Catriona's journey through Southern India - Part 1: Northern Kerala
There is nothing more exciting than leaving a blustery and wet London and touching down 13 hours later in a gloriously hot India. Those initial steps off the aircraft onto the tarmac below make you want to run to the nearest swimming pool with a cool spritzer and to start your holiday in style (whilst those back in the UK are battling the weather with their soggy umbrellas!).
In March this year, I embarked on an Indian adventure and took my mother along for the ride. We explored northern Kerala, Karnataka and Goa, all in the beautiful south of the country, and we thoroughly enjoyed every second of this wonderful, albeit hectic, trip.
Our journey started in Bekal, a small town around 2 to 3 hours south of Mangalore airport. Other than a small fort, the town itself doesn’t have a huge number of sites – however, a wonderful resort opened here in 2012, Vivanta by Taj Bekal, which is the perfect spot to relax and acclimatise.
Our room was spacious, gorgeous and modern with a few traditional touches and a private plunge pool. The resort is a little oasis with lots of waterways and lush foliage throughout. We spent the evening in their beachside restaurant enjoying our first proper meal of the trip (Indian, of course!) before reluctantly leaving the following morning.
Our spirits were soon lifted once we reached the stunning Neeleshwar Hermitage, only an hour away. This small resort with only 18 cottages overlooks the Arabian Sea and is a delightful place to kick back and relax – which is what we mainly did for two days.
Whilst we were here, we were lucky enough to visit a local village for Theyyam, a trance-ritual unique to Malabar and Hindu religion. Locals gather to watch as hereditary families act as the medium for descending deities who comes to earth to bless their devotees. It was the most amazing experience with a vibrant and exciting atmosphere full of dancing, acting, chanting and animal sacrifices. My mother and I were the only Westerners out of thousands of locals and were made guests of honour. We had front row seats and were blessed by the deities and given gifts of corn, coconut and bananas, wrapped in a banana leaf. We really did feel like we were part of the experience and were humbled by our time spent here.
After two nights of relaxation by the pool at Neeleshwar and some great spa treatments, we embarked into the next section of our trip, Karnataka – an underrated state with so many varied experiences, all within a manageable distance.