June 21, 2016 – The toll surprise.
We started from Club Mahindra Mount Serene just before 9 am. It has been drizzling since morning. I managed to complete the packing in about an hour’s time and then Krishnan went to settle the bill and I loaded up the car. Have re-arranged a bit and things fit better in the boot. Both Manoj and Lingaraj were there. Krishnan handed over the ShikshaDaan card with details about English Helper and Buddy4Study as both of them have children who can benefit tremendously from scholarships. Lingaraj’s son is a good student and may win one of the talent scholarships. Fingers crossed.
We went to Thomas’ for breakfast. Again the food was excellent and Amma ate an extra dosa because they were so well made !! That’s a first for Amma in a restaurant. Everyone who is reading this blog and visits Club Mahindra, Munnar, please do eat at this joint. Its amazing food, home cooked almost and the only place where you get “atta” parottas :). Mr. Thomas was saying his prayers so we had our breakfast and waited for him to say goodbye. He came out and we all met him and told him about our work. He then shared his story which is stunning – this man was a drunkard and drug addict for thirteen years and had decided to commit suicide when Jesus happened to him. He turned around in an instant and has stayed sober since, manages this restaurant and has never touched drugs or a drink again. Amazing story of faith and coming back to life from the brink of self destruction !!
Read about Thomas in Krishnan’s blog – https://vgkrishnan.com/2016/06/28/thomas-you-made-it/
He blessed our trip and we set off by 10 am for Allepey. The road is quite nice except near Munnar its being widened and hence there is a lot of work happening. Once you cross about 10 kms after Munnar town, the road is wide and the scenery is stunning.
We reached Allepey by 3 pm after one refueling stop. The most surprising thing is we paid toll at two places and it was Rs. 3 and Rs. 20 …. Its not a typo, even my mom couldn’t believe that someone can collect Rs. 3 for a toll. Its fascinating !
The Ramada hotel is adjacent to the boat jetty and the backwaters look so lovely. Houseboats are bobbing around and the whole picture is pretty.
Siru called up as soon as she landed and we decided that we will meet tomorrow. She and Revanth have taken a short trip to Kerala and we are thrilled that we are getting a chance to meet up. Sirisha is one of my closest friend from school and we have been part of each other’s life for almost 32 years. Her mother would tease us saying Sirisha is moping because Bindu’s letter hasn’t come :). We also planned on becoming nuns in Mother Teresa’s organization – I guess Mother Teresa would have had a tough time taming the two of us.
For lunch we had Rohini’s dosas and the “puttu” that we got packed from Thomas’ restaurant. Since we cant cook in the room here, we just brought our clothes and toiletries. Have to find good restaurants to eat around here. We went out for a walk and found a ayurvedic massage place just across from the hotel. A place called SreeKrishna Ayurvedic place. I booked a massage right away and it worked all my fatigue away. Awesome massage and authentic ayurvedic place, which is also inexpensive.
June 22, 2016 – Meeting my dearest friend, unexpectedly
Amma and I went for a walk in the morning and Krishnan went for his swim. We walked along the backwaters and found a Hanuman temple and then a tiny restaurant called “Annapoorna”. Since it said pure vegetarian, we went in to enquire and to my delight they had appams ! This was around 7.30 am, so I checked if they will have appams when we got back from our walk and the lady at the counter said she will keep aside our order.
We walked all the way till the second four road junction on the Punnamada Finishing point road and then turned back. Got our breakfast packed and headed back to the hotel.
The appams and idlis were outstanding so we decided to go to the same restaurant for lunch. When we started out it was raining and the road is so narrow that we ended up getting a few splotches of water on us. As I mentioned before Sirisha, my dearest friend from school had called when we were in Munnar saying she is taking a short vacation with Revanth, her son, at Allepey. She didn’t know that we were also in Allepey on the same dates – sheer coincidence and a very happy coincidence. We had spoken yesterday and she and Revanth were coming over today to meet us around 4 pm.
At lunch, we were late for the Kerala meals, so we decided to eat the special “thali” and for Amma and me we ordered a plate of biriyani and sambar rice. The sambar rice came first and all three of us nearly fell off our chairs because it was enough for all three of us for a meal. We quickly canceled the biriyani and I had to eat sambar rice which I did grumpily.
We took an auto to get back to the hotel because it was still raining. The autos in Kerala are Mahindra autos and they are wider, so three people are able to sit comfortably. Siru and Revanth reached the hotel by 4.15 pm or so and it was great to meet Siru after nearly eight years. Revanth is all grown up, he just towers over all of us !
We had booked the boat ride to the Vembanad lake at 5 so we all went for that ride. Lovely houses line the backwaters and there are tiny islands which have beautiful houses too. The Vembanad lake is the 3rd largest lake in Asia, longest lake in India (96.5 kms long and 14 kms wide) and our guide in the boat was a young man called Antony. He is a good singer and sang a few songs as well. The boat ride is for an hour and definitely worth spending that time.
We got back to the room and I made some Top Tip instant Bhelpuri. Revanth beats us hollow with his spice eating ability – he got me to add a whole green chilli to his plate besides what I had already added. We sat around chatting for some time, as we had a lot of things to catch up on.
Since tomorrow we had to vacate the room, we also went off to sleep soon.
June 23, 2016 – A pleasant surprise, free one night stay
Krishnan was able to go for a swim today as well, but the pool was crowded. A group of executives seem to have come for a trip to Allepey and they all ended up in the pool. Amma and I went for a walk and walked around to the other side of back waters channel and its filled with shops and way too busy with the KSRTC bus stand at the end of the street. We met Krishnan at the “Annapoorna” restaurant and had breakfast there. A lot of confusion on “black” tea, ginger tea and special tea. Suggestion is to have ginger tea at “Annapoorna” restaurant with milk, its really good. We got lunch packed and returned to the hotel.
First half went off in repacking stuff because we don’t have a booking for just tomorrow. Around 4 pm we had the housekeeping folk in the room to clean up and Alphonsa, the Club Mahindra representative walked in to check if we were ok. We said everything was fine but we were packing up since we don’t have a booking for one night tomorrow. She immediately said that she is authorized to offer a free night stay and will come back to us after checking the status of the bookings in the hotel.
She called up around 6 pm to confirm that we are indeed getting a free night’s stay tomorrow. Thrilled with this offer.
June 24, 2016 – A day full of friends !!
For us the day started at 8 am when we drove to Ernakulam to meet with Pushpa. The NH47 is mostly ok, but there are huge patches of huge potholes near Allepey and then near Ernakulam as well. I wore the Kerala Kasavu sari that Jose had gifted to me as we were meeting our Malayali friends :):).
As we neared Pushpa’s house, the road got narrower. Actually all over Kerala, the roads are narrow and mostly 2 lane roads. It was wonderful to meet her after nearly four years and we brought each other upto speed with whats happening in our lives. We filled ourselves up with amazing “idiyappam” made by “chechi” Pushpa and I ate obscene numbers of “accha appam”. I remember getting Smitha Namboodiri to buy me an “accha appam” maker… its probably lying at home somewhere. I never learnt how to make it. We missed meeting Narayanan and Siya as they were away at work and school.
From Pushpa’s place we went to Nair’s place that is just after Angamaly. Nair and Sudha are known to Krishnan since 1987 and to me since 1990. We haven’t met since 1997 but friendships like these have no break really. Nair came and stood at the traffic junction where we had to take the service road to go to his house and he has lost so much weight that it took me a second to recognize him, but his smile is still the same. The entrance of the street that takes you to his house is narrow and I wasn’t sure if the car will go through and Nair in his quintessential style says “even a lorry goes here, just go” and well, the car did go easily and then his house has a huge area to park and turn the car.
Huge lovely house and kept spotlessly clean. We had taken a washing load and we immediately filled the washing machine. Food was awesome as always – mango morkuzhambu was the discovery of the day and the special herb powder that is spicy, tangy and all things that taste great. I got a bottle full of it for the trip. Then got tips for making better appams. Ate pineapples and jackfruit. And caught up on everything that has happened since we met. Spoke about Sethu Madhavan and his passing on …. Feels strange to know a friend is no more. Have to meet Thangam and Sandeep when we are in Chennai next.
We left from Nair’s place around 4, after trying hard to convince him to join us in Thekkady. We still might be surprised by him visiting us there. Lets see. From Nair’s place to Jai Mohan’s place, the traffic was relatively lighter and we reached Jai Mohan’s place by 5 pm. Actually we would have reached 10 minutes earlier but we missed the first turn and took the next one which was really narrow. Got stuck at a three road junction, unsure of how to reach his place. Again, there is lots of space inside his house so we could get the car off the road and park it safely. Met Jai Mohan after 22 years and 5 days – the last we met was on his wedding day. Met his dad and mom, and a little later his wife and sons. We had our coaching training call at 7 so we went to the first floor and connected using our Airtel dongle. Reliance data card doesn’t work here but Airtel worked well. We had to drop off by 8.30 pm as we had to drive back to Allepey, atleast an hour and a half.
We had a quick dinner and left by 9 pm, reaching the hotel by 10.40 pm. There is a funny thing that has happened twice to us. You have two men on a bike trying to flag you down and when you slow down, they try and show a card to you for either a hotel or boat trip etc. We saw this happen just as we were entering Allepey on the 21st and again tonight when we were turned into the Punnamada Finishing point road. It’s a little disconcerting but I guess its another way to try and get some business.
June 25, 2016 – a day of vegetating
Woke up late, did almost nothing except read and sleep.
For breakfast we ate the pineapple that we got from Nair’s house, the one remaining mango from the Tungturu collection J, appams that Sudha packed for us and some “aval” in milk. Krishnan went out and got lunch from Annapoorna, the only vegetarian restaurant that we like. Their portion sizes are huge so we will be giving most of the rice away tomorrow.
It feels great to not do anything for a day … Tried to complete the Munnar blog today and was able to upload all the pictures. The Reliance data card that was zipping in the morning, just didn’t get connected in the evening and luckily the Airtel Datacard worked. The Airtel datacard also stopped working after an hour so I couldn’t post the blog !! Such is online life that you want to be offline when on and on when you are off. The Ramada hotel’s wi-fi is 10 Mbps right next to the modem probably, its erratic in the room and almost never connects.
Most of the packing is done for tomorrow, and the drive is relatively shorter to Thekkady.