Backpacks and homestays
I have always travelled by camping. I don’t like hotel so much, except for 1 or 2 nights, for a “weekend escape”. With my wife, we like to travel a lot also, and this is one of our biggest affinity I think. We have travelled in most of continents: north and south of America, north and middle of Africa, Europe of course, but we have never visited Asia. What is the best place to start visiting Asia? India of course. And to be frank, she has decided to visit India so all I had to do was to acquiesce 😉.
Even if we travel in campsites, we use a car most of the time. For the first time, we have travelled only with backpacks, no car, no bags. Moreover, since campsites are not very common in India (for several reasons, like security and just because of cultural aspects) we have decided to visit homestays. Every time we have travelled in a specific country, we have spent time in someone’s house. This is by far the best way to discover people, their cultures, their passions, their style of life and also to speak about politics, economics etc.
Thus, with 4 bags ( \displaystyle 1 \times 35 L, \displaystyle 1 \times 60 L and \displaystyle 2 \times 8 L), we have left our home to go to Basel airport, direction Dubaï and then Ernakulam.
Months before starting, we have sketched a “big tour”. Our goal was to avoid massive touristic tours and spots. So we have asked indian friends on Twitter or Facebook or even in IRL (oh!) about interesting spots. Then we have only booked for the first homestay. For the rest of the trip, we booked the next homestays 2 or 3 days before. It was a very nice experience. This way of travel offers a huge feeling of freedom. You do whatever you want whenever you want. And because it was the average touristic season, most of the homestays had at least one room available.
Our plan was (and has more or less been) the following:
- arriving at Ernakulam (എറണാകുളം),
- first stop at Alappuzha (ആലപ്പുഴ),
- second stop at Kozhikode (കോഴിക്കോട്),
- third stop at Wayanad,
- fourth stop at Mysore (ಮೈಸೂರು),
- fifth stop at Kotagiri (கோத்தகிரி),
- last stop at Fort Kochi before going back (ഫോർട്ട് കൊച്ചി).
This trip covers 3 states: Kerala (കേരളം), Karnataka (ಕರ್ನಾಟಕ) and Tamil Nadu (தமிழ் நாடு), and is about 1200km, in 18 days.
I have a Nikon D600. Even if I have several lens, I don’t like to visit countries with a bag full of lens, which represents more money than people from the countries could never have. So I took only one lens: the Nikon AF-S 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 G ED VR. This is not the best lens I ever used, however the 24mm is beautiful (especially on a FF) and the price was very low (thanks to the refurb of Nikon USA!).
All photos are handheld. No flash and no filter. The post-production has been very slight.
Alappuzha is a very nice place. A lot of nature and a lot of water. This place is very calm, and hopefully for us because my wife’s arm was damaged several days. The doctor visit was also very funny by the way 😉.
The following photo has been taken while a birds walk, at the sunrise.
The following photo has been taken at the sunset, on a boat, in one of the numerous canals.
Second stop. Hari and I met on Github. He is a contributor of the Aura project and this trip was a good opportunity to finally meet him in real life! He has gently welcomed us in his home, with his wife and family.
We didn’t see a lot of places at Kozhikode but we have shared precious moments with this family, both in the kitchen and in the living room or even in the homes of other family’s members. Another precious moment was during the “shopping day” (we always try to bring back some gifts to our family). Oh, by the way, I will have a surprise for the public of my next conference, I have a bet to win!
We have even been published in the “local” newspapers!
This is definitively a souvenir that only few people can have 😉.
Next step. We left the city for nature again. We have visited an old temple, some spice plantations, waterfalls etc.
As in the first stop, we have slept in a farm. This is an unrivalled opportunity to learn a lot about plants, spices, fruits, cooking and history.
Third stop. Mysore is a big city. Do not go there for the food or for the cleanliness of the street. However, Mysore holds an old market and one of the most beautiful palace of India.
Unfortunately, it is not allowed to take photos inside the palace. Nevertheless, when the night comes, you can appreciate the palace illumination. And this is a real experience. My wife was saying all the time: “We are in India, in front of an illuminated palace, surrounded by temples!” with a big smile on its face 😄.
After a big city like Mysore, we enjoyed to reach Kotagiri. At 2000m with a temperature around 5/10°C, it contrasts a lot with all the other regions and places we have visited. You can enjoy endless tea plantations.
Finally, before taking the airplane to go back, we have spent few days at Fort Kochi. This is definitively a touristic spot and it was quite shocking for us. This was the only place where we have seen strangers.
The last night was a cultural one. We have attended to a theater representation, called Kathakali. No word. Just music and moves. One thing to definitively see is the make-up.
This was a quick summary of our trip in India with few photos. You can see more on my Flickr account. And now, it’s time to leave the research world and start a job 😄