Though the main purpose of this trip was to attend a friend’s wedding, as always, being an out-of-town wedding, I’d use the opportunity to travel around. This time, it was a chance to explore a bit of south Kerala. Being from north Kerala and having only visited Trivandrum years back, I’ve longed to visit the parts of Kerala that are now most synonymous with tourism in Kerala.
We (me and a friend) left Bangalore city from K.R. Puram station in the evening and headed for Ernakulam, an overnight train ride that took nearly 12 hours. Upon arriving (really) early in the morning, we got off the train only to board the one next to it. An hour-long journey took us to our friend’s hometown in Kottayam. Given that we had a day before his wedding — and the fact that his place had little to offer in terms of “tourist sights,” we decided to head for the tourist village of Kumarakom.
When we heard Kumarakom wasn’t very far from Kottayam city, we thought of saving some time by taking an auto. Then the auto driver said it would come to around Rs. 160 (€2.50/$3). So instead, we just waited for the KSRTC bus — which cost us Rs. 6 (too low to convert!) per person. Clearly the better option.
30 minutes later, we were at the “jetty” stop, pretty much the starting point for the boat rides to the lake. There are other roads on either side of the stream that will lead you to the many resorts that surround Vembanad Lake, the biggest lake in Kerala.
We opted for the 1-hour boat ride from the KTDC which cost Rs. 350 (€5/$7). (We didn’t try bargaining because these rides were conducted by the tourism department and it was written on a board there. But you could try.)
The backwaters leading up to the lake were lined up with houseboats and smaller boats parked on either side. It was an odd mix of luxury resorts among houses belonging to villagers, both living off a tourism economy.
The backwaters eventually lead out to Vembanad Lake.
And even though the pictures may not give you the scale, trust me, it’s big!
Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary is located on the east coast of the lake, which explained all the birds flying around and getting a better view of the lake.
The boat ride is very relaxing and I would definitely recommend taking it at around sunset.
Kumarakom has dozens of resorts by the lake. From high-end properties from the Taj Group and the famous Kumarakom Lake resort to mid-range offerings farther away. If you can afford it, it really is a great option for a romantic sojourn.
Back on land, we paid up and took a bus back to Kottayam. The next morning was our friend’s wedding, the venue being the local church.
After the wedding, we headed back to our room and caught up with a third friend, who would join us for the rest of our journey.
Kumarakom was just the first stop. Next up was Thekkady and then Cochin.
Camera used: Nikon D90; post processing done in Photoshop CS3
P.S: Here’s a small video I took from Vembanad Lake:
Two weekends ago, I went to the district of Wayanad in the state of Kerala. It was with mostly friends from work who are part of AOL India’s photography club Shutterbugs.
We left one Friday night from work and was joined by a colleague Yazid who would come with us until Wayanad and who would then, from there leave for Calicut, his home. I’ve always wanted to go on a photo expedition with Yazid since he’s one guy who was always open to teaching me more on photography.
Since he wasn’t going be with us for long, I used any opportunity to take advantage of his time. And we got some when we stopped for some time near the Karnataka-Kerala border.
Yazid taught me and another friend, Ramesh, how to use the Bulb mode in a camera. I had it as a mode in my Canon 7D but didn’t know exactly what it was for. Essentially, the Bulb mode was for giving the photographer full manual control over timed exposure. As in, you can hold the shutter open for as long as you can hold the button down.
Another cool example was shooting off the flash for a second and then holding on to the open shutter to create cool effects like this.
Ramesh stood in front of the jeep when the flash was shot off, then moved away while the shutter was still held and the result is what you see above.
We tried another shot using the same technique. Here’s a shot of Ramesh and Yazid with the shutter release lasting as long as the flash just goes off.
Now here’s the same pose but with the flash going off and then both moving away while the shutter is still held open by me for nearly 10 seconds.
The long exposure helps you get the stars as well.
We tried the same with shadows. Shot off the flash which obviously captures our shadows but then move away while still holding the button down so the open shutters captures as much of the background as possible.
We tried some more shots…
… before Ramesh and I felt we had learned enough.
We set off from there and by the time we reached Bandipur, the sun had slowly started to show up.
By 7am, we had reached Wayanad. The taxi had to stop at the check post for the standard paper work which gave us the opportunity to start our photography.
I didn’t take many photos as I was feeling sleepy given I was up the whole night making sure our driver didn’t doze off like the passengers did. Breakfast was just hot tea.
