20.02.2017 - 05.03.2017
And here's the final post of the amazing time that was Reverse Oreo 2017! Our last big adventure in India was a tour in the south. It began with a 35 hour train ride! My longest overland journey to date.. which really wasn't that bad. Turns out the time goes fast when you sleep a lot!
Our overall experience with the tour was a positive one, but there were some bumps along the way. The first one was disembarking hot and sweaty from the train to find that our companions for the next 12 days were just a weeee bit older than us. But we grew to love those old farts after awhile.. they were friendly, quirky and fun, always taking care of us, and giving us entertainment with the drama they created. Our first few days we visited quite a few temples in the states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu...
One temple in Rameswaran had an amazing view of the countryside..
While the temples were all beautiful.. they were also another struggle on the tour. There were just sooo many and multiple places would not let foreigners or non-Hindus inside. It was the first time in my life that I have been prohibited from entering a place based largely on the color of my skin. It was frustrating and also eye-opening.
Other parts of the tour were absolutely beautiful and being able to spend the time sightseeing with such good friends more than made up for issues along the way. Part of the beauty of traveling is that things often don't turn out how you expect and you learn a lot about yourself in your ability to handle difficult situations.
We took a backwater ride in Kerala...
And the boat drove us to the beautiful Golden Sand beach, where Hannah and I finally had our first beer in India!!..
Our next stop was the southern most tip of India, the meeting point of the Indian Ocean, Bay of Bengal, and Arabian Sea..
It is also the location of a couple islands that are the Swami Vivekananda Memorial, a devout Hindu monk largely credited for the introduction of yoga to the western world...
We headed further inland to the town of Thekkady where we saw a traditional Kathakali dance, involving an interesting display of eye and face movements through expressive dance.. Weird and interesting!
We also took a jeep ride in the mountainous countryside near Thekkady..
The viewpoints were amazing and the ride was winding, bumpy, and exhilarating!
We took in a couple amazing sunsets...
And then continued to Munnar to visit the tea fields..
And Mattupatty Dam and Lake for a motorboat ride..
Staying in a beautiful spice jungle hotel..
Our last outing was another boat ride, this time in the famous house boating backwaters of Alleppey..
After our busy tour, it was nice to take our last few days to relax with Unnati's family back in Baroda, get to enjoy some more of Mama Rani's cooking, and cross the last few things off our India 'to-do' list. A veggie Big Mac (or Maharaja Mac) at McDonald's. So much yes. Last shopping at the market and grocery stores. Unnati brought back a whole suitcase full of food! And our final activities included a birthday dinner and visits with Unnatis friends (who have obviously become our friends too!)...
And a visit to the Sarangur temples a few hours away...
... Where we attempted to attend a communal temple meal and were whisked into a 'VIP' room (due to being foreigners) that Unnati didn't even know existed. Talk about opposite experience to our earlier temple visits. This is India baby! You never know what is going to happen and I love that feeling of adventure!
When I sat down to write my final India notes, I realized that this may be my favourite country visited to date. It is so unique, so full of culture and 100% certain to be a place I will return (Unnati just needs to give me a couple years to save up before her wedding!). I can definitely say it was the best food experiences I've had anywhere, the people couldn't have been more amazing (causing copious tears at the airport), and the things we saw from north to south were gorgeous. I feel so lucky to have had such a beautiful opportunity!