difficult hiking, and fast running out of breath and water supplies(!!), the guide says to me, “1km down, 11km to go!” At that moment I was SO ready to go right back down that hill, back to the campsite and to pass out! With a little pep talk from our guide, I persevered and kept on trundling up that goddamn mountain, sweat pouring off me and stumbling and falling over a few times. Making it to the top of that mountain was the most incredible feeling and the view from the top looking down at all the lakes and tea plantations below was nothing short of phenomenal. Sadly due to the haze caused my the intense heat, the view is no entirely viewable, but I think you get the picture!
While boat cruises (unless on a crazy fast speed boat!) might not be viewed as extreme adventure, the types of boats you get to experience in Kerala are an adventure and a half. Our first taste of life on the water was on day two of our tour when we were told we would be speeding the day cruising through the backwaters and spending the night on a houseboat organised by Rainbow Cruises.
It was the most relaxing day of the entire trip and remains one of the highlights for me. The boat was pure luxury, with each paid having their own private room with en suite bathroom, and there was almost a 1:1 ratio of staff to guests, with the 4 of us bloggers being waited on by the captain, a helper and a cook for the entire 24 hours. Even though these men have no formal training, the service with impeccable and the food they made us was some the tastiest I ate over the past two weeks. When I woke up in the morning, I opened the blind to discover the boat was already moving back to the port. It was a strange feeling lying awake, watching boats passing by and fishermen in traditional wooden kayaks passing by as the sun started to rise. An activity I would recommend to everyone visiting this part of Kerala, a truly magical experience.
We actually had two opportunities to go kayaking during our trip, and both were totally different from the other in every way. Our first kayaking trip was my favourite activity of the entire trip and if I return to Kerala later this year (which i hope to!) I will definitely be returning to do another kayaking trip with Kalypso Adventures. While it only lasted for about an hour, it was unlike any other kayaking trip I have ever done. We paddled through narrow backwaters and canals in what was essentially an overgrown jungle. At times, it was even difficult to paddle through the think plants that were winding their way through the water. We passed my villages, women washing their clothes, their pots, their pans and even their young children in the canal water.
At one stage, when I was quite far ahead of the rest of the group (hoorah, a physical activity I am actually good at!) the backwaters in front of me totally opened up and the water was totally still, reflecting all the trees and surroundings perfectly on the water in front of me. It was one of those special moments i will never forget. I had no camera with me so have no photographic evidence of this magical moment, but trust me…it was special!
Our second kayaking adventure was up in Waynad, in the north of Kerala province.We spent the day at Karla Lake Adventure Park where they has these super comfortable inflatable kayaks. It was a pretty relaxing affair, just paddling around the lake at leisure, enjoying the sunshine and watching some other group members go zip lining over our heads as they whizzed across from one side of the lake to the other. The adventure park itself is set to open in mid March and has an upscale camp site and lots of other activities available for adventure seekers, some of which are detailed below.
There was no zip lining in sight for the first 10 days of our Kerala trip and then suddenly we were treated to two separate zip lining sessions in one day, one at Karlad Lake Adventure Park and one at Vithiri Village Resort in Waynad (the adventure capital of Kerala!).
My second zip lining experience was the best as it was so unexpected. Picture this: I was sitting with some other blogger waiting for a cultural performance to start before we head to dinner in this 3 star resort’s sky bar. We are dressed in the smartest clothes a backpacker can find, sitting around patiently chatting to each other when the owner of the hotel approaches us and says, “Do you want to go zip lining?” Anyone that knows me well will know that I was up out that chair and jumping into the harness before any of the other girls had time ti reply! Next thing I know I’m running across a rope bridge connecting the 3rd floor conference room to a tree, then throwing myself out of the tree and flying across a small valley to the other side of the resort, last a bridge and a beautifully illuminated waterfall part of Vythiri Village in Waynad. I then ran across the bridge, back up the stairs and was all ready for our gala dinner! Such an exhilarating ‘before dinner’ experience.
While I myself did not go bamboo rafting as I was suffering from a bad case of Delhi Belly (I’ll spare you the details!!!), I heard it was great fun from those who did go. Organised by lots of the hotels in Waynad or by contacting the local tourism board, groups of 5-5 people sit on bamboo rafts and take turns to help paddle the raft to the other side of the river then back again…without falling in!
The guides also did little meditation sessions on board the raft, so I guess this would be an adventure for those looking for a more relaxing afternoon that won’t involve any strenuous activities!
That’s right….we found a place to go zorbing in INDIA!!! The group may have become a little over excited at this opportunity and some fights may ever have broken out about who should get to go zorbing (versus the other group going hiking in 35 degree heat and about 90 per cent humidity).
The zorbing takes place in the same lake adventure park that organises archery, zip lining and kayaking as is set to officially open in mid March of this year. This means we were essentially testing all their activities and equipment for the first time!
Sadly the ‘zorb pit’ was not fully constructed so we had to make do with a semi-steep hill that runs down to the main entrance. They strap two people into the giant hamster ball at a time, with an assortment of velcro straps (we soon discovered these straps weren’t quite strong enough to keep all our limbs secure!), and then give you one almighty push and watch as you go rolling down the hill screaming laughing and rolling upside down inside of this huge inflatable bar. Brilliant fun!
Similar to many of the others, there was more than one opportunity to do this in Kerala. One at the adventure camp, one at the Vythiri Village Resort and one at a local village in Waynad.
The last one involved a ‘guru’ from the Kurumas tribe teaching some members of the group how to shoot a more traditional bow and arrow. The tribe he is from tribe used to be hunters, using the bow and arrows to hunt and kill animals to feed their family all around northern Kerala. Now they have been rehabilitated to local villages to protect the wildlife population, so they instead pass on their skills to visiting tourists.
Camping in Kerala was one of the absolute highlights of the trip for most people While staying in 5 star resorts was incredible and such a treat for so many of us, it was cool to get back to nature for a few days, and it was also a chance for the entire group to be together in one place. Camping here wasn’t exactly the same type of camping you do in your own country. It was more like luxury camping, with just 2 – 3 people in each large tent, and the tents has two beds inside and even lights and plug sockets!!
The food was we were cooked was also way better than any camping food I have ever cooked myself. We started with a delicious bbq followed by a traditional buffet style dinner, with a wide selection of curries, nan bread and local rice.
The best part of the night was sitting around the bonfire singing songs, having a few beers and looking up in awe at the incredible night sky, full of glimmering stars and a bright full moon. We stayed at the Calypso Camp Site near Munnar, which you can get more details about here.
When visiting the tea plantations around the hill station of Munnar, one of the best ways to get around is by jeep safari. The roads are absolutely mental in this area, barely wide enough to let one vehicle pass let along a few buses. We left our bus as soon as we could and hopped into 4 or 5 open top jeeps which we had great fun travelling in to get to the Spice Village resort where we had the best lunch of our entire 2 week tour.
We got to have some more fun in the jeeps when on our camping trip with Kalyspsi Adventures, and the roads are miraculous;y even worse in that area. The ride was so bumpy and the roads were so awful that it was most likely easier (and more comfortable!) to walk! We all concluded that getting a ride in a jeep in this area is an adventure in itself as anyone who follows my adventures of snapchat (username: janetnewenham) will have seen.
I’m sure there are MANY more adventure activities in Kerala, but these are simply the one’s we were treated to on the Kerala Blog Express.
Writers note: My two week trip to Kerala was organised by Tourism Kerala, who brought 30 bloggers from 25 countries to India for a two week trip around the province. If you are a blogger and would like to take part in the next edition of the Kerala Blog Express, be sure to keep an eye on this website. It really is the trip of a lifetime.
Note: Thanks to Jins Abraham for letting me use some his pictures, taken on behalf Kerala Tourism, to Brittany from The Sweet Wanderlust for letting me use her photo of the bamboo rating and to Sarah from Fit Travels for the brilliant photo of me siphoning in the dark!!