It took our driver nearly an hour to get back from the customs police. And when he did, we realized we had a puncture too! More time was wasted as the driver slowly replaced it. Annoying as it were, we finally moved past the check post and stopped again soon after. Nidhin (the guy who organized this whole trip) told us the first thing on our itinerary was a safari ride through Muthanga Wildlife Sanctuary. We paid up for five, our guide and got into our jeep.
Now, the thing with any safari is that, the chances of one actually ever seeing anything exciting are rare. Plus timing is important too. Early mornings are often said to be best as a lot of animals prefer to stay in the shade once the sun is out in full force. Plus, it helps if the vehicle you are in wouldn’t make such a racket giving a loud heads-up to every creature signaling tourists are on the way!
I was only carrying my wide-angle and 50mm lens, so there was little I could capture as far as exotic animals and birds are concerned. Nidhin had a 300mm lens so he managed to get some rather good close-ups of the creatures we came across.
So bear with me… here are some trees!
After driving through the forest, we hit the tarred road and the driver took us to a nearby “waterfall”.
Turned out to be nothing more than a river stream with a lot of sand dumped on its banks — which looked suspicious as it surely didn’t look like it belong there.
After nearly nearly 2 hours, we were back to where we started. Our safari ride was over. Was it worth it? I guess it varies. If we had spotted tigers, then I would have said ‘yes’. Otherwise, if deers and small wild animals aren’t your thing, it’s a waste of money.
It was nearing noon so we decided to head for our resort which was still a bit away. But once we hit Sultan Batheri (the big town in Wayanad) our taxi suffered another puncture! Since the spare tyre was also bust, we had no choice but to wait for it to get fixed.
So I decided to take in the local sights.
After an hour, we were back on our way. And then… another puncture! That too the same tyre! We got fed up at this point, so we told our driver to get it sorted and we took an autorickshaw to our resort.
I don’t remember the name of the resort and honestly, I wouldn’t even recommend it for the price (Rs. 1750 per night). Getting there is pain by itself and the amenities or for that matter, the views, really aren’t worth the price.
After finally brushing our teeth and having something to eat, we rested for a bit. It was already past 4pm at this point and we really didn’t want to waste daylight, so we set off for our next stop — Banasura Sagar dam.
We hired a jeep as by the time our taxi driver got the tyre fixed and reached our resort, we decided its best he eat and rest. Also mostly because we were scared of the tyre going bust again.
There is an entrance fee at Banasura Sagar dam, the largest earthen dam in India and apparently the second largest in Asia. Open to visitors, the place offers a children’s park and even boat rides.
It was very sunny when we arrived and I regretted not carrying my sunglasses.
The tickets for the boat rides are separate from the entrance fees and none of us were interested in going for it either. So after spending an hour there, we headed back.
After sunset, we just enjoyed drinks and food over a campfire… ‘cos there was little else to do. There is absolutely nothing around the resort besides trees and shrubs.
Most of us called it an early night (especially me) since we barely slept properly in the past 24 hours. The plan was to wake up early the next day and set off by 5:30am.
But that never happened.
I got up a 5:30am and tried calling up the others — but in vain. And since it was freezing cold and misty outside, I went back to bed. We eventually did get up but by the time we left the resort, it was past 9am.
We drove through Kalpetta, picked up a local friend of Nidhin’s and made our way to Kuruva island.
Kuruva is not an “island” you’d imagine. It’s just a piece of forest land surrounded by a river stream (River Kabini) thus earning the title of “island”. We weren’t planning on getting on to the actual island itself so we went with our local guide through the side and the paddy fields you have to cross to get to the banks.
There is an entrance fee to enter Kuruva island and if you pay, this is how you actually get to the island.
But we just sat by the bank for some photography.
By 1pm, we were bored and decided to head back to town. Nidhin’s friend showed us one last thing before heading back to town.
An old teak bungalow used by the British during colonial times.
The bungalow was on a secluded piece of land surrounded by trees making it one heck of a vacation home.
Now all that’s left are markings by vandals professing their love for someone and other messages inscribed on the wood. The house is decades old but I was surprised how good the wood still was.
It was very sunny so we quickly headed back to our taxi, drove to town and cooled off during lunch. After that, it was back to Bangalore.
Fortunately, we didn’t suffer any further punctures and the only time we stopped (and probably the most exciting moment of this trip) was when we saw young elephants by the road side in Bandipur.
We did end up stopping at Mysore for dinner. (Actually, we stopped at Mysore because Nidhin’s friend said there was this dosa and beef curry joint in town but trying to find it was a pain and Nidhin’s state didn’t help either so we just ate at a regular vegetarian joint.)
Just as the clocked neared 12am, I was back home. The trip really wasn’t one of my best given the expenses and the resulting photography.