Coasts, Hills and Cliffs!

Sushmita Garlapati is an architect and seasoned traveller. Her favourite travel companion is her 
long-term boyfriend and best friend, Nanda Gopal. Their travel goals complement each other, as they geek out together about history and architecture when they feel nerdy, and try local cuisines and delicacies when they feel foodie. “As an architect, all I learn is through seeing people interact with spaces and their responses to social happenings. It gives me ideas to design better, and scope to acquaint myself with local practices. It opens up horizons to think out of the box and come up with innovative design solutions. Travelling makes one wiser and bolder,” Sushmita observes. The couple visited Kochi, Munnar, and Varkala in Kerala last winter.

Their first stop was Kochi, also known as Cochin, a major port city on the southwest coast of India bordering the Laccadive Sea. “Fort Kochi is my personal favourite destination from the trip. The little Dutch town of Fort Kochi, located on an island, is straight out of a book. The colourful streets lined with colonial monuments and the iconic Chinese fishing nets captivated my heart, ” Sushmita gushes. “The cobbled streets and art cafés transport you to 18th century Europe.” They visited every café they could, and tried everything from Appams, Idiyappams, and Tapioca Chips, to Marshmallow Milkshakes, freshly baked croissants, and coconut milk coffees.

After Kochi, the couple decided to hire a Royal Enfield Bullet and ride up to the hillside town of Munnar, located in Kerala’s Idukki district. It is situated at around 1,600 metres above sea level, in the Western Ghats mountain range, and is also called the “Kashmir of South India”. In Munnar they stayed on a hillside, overlooking the beautiful valley, amidst a tea estate. “We were swept away by the misty beauty of the hills,” she recounts. “We spent the evening enjoying the sunset in the hills, exploring the nearby tea estates, looking out for eateries and taking the roads less travelled. The long winding hill roads that lead to Munnar offer some breath-taking views.” After a sumptuous breakfast of appams and shopping for tea, vanilla and spices, the couple rode back down to Kochi. They spent that evening shopping for souvenirs and dined at the oldest Dutch hotel in Kochi, The Old Harbour hotel, with authentic wine and live music under the stars – a perfect date. “The Dutch town of Fort Kochi absolutely captured my heart,” Sushmita says.

After indulging in a hearty French breakfast at one of Kochi’s cute little cafés, they headed to the coastal town of Varkala. Reaching Varkala just in time for New Year’s Eve, they bid 2017 adieu on the happening street of Varkala Cliff, along the sea. The couple rang in the New Year by eating their hearts out, shopping and celebrating till they dropped. “That night we settled in a café, lit with candles, playing live music, slightly tipsy in the salty ocean air. We had the first magical date of 2018,” she fondly reminisces. The following day they started on their way back home, their hearts bursting with the experience. 

“This trip of mine was a sneak peek into the splendid fusion of the desi and firangi cultures,” Sushmita says, 
“It’s mind blowing how they contrast yet complement each other. This unique mix is very rare.”        --- as told to Tanya