Kerala is a state in South India with a long coastline, a labyrinth of waterways, and beautiful hill country. However when you think of India, most people think New Delhi, parched land, and the Taj Mahal – Kerala does not pop to the top of the list of places to visit.
I live in New Zealand and visitors to our shores also think of the top destinations of Queenstown, Lord of the Rings country and Rotorua hotpools. But NZ is so much for than this, and if you go off the beaten track, then that is where you have the experiences you remember.
So it is with India – Kerala has its own language and character, its own energy and uniqueness, known as God’s own Country, it is worth exploring in it’s own right. If you have never visited India, it is a great way to start – a soft landing so to speak. If you have been to India and not been to Kerala, add it to your bucket list.
Kerala is green – 43 rivers run down from the mountains of the Western Gnats, making a lush green countryside fed by rivers, lakes and waterways – here known as the Backwaters. In the cooler Hill Stations nature reserves provide refuge for tigers, elephants and other wildlife, and tea, coffee and spices are grown. For thousands of years these have found their way via the waterways to the ports such as Kochi where they have been shipped around the globe.
A trip to the Backwaters must include a houseboat experience. The boats used to transport rice and local produce and were unused until someone had the bright idea to, outfit them to give visitors a taste of Backwaters life. Experience the river life and see exquisite sunsets and sunrises.
Kochi is where the backwaters meet the sea, a natural port and base for trading that has been going on for thousands of years – well before the so called (European) Age of Discovery. At sunset it is obligatory to walk by the Chinese fishing nets, and out to the edge of the sea. Magic.
Kerala has a strong tradition of inclusion and equity – in the 1950s it elected a communist government and since has alternated between the Communist Party and the Congress Party. This has contributed to some of its strengths – universal education and almost 100% literacy, mortality rates are lower, minimum wage higher and the gap between rich and poor has remained lower than other parts of India. Plastic bags have been banned (why can’t we do that!!).
The Hills, the Backwaters and the Coast make up Kerala and any visit should include a visit to all three places – because each of these together make up Kerala – God’s Own Country
Rosemary Neave is the person behind Women Travel the World – connecting women travel businesses to women travellers, and telling the stories of womens travels around the world. In March 2015 she was invited to be part of the #KeralaBlogExpress where a bus load of 30 bloggers from 21 countries were shown the delights of this South Indian Destination.