>> Sunday, 6 November 2011
Last weekend, mallu girls my group from school went on an outing - or picnic, as they call it here - to Kerala, a state on the west coast of India's southernmost tip. Almost 5 of our friends joined in the fun. We started out late Friday with a 12 hour train ride. This was my first time in a sleeper car here, and it took some getting used to. There are two kinds of sleeper berths - those oriented lengthwise along the side of the car, and those at 90 degrees to the car arranged in stacks of six. The side berths are several inches short than 6 ft, with dividing walls at either end to separate them from the adjacent berths. I was originally assigned to one of these, but thankfully a coschooler offered to switch with me.The backwaters is a kind of lagoon/estuary/bay/tidal river that extends along Kerala's coastal region. In Allepy, we boarded houseboats, on which we would sleep that night. There were five houseboats for the group of us - three "family" boats, one "bachelor" boat, and one "spinster" boat. Someone did actually point out that "spinster" is not simply an unmarried woman, but the name stuck anyway. I was assigned to the bachelor boat with seven others. After eating lunch on the covered deck of the largest family boat, we departed for a tour of the surrounding backwaters. On our return, we moored along the shore for the night.After dinner, someone produced a microphone and PA system for group games. First, volunteers went up to the mic to sing Hindi songs and other tunes in their regional languages. After much haranguing, they got Nate and me to go up for a rendition of America, the Beautiful. Next, the group divided in two for a game called anthaakshari, where one team sang a Hindi film song, and the other team had to follow with another Hindi film song starting with the last letter of the last word of the opponent's song. Nate and I enjoyed it even though we weren't much help to our teams. After that, we bachelors returned to our boat for a session of "boozing" (the standard term for drinking here).The next day, we got back on the bus for a 6 hour ride to Munnar, a mountainous area known for its tea plantations. The bachelors perpetrated many antics over the bus PA system, including performing impressions of members of the group. We also played Dumb C, which stands for dumb charades, which is what they call charades here. At one point, someone put on some Indian style hip-hop music over the loudspeakers and within seconds most of the bachelors were in the aisle dancing. They coerced Nate and me into cutting a rug as well.We finally reached Munnar, and settled into our very posh hotel. The views there were exceptional, and the climate was quite cool compared to other places I've been in the south here. After dinner that night, we had a campfire on the hotel grounds where everyone gave a 30 second introduction of themselves. Earlier, we had heard from the hotel staff that there was a river 2km from the hotel where we could go swimming, so I woke up before sunrise the next day with another two bachelors to make the trek. It was a great spot, and the water wasn't too cold.Next, we got back on the bus for a 4 hour ride to Cochin, stopping along the way for lunch and a walk through one of the tea plantations. In Cochin we picked up the train back to Bangalore - a 12 hour ride. This time, the entire group was in the same car, and we had great fun. In addition to card games, we played a round of housie, the Indian version of bingoMy kerala girls friend album here are Alleppey girls photos, Alwaye girls photos, Idukki girls photos, Kannur girls photos, Kochi girls photos, Kollam girls photos, Kottayam girls photos, Kovalam girls photos, Kozhikode girls photos, Malappuram girls photos, Palakkad girls photos, Pathanamthitta girls photos, Perumbavoor girls photos, Trichur girls photos, Trivandrum girls photos.Even in the regular berth, my feet stuck out into the very narrow aisle. The bed was a minimally padded board that swiveled out from the wall and was secured in place with chains. Since our group booked the tickets late, we were scattered throughout the train and I was surrounded by strangers. I was also told that I did have to worry about people trying to steal my bag while I slept. So, I decided to use my backpack as a pillow. Not a great night's sleep. The next morning we arrived at our destination, Kottayam. There, we boarded a bus for a 3 hour ride to Allepy, a town on the backwaters.