Chasing the monsoons

So after much inspiration from Twitter and a mind-blowing experience in the Western Ghats during peak monsoon season last year, I decided to head to South Kerala and welcome the Monsoons as they crossed over into mainland India. Anand, ever game, also signed up for the treat that lay in store. Tickets were booked well in advance to fly into Thiruvananthapuram on the 30th May and then back to Bangalore on the 2nd June.

Over the next one month news trickled in about the El Nino effect, and after some misfires that the Monsoon might make landfall on the 28th itself, the date turned out to be the 5th of June. We still decided to go ahead and just make a good time of it.

May 30th:

Morning flight. Thankfully not one of the ungodly early morning ones.  Less than an hour and touchdown in Trivandrum airport. Flight almost goes onto the street, you can see the autos while sitting in the aircraft. Well, almost. Auto hailed, Malayalam tried, but auto driver not convinced with our Chetta-ing. Rs. 300 for the 14 km journey to Kovalam beach. Well, Lighthouse beach to be precise, just south of Kovalam beach. We get down, walk half a Km along the path just out of the beach. A path only for pedestrians with hotels on our right and the beach on our left. Hotel reached, checked in to room with a view of the beach. No sign of any monsoons or clouds. Clear blue sky.

Evening comes, we head into the beach. No signs of any monsoons. A current brings in a huge cloud on one side with a twisting wind pulling in a section of it. Cloud and twister come into land and disappear inland. Pretty mild for a monsoon cloud. Lighthouse climbed and crazy winds encountered. We descend and head to Kovalam. Sunset. Pretty pics. Silence and serenity.

May 31st:

Breakfast and the climb to the road. Auto to ‘Balaramapuram’. We think of Krishna’s brother, they think of Rama as a child. English spelling can be misleading. Bus taken to Nagercoil. Huffs and puffs along. Bus swapped and Kanyakumari reached. The tip near the Vivekananda Statue reached. Clear skies here too. Crazy winds and the waves thrash the enduring rocks, while slowly eroding them. Vivekananda Rock and a massive Thiruvalluvar statue in the distance. Lunch eaten and attempt at ferry. Long queue. Longer than any queue I’ve stood in. Decide it’s not worth it. Auto taken to the Southern most tip of Mainland India, some 2 kms away from the main tourist points. Long walk in the Sun and we are there. Deserted place, we climb some rocks and stand there with the crazy winds trying to push us off. Strong waves thrash the rocks here too. Lots of crabs, undisturbed by Humans.

We return to the railway station. Train booked. One that goes to Dibrugarh, all the way in Assam. One of the longest trains. We find that it’d reach there in the wee hours of June 4th! Train leaves at 2:45 PM and we get down at Trivandrum at 4:45 and walk to the bus stop. Volvo bus to Kovalam. Rs. 30 each ticket for 14 Kms. Shame on you BMTC! Sunset seen, this time not even a sliver of clouds.

June 1st:

Dog takes a swim in the sea. The stray dogs on the beach are adorable. They are well-fed, slightly portly, friendly and love a swim in the sea.

Thiruvananthapuram. By bus. A two-wheeler rental planned, but shop stays closed. The Padmanabhaswamy temple, the one with all the gold. Long queue to check in mobiles, clothes (only Veshti allowed), etc. Queue jumpers here too. We get in, walk around. Old, old place. But too crowded to enjoy better and less info on history etc. Need to read up. We head out, the palace museum next to it.

Palace Museum. A portrait of the young Swathi Thirunal. Looks like Ananth Nag, no wonder they cast him in that movie. Lovely palace, more like a house, and feels cooler inside despite the weather. We head out and an auto to Napier Museum. Not too impressed. Buses back to Kovalam and then the hotel.

Another Sunset, this time, hidden behind some clouds. Also, all bars closed for Sunday, only food served. Something to do with family or Govt rules? We forget to ask. No Monsoons still.

June 2nd:

Clear blue skies. Monsoons have clearly missed the usual date. Fishermen in the beach, pulling in a haul. Tourists join them for photos. Goes to FB one believes. Is Social media affecting how we behave in situations and in vacations, one wonders. People seem to epiphanize a lot more in vacations trying to imagine what would look good later on FB and behaving accordingly.

A last walk by the beach, lots of broken shells strewn around. Result of the fishing?

Check out by 12 PM. Luggage left at reception. Hot afternoon with some sea-breeze. Some beer to kill time with. 3 PM – bus to Trivandrum and then auto to the airport. Rs. 80 he says, will give 20 over the meter, I offer. He agrees. As they say in Kannada – ಅಳಿಯ ಅಲ್ಲ ಮಗಳ ಗಂಡ (Not the Son-in-law, but daughter’s husband). We pay him Rs. 80.

The flight leaves at 5:20 PM. 6:20 it approaches Bangalore. The Airport seen. Sudden turbulence, flight lurches left and right, dives down and then corrects itself. Is this it? We wonder. Crazy thoughts rush through my head. Then all of a sudden it takes off and makes a long circle. Turbulence again. This time he rises and keeps going straight. “We are headed to Chennai due to bad weather” he announces. Later he clarifies that there was no way he could’ve landed in Bangalore safely. One hour in Chennai parked on the side. We take off as the winds die down in Bangalore. Rainy evening, but we land without any ado. Terra firma!

Cab taken. Rainy evening. Yelahanka, Jalahalli etc. Just want to go home. Hungry and sleepy. Kanteerava Studios, closer to Sumanahalli now. A crowd on the left. One guy lying on the side of the road. Cab driver takes a peek. “Spottu” he shakes his head and announces. A dead man on the side. Killer roads.

Home, sweet home.

Photos here:

Kovalam 2014

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