To escape the heath and the crowds we traveled on towards a hill station called Kodaikanal. We could catch our breath here: nice temperatures during the day to do some walks and cool during the night to have a good night sleep. Here we got to know the Indian chocolate and chai, enjoyed some nice views, drank a great cup of coffee again and saw the first rain fall in 6 months for this town. Though, all good things come to an end and it was time to move on.
The next destination was Cochin, on the west coast of India. This region is famous for the “backwaters” which we'd love to go and explore. Unfortunately, it seems to be hotter, more humid or drier than normally everywhere. Just breathing makes you burst into sweat. For three nights we didn't really sleep and during the day we weren't fit enough to undertake a lot of action. We just strolled along the dyke or through the cozy streets and tried to cool down in an air-conditioned cafe. We booked a boat trip to the backwaters. This network of lagoons and lakes is unique because fresh and salt water come together here. The channels are used for transport, fishing, agriculture and of course, tourism. It was a nice boat trip, but according to us a bit too long. Then it was time to find a cooler destination again.
So after our first train ride in India and a bus ride we arrived in Ooty. This was also a hill station, and the settlers from the old days came here as well to enjoy the mountain temperatures. The city itself didn't have to offer that much, but the surroundings are very nice. So we booked a tour to explore these. Here we thought we would meet other Western people on the van, but there were only Indians on board. Being on the road with a dozen Indians was an experience as well. In the end we had a pleasant day with some nice views, a beautiful waterfall and a safari in a national park. And we even spotted a wild elephant there! For the rest of our days we cruised around on a scooter and visited the botanical garden. We did forget that we were there during the Easter weekend. A lot of Indians visit Ooty then and it really looked like an ants nest. On Friday night all the restaurants were completely packed so we had to find a place to eat outside of the city center. We did survive the crowds and our search for an ATM that still had some cash.
Our next stop was Kalpetta. This is a very untouristic place, they sure looked up seeing two white people walking through the streets. After quite a search we finally found a scooter to drive around with for the next couple of days. The surroundings are very green and there are a lot of enthusiastic kids waving and saying hello. We stopped at a few lakes. At one of the lakes we got a good deal: we could do a zip line over the lake and this for the price of one. Of course we couldn't say no to that offer. We also climbed the Chembra peak. You aren't allowed to climb the top anymore, this is to protect the wildlife and plants in that nature reserve. But even the 2,5 km you can climb is worth the effort. It is quite a steep climb though, certainly as it is in the blistering sun. The view will make up for the hard climb anyway. For the rest we just drove around and had some stops here and there, sometimes for a nice view or for a good chai.
As we didn't really had another destination close by in mind, we decided to go a bit further north, to Goa. We had to take the night train to go this far. At 5 in the morning we arrived at our stop. After a rickshaw ride and a 1,5 km walk we finally arrived at our destination, Cola Beach. Tired but satisfied, we enjoyed peace and quiet here for a week. The only thing we could hear when going to sleep was the murmuring ocean, no horns to be heard in a few kilometers. We also took this time to figure out how the rest of our route would go.
Even though we liked India more than expected, the noisy traffic and the big crowds were too much, especially for Kim. That's why we decided to go the Delhi and visit the Taj Mahal, and then leave the country. Because India is a huge country, you often have to travel some big distances. To go from the south of Goa to Delhi we first had to take the night train to Mumbai to hop on a 2 hour flight to Delhi. It was a rather exhausting journey, although we had a nice chat with an Indian guy on the train. Arrived in Delhi we immediately started to look for a driver who could take us to Agra and back the next day. Once that was arranged, we could finally have a rest in our room. The next morning was painful again: at 4.30h in the morning we had to wake up as we would start our trip to the Taj Mahal at 5.00h. For this one time we didn't mind being driven around in an air-conditioned car. About 3,5 hours later we stood face to face with a wonder of the world, for the both of us our first one. Although there are a lot of people, it is still very special to be there. It is an amazing building with a beautiful story. After lunch and a visit to a market of marble crafts, we drove back to Delhi. And with this little trip we closed off another chapter. The next day we spend the afternoon at the airport and even bumped into a Belgian lady. At 23.10h our plane towards Indonesia departed from Delhi airport. Farewell or see you later India, hello new destination!
Maybe we will be back some time to explore more of this beautiful, yet special country. We certainly have great memories of this country, but we also have to admit that this is not our number one country. We will definitely miss the food and the chai. This really was an enrichment for our taste buds. We also remember that we seemed to be famous Indians now and then. From time to time people asked us to take a “selfie” with them. They were still surprised to see foreigners, which we didn't expect. We thought that enough tourists visited India already, so it was normal for them to see Western people. Admit, we didn't see many white people during our month in India. Let's just conclude that this was a short but powerful discovery of India.