Budget travel in Kerala – Kumily / Periyar
Tough budgets? Don’t worry, you can still enjoy to the fullest, of all that Kerala has to offer.
I was in Kochi when I made an impromptu decision to travel with a set budget in mind. Destinations mapped on my itinerary were Kumily, Alleppey and Varkala. Days in hand numbered 5. As the luck would have it, I met 2 tourists on the bus who had a similar travel plan on mind…by the end of the bus trip we had decided to travel together! More the merrier!
Kochi also offers many economic home stay options in and around the Fort Kochi area but since we are based out of Kochi, I didn’t have to evaluate that alternative. Having packed our backpack we set off for Kumily via road. It takes 7 hours by bus with a short rest stop at Kattapana. Cost of travel – Rs.115. We reached Kumily late evening of a Sunday and headed to the Coffee Inn which is hardly 2-3 kms away from the main bus depot. Auto cost – Rs. 15 to Rs. 20.
Coffee Inn, a 25 year old lodge is small, quiet and clean place. It thrives predominantly on the tourists. They don’t take bookings and rooms are available on first come first basis. Their food menu is designed to suit the taste buds of foreigners, so for Indians like me an extra sprinkle of black pepper is the only option to spice up the dish. Don’t miss out the poster in the reception area that reads “Don’t shout on the cook, good food takes time”! The food is served in its own sweet time and hence one should be mentally prepared to tame thy hunger. Anyways, the rooms are neat and cost anything between Rs. 300 to Rs.600. You can either take up a hut / cottage like we did or choose a tree house. Post dinner we called it a day since we had an action packed day starting next morning.
We decided to go for an early morning trek around the jungles. The main gate to Periyar Wild Life Sanctuary is at a walking distance from the Coffee Inn, which opens at 6 am. Having reached early we sat on an outside platform to a tea shop and savoured hot cardamom chai (Indian tea). It is advisable to buy water bottles before you enter the sanctuary as the shops inside don’t open early. Besides keep your food items away from the eyes of monkeys found in plenty inside the sanctuary.
The entrance fee to the sanctuary is Rs.25 for the Indians and Rs.300 for the tourists. You have the option of either walking to the main office that distributes tickets for the trek / boat ride or take an auto. Since it’s a long walk and we wanted to reach office well in time for the trek (which started at 7:15am) we decided for the latter option.
Any trekking group comprise of 6-8 members, comes with a guide, lasts for about 3 hours and cost you Rs.100. Our guide Kannan was amongst the 150 employees who run the sanctuary. Kannan took us through the semi green forests comprising of teak, rosewood and sandal trees amongst the other towering trees I couldn’t identify. More than 300 species of birds and 70 plus species of animals are found here.
Since the Periyar Sanctuary is spread out vast in terms of area, it is sheer luck that you might see any wild animal. We had to be satisfied with wild boars, bisons, monkeys, wild frogs, wild cocks and some tiger’s old footprints! There are options of small and big boat rides and if you are lucky elephants might just decide to pay a visit to quench their thirst at the lake. Post activity, we decided to walk out of the sanctuary which lasts for more that 1 hour.
After tucking in sumptuous brunch we headed for the Spice Village that offers you with a guided tour with study of various spices and ayurvedic herbs. Our guide Rajan was very good and we drank in with eagerness all pieces of information he gave. We got to learn about the different varieties of coffee, the processing of pepper, the fresh vanilla, sugar substitute stevia, cardamom and so much more. We didn’t know till then that the bay leaf and cinnamon came from the same tree! The visit was worth the 100 bucks you spend. They also sell herbal products here. As we checked the products out we got to drink lovely lemon tea, on the house!
For those, who want to be in touch with the world while they travel, there are Internet cafes around the main bus stand with hourly cost of Rs.40. After checking our mails we explored the local market which had wide range of items from spices to clothes to other knick knacks. We had checked out the timing for our bus for the next day which meant we had to get up early. After having Indian food at one of the joints near the main market area we headed back to our room.
I will cover the trip to Varkala with an in between boat cruise at Alleppey in my next post …
Write to me if you need any details in these locales…happy traveling!