On January 8th, just a few days after the voting contest ended, I received an email with the subject “WELCOME ABOARD THE KERALA BLOG EXPRESS”. I had been “short listed” and was told to send in a copy of my valid passport photo page.
Thank you ALL for voting!
I was giddy and surprised and giddy. AND, I hope you guys don’t mind a brief interruption from my all Belize website. Because WE ARE GOING TO INDIA!
I sent in my passport info and then made an immediate appointment at the US Embassy in Belmopan to renew my passort. As of January 1st, 2016, they would be NOT giving extra pages in valid passports, I would have to get a new one. You see my passport was full – and the Indian visa would need two empty pages.
And most frighteningly, the tentative arrival date was February 14th. ONE MONTH AWAY. 10,170 miles. 12.5 Hours later than us. MOBILIZE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Kerala. A small state in southern India. Not far from the magical looking Maldives and amazing sounding Ceylon/Sri Lanka.
But…I’ll be honest. I had never heard of the place. IN fact, I was pronouncing the name wrong all during the contest. How gauche! Here’s the correct way.
34 million people and a prominent spice exporter since 3000 BC. THIS IS GOING TO BE AWESOME!
National Geographic Traveller called Kerala “one of the ten paradises of the world”. The New York Times recently reviewed the beaches. Travel and Leisure has put the state on many lists. Top places to travel in 2014. I’m just reading all of this now!!!!
BUT FIRST, get passport. CHECK (the US embassy turned it around in 8 business days). Apply for an e-Visa. Shockingly easy – though the questionnaire was quite long. Am I matriculated? Not sure…I need to look that one up. Have a been to Pakistan…nope. Had any of my relatives?
For $60US, it was granted in less than 24 hours. Good news. I sent that in. FINALLY…I was told to book my ticket. All is paid for within the two week tour except the visa fee…and they re-imburse me for 70% of the ticket (or up to $1000US).
With 3 weeks left, I hit the internet like a 19 year old hacker. And found a round trip ticket for about $1000US. From Belize City to Houston (overnight) to Frankfurt to Mumbai. 45 hours later with the help of United and Lufthansa, I would be in India. Feeling, I am quite sure, like a sack of elephant dung.
I am leaving February 10th and I fly out of Mumbai again on the March 7th. I am giving myself one week, on my own, to explore what our tour may have missed…or glossed over…or something that just seemed particularly amazing. Like boating rafting through tiger preserve.
Perhaps I will spend my week meditating or shopping or scrubbing the floor at an ashram…or at an elephant sanctuary. WHO KNOWS!
Here is the official itinerary from the Kerala Tourism Board. There will be about 25 of us. So far, I’ve connected with female bloggers from the UK, New Zealand, Cyprus and Bulgaria. It’s a “first class” bus trip…and I will have a roommate…but what a way to experience India for my first time.
14-02-2016 Arrival at Trivandrum International Airport – Overnight stay at Kovalam
15-02-2016 Sightseeