The bus ride from beautiful, beautiful Munnar in the hills, down to somewhat variable Allapuzha (or Alleppey as it’s mostly known) started with a 05:00 alarm call to ensure that we were packed, primed and ready to go at the bus station when the bus allegedly arrived somewhere between 05:45 and 06:15 prompt. We’d asked many people what time the bus left, and had received a range of answers. The average suggested it left at 06:00, but I’ve always been nervous of timetables, so we made sure we got there good and early.
We arrived just as the bus company staff were arriving, and got to enjoy a lovely sunrise with the stray dogs, whilst drivers and conductors busied themselves in preparation for full contact bus driving that awaited them. Our bus finally belched its way through a cloud of early morning exhaust fumes, and we were on our way.
Indian busses are always an adventure, but the early start, and our lucky choice of seats ensured that we were gifted the most magical views as we charged down the hills. We had about thirty minutes of absolutely magical light casting huge shadows as the sun rose over the mist and jungle shrouded mountains. We zoomed past waterfalls, flew through towns and villages, and sat in dumbstruck awe of the beauty of the world. Even the kids stopped blethering at some points and enjoyed the scenery. There’s no greater compliment than that.
As well as asking when the bus arrived, we had tried to work out how long it would take. Again we received a broad range of answers, but the average estimate of five and a half hours was spot on. We raced into Alleppey, and were unceremoniously thrown off the bus by the conductor who was clearly keen to get on with his lunch.
We spent a very sweaty half an hour trying to find somewhere good to live, finally gave up, and plumped for the Green Home, which was deemed “expensive, not terrible, and has air conditioning”.
The rest of the day was a series of disappointments. The town is pretty ugly, horribly busy, disasterously hot, and from what we saw, had absolutely no redeeming features. The early evening was spent hiding from the monsoon downpour booking a flight out to Sri Lanka. We had wanted to visit Chennai and catch up with all of Dez’s IBM friends. But three days before we arrived at Alleppey, Chennai was struck by its second round of major floods in three weeks, and with thousands of people left homeless, the airports and train stations shut, that idea was clearly not viable. It was such a shame, and something that we dearly want to remedy at some point in the future.
That night was the worst night’s sleep that I’ve had on the trip so far. The room turned out to be infested with ants and mozzies, the bedding smelt like it had been kept in a damp shed for the last year, and the neighbours were loud, drunk and intimidating. We only had two nights left in India, and I was determined that I wasn’t going to spend them like this.
Check out was a leisurely 11 o’clock – the only good thing about the place – and we used the time to find somewhere nice to live. Which we did, in buckets. A quick read of the lonely planet, thirty pence spent on a tuk tuk jolly, and we found the most perfect lodge, in the backwaters, right on the river, with super clean rooms, an owner that couldn’t help himself from helping, amazing food, the sound of the mosques wafting over the lakes, and free fishing rods for the kids. And it was less expensive than the Green Hole.
We moved in, super sharp, and had the best time ever for our last two nights. Boat trips through the backwaters, real Indian food cooked for, and by, real Indian folk, the boys learning to fish, paddling a borrowed canoe through the backwaters, sublime sunsets, the list of superlatives could just go on and on. If we’d found this place first, then we’d easily have stayed long enough for the flood waters to receed in Chennai, and would almost certainly have spent Christmas in India. It really was that perfect. Everything everyone says about the Alleppey is true, you just have to find the right bit. It’s impossible to think of a better set of memories to have as we left India.