When Kalypso hosted the Kerala Blog Express 06 – 2019

Journeys and destinations are inextricably linked. Every journey we believe has to have a destination, and every destination, it is accepted is attained only by traversing the complex paths of a journey. Modern journeys though have undergone certain transformations. The purpose, the takeaways, the understanding have all been enhanced by the use of technology and so we have journeys that are easier to envisage, plan and document. Every traveller today has a story to tell which they do in more and more innovative ways. And so were the travel-bloggers born…that group of inveterate travellers who make no bones about the fact that for them journeys and destinations merge to form experiences and memories. A relentless search for epiphany defines them.

What is Kerala Blog Express?

Wordsmiths, idea-peddlers – individuals with an eye to look beyond the apparent, and see lurking truths. In modern parlance they are the digital media influencers, travel bloggers, vloggers, photographers, and lifestyle-bloggers. The Kerala Blog Express offers them a unique opportunity to explore and experience Kerala, God’s Own Country as the department of tourism, Kerala organises an online blogging contest every year and 25-30 of the winners from across the word are then hosted by them for a period of two weeks.

The group is taken by bus through the length and breadth of Kerala and utmost care is taken to ensure that their experiences are organic and genuine in nature while guaranteeing safety throughout. The bloggers then share their real time experience with their followers through various social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

KBE season 6 in 2019 replicated the success of this venture that began 6 years ago. Past participants have attested to forming new BFFs and having epic experiences. KBE is and has always been a fantastic opportunity for the world to see Kerala as it really is and for Kerala to present itself in all its multifaceted splendour to the curious eyes of the world.

KBE and Kalypso – where do the twain meet?

Relationships are forged on trust and mutual respect. And so it was when Kalypso was handed over the steering wheel of the Kerala Blog Express mid-journey. Setting out from Kochi in this edition of the Blog Express, on the Trip of a Lifetime bus, the group of expert bloggers wrote about, photographed and video-shot their tour sharing their thoughts and experiences with the world. Kalypso introduced them to sides of adventure and responsible tourism, important aspects of Kerala’s State tourism policy.

The journey and the travellers

We began our stint with the Kerala Blog Express 2019 by taking this group of 30 cycling from Kainakary in the Kuttanad region which is the rice bowl of Kerala along village roads and rustic fishing villages, to Nazreth Church, 15 kms away. From there on the backwater magic held sway and the group was taken kayaking from Nazareth village which meant 5 kms of the surreal where only distant bird-calls or the quacking of a team of ducks broke the silence and a gentle breeze was a constant caress on the coconut palms.  Kerala’s verdant beauty and its maze of waterways they found could be mesmerising.

The next leg of our journey with the bloggers saw the scene shift to the Western Ghats. Kalypso’s picturesque camp at Suryanelli played arena to their two day wonderful stay. Stiff backs and aching limbs notwithstanding, the bloggers were soon up to their active best upon reaching. The brisk mountain air, the lush green surroundings and nature at her wild best were all it took to rejuvenate tired bodies.  The exotic appeal of the campfire too proved irresistible. The morning saw them scale the craggy Phantom Head Peak to soak in the magical sunrise over the butterfly forest and the afternoon saw them setting off on their Trip of a Lifetime to their next destination.

Playing host to this group of young travellers who have been everywhere and seen everything was besides being a privilege also an experience that we at Kalypso will remember and cherish for a long time to come. Memories we know will linger for quite some time…whether it is Alex Chacon that Travel Vlogger and motorbike adventurer  playing mud football in a slushy village playground, or Alex Outhwaite falling in love with the tea plantations and the winding roads in between or Jonny Melon who expertly selfie-d even while kayaking or riding a bicycle on Kerala’s muddy village roads or Michael Gerber who fell in love with the sunsets and the tea plantations of Kerala or Nelson Mochilero, digital creator and compulsive traveller like all the rest of them, encountering for the first time the magic of Kerala’s backwaters and waterfalls…we could go on  and on about each and every one of them…the passion with which they embrace travelling, the special place nature has in their itineraries, their totally open and honest outlook…like how Kerala sees herself –truly human by nature

What an incredible time we at Kalypso had! Being activity partners for Kerala Blog Express and Kerala Tourism has been a terrific experience in itself and each season fills us with a sense of achievement and pride.

 

Travel journalists of the past have evolved with the advent of modern technology and modern sensibilities to the travel bloggers of today. More authentic experiences, more innovative ways of sharing those experiences and more real-time story-telling! And all of this made more memorable due to the amazing palette that Kerala is! We salute the spirit of adventure!

 

Kerala floods – Kalypso report 2018

As the flood waters recede in Kerala, its people look on – horrified and resigned, and with the embers of an undying determination simmering in their hearts. They see before them the long uphill road and realise that only a strong back, a stoic mind and a compassionate soul will help them take each and every single step along the way.

We at Kalypso salute the thousands of volunteers from across all spectrums of society and from all parts of India and the world who risked their own lives to rescue the affected population, to provide relief materials to the dispossessed and to clean homes and make them habitable and are even today continuing to do the same. The armed forces, the paramilitary forces, the fishermen, the local people, the health professionals and professionals from every field, all sterling volunteers prove beyond doubt that humanity still abides in the human being. Our own young boys from Kalypso involved neck deep in relief and rescue activities have heartrending stories of courage, humility, grit and kindness to share. The ordinary Malayali faced with a calamity not experienced in a hundred years is digging deep within to understand the responsibility of living in Gods own country.

May this tribe that puts others before self, flourish!

For it is only together that we can and shall overcome.

Five Side-effects of My Holiday in Munnar

When you travel to Munnar, you make some lasting memories. But there’s more to it than just making memories. The experience of the charming life of Munnar will leave you with some long term side effects. I am sharing the side effects that I suffer, ever since I got back from Munnar.

I never look at my cup of tea the same again: Being in Munnar, driving through lush tea gardens and interacting with the people of Munnar, has had a lasting impact on me. My morning fixer upper (I am not sane till I have had my first cuppa), is now accompanied by the memory of vast stretches of vibrant green carpets of tea plantations, interspersed with silver oaks. I am sure you must have noticed that your average advertisement for tea (and many other unrelated products) is generally about the very same scene. But let me tell you, an ad can never, ever come close to the pure bliss you feel walking through the tea gardens of Munnar. Being in high ranges of Munnar, observing and interacting with tea plantation workers, re – learning how to brew tea and simply enjoying being in the mist covered tea garden, really drives home the fact that my humble cup of tea holds within itself, many wonderful stories that I now relate to.

I never knew that sighting a goat will be so thrilling:  It’s no ordinary goat that I’m referring to. I was fortunate to visit the Eravikulam National Park, which is around the highest peak of South India – Anamudi. This National Park is home to the endangered Nilgiri Tahr. There was a time when large herds roamed all around the Western Ghats. But with a rapid loss of habitat and poaching in the 19th century, these benign animals almost faced extinction.

Walking up the steep road to Anamudi, and training one’s eyes all across the Shola grassland, I was trying hard to find the Tahr. I literally jumped out of my skin when I spotted one just a few feet ahead of me. This particular fellow had a bored expression on his face, and was looking benignly at us around, through it’s half lidded eyes. To all of us that day at the park, the sighting of Tahr was no less than sighting a Tiger at Ranthambore.

My faith in conservation efforts is definitely restored. I felt buoyed with enthusiasm, when I saw that the population of the Tahr is now increasing within its original habitat. I now know something about myself, it’s possible that sighting a goat can inspire hope in me about the future of our planet.

I know everything about the spices in my kitchen:  After my intensely enjoyable trip to Munnar, I have discovered that I have an organic connect to the spices in my kitchen. I have learnt so much more than I knew from cooking for my family for ten years and more. For example, I never knew that the cardamom plant is, in fact, from the ginger family. Whoever knew condiments would be related to each other !

Poor jokes apart, the fact is whether it’s walking though hazy tree shaded cardamom plantations, seeing nutmeg trees grow in abundance, touching the bark of the cinnamon tree or simply plucking a bunch of green pepper right of the vine, my sensory overhaul in Munnar is complete as plantation walks have made me an aficionado of spices.

  Going for a walk now implies a whole lot more:  Munnar is a destination where every time you step out for a small walk, you come back with a big experience. Walking around the Anaerangal lake (in Malayalam or Tamil, it means where the Elephants come down) brings around many surprises. My children went up a tree house, perched precariously on a Parasitic Fig tree. It was definitely not safe and one of those things that a responsible mother (unlike me!) will never allow. But it will remain etched forever as a wonderful childhood memory for my kids. And my son will never, ever in his life, forget seeing an elephant come to drink water at Anaerangal Lake. Seeing this iconic mammal, in the wild, has made his year for sure. Suffice to say, going for a walk, implies a whole lot more in Munnar.

I yearn to go back: There’s something about the Nilgiris that touches your soul. The panoramic vistas, the misty evenings by the campfire, the colonial feel of the plantation bungalows and the genuine warmth of the people of Munnar will make you want to return to this amazing place. So I have made plans to go back to Munnar, what about you?

Have you too suffered any such side effects? If so, do share your experiences with us in the comment section, would love to compare notes.