Friday, May 28


Thanks to a suggestion by a friend, we drove from Thekkady (Kumily) to Kumarakom via the Vagamon route - usually people take the Kanjirapally route which is a National highway (NH220).

Prabha does a detailed study of the options, marks villages on the way and has our route 'well mapped' before we leave.

The road is very picturesque and the view compensated for the extra hour that it took us to get to our first Mahindra Homestay destination -  Crispin and Soni's homestay - Kodianthara.

Green is the color of the day!

Kodianthara is located behind the St. John's Knanaya Church (not the Atamangalam church) and a little tricky to find if you do not follow precise directions. There are no sign boards but our MapMyIndia GPS brought us to the vicinity and with a combination of telephonic directions and intuitive guesswork we made it to the gate of the church.

There are no sign boards because Crispin believes that he does not want walk-in guests - "you can never be sure these days... I prefer people who come by reference, at least you have something to evaluate them by... after all we are letting them into our home... this is not a hotel or a guest house we need to be careful about who comes and goes", he says.

Kumily to Kodianthara at EveryTrail

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Thankfully the all-in-one house help Rahul came up to the main road to guide us through the maze of canals, canal bank homes and bridges (Haliaetus, our Xylo did a brave job of going on these roads and bridges which were just about an inch wider than him). Apparently 'tipper trucks' (used to remove the dredged shells and mud from the canals) navigate these narrow roads quite easily!

The '150 year old traditional Kerala Tharavadu home, that has been in the family for over 5 generations' is one of only 16 homes certified by the local govt. as a 'heritage home'. The Tharavadu house had a unique Kerala style architecture with an inner courtyard enclosed within the several large buildings built in the traditional Kerala style.

Crispin's ancestors are Knanaya Christians - he gives us a detailed history lesson of how 72 Syriac families migrated from the modern-day region near Iraq to the Malabar coast in AD 345, under the leadership of a prominent merchant Thomas of Cana (also known as Knanaya Thommen). They built a town in Kodungalloor with a church and 72 houses and soon spead to other parts of Kerala over the next few decades.

Apparently the community is very well linked with lots of 'inter family marriages - very similar to the Parsis - trying to maintain our unique identity as long as we can' according to Crispin. Soni's father has written/edited a complete history of his branch of the family... the book is so extensive that it covers some 1000 pages and has detailed photos of each member of the family.

Crispin's large family of 10 siblings used to visit the ancestral home till a few years ago - "when my mother was alive, weekends were always spent here - and during that time I felt the need for more space, so we built the extra bedrooms", says Crispin. But after the death of his mother, the brothers and sisters who got busy in their respective lives, hardly visited the Tharavadu and so Crispin opened up the place to a homestay experience - "this way we don't miss meeting people and the house is like a home once again", say Soni.

The old house has been very tastefully restored and extended to accommodate the modern amenities like clean western toilets, air-cons and reading lamps while retaining the traditional sit-outs and central courtyards. There are elements from every era, the ceramic tiles, the earthenware, the brass-ware, the wooden furniture... even the old dining table that has interestingly been decorated with a large coin collection.

With his extensive experience in the Merchant navy, Crispin has many stories to tell - from pirates attacking ships to the experiences of living on an oil tanker, from the politics of Kerala to the culture of his people, from the recipe of the beef fry to the taste of the various types of banana chips, and where to buy them.

The place is a true homestay - we lived in one of the rooms next to the master bedroom, the hosts ate their meals with us. In fact one meal was so authentically traditional we even had it on a fresh plantain leaf (cut from the back yard).

The beautiful part of the stay was the constant 'music in the air' - Soni, her daughter Midhila and all the house help are constantly playing music, either form the radio, the CD player or their mobile phones... melodious music from Kishore Kumar to the latest Malayalam and Tamil hits... a variety of songs!

One morning Midhila was busy cleaning the book shelf so we got to discuss the writings of Enid Blyton, mysteries of Nancy Drew, Christian fiction of Dan Brown and the philosophies of Paulo Coelho... Soni, who is a literature graduate and Midhila, who plans to follow suit, are always ready to read new books and discuss literature.

Crispin also owns a houseboat that he rents out to people who want to be a part of the famous experience that is unique to the backwaters of Kerala. In fact there is a channel of water that flows through the property and Crispin recalls the days when he used to go to school 'in a canoe'... 'you can still use this route and reach the lake' he adds.

Kodianthara to Bird Sanctuary

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Kumarakom island - also known as Vembanad Bird Sanctuary, is just 3kms from Kodianthara.

We should mention here the playful Tipu (Sultan?) - the family's friendly Dachshund, and the many other farm animals that roamed around the three acres of rubber plantation... geese, goats and what not! In fact, watching young goats play around and observing the geese as they traversed the path from the front porchto the backwaters of the house was the only activity we chose to do.

The best part of the stay at Kodianthara was the monsoon. The day we were leaving it poured... and it poured... and it poured... we were really lucky to experience the famous Kerala monsoon on its way in... and my! what a sight!



With our bellies full from the great 'puttu and kadala curry' breakfast, we took leave of the Crispins and were now on our way to Kochi - to the Riverside Homestay at Vyttila...


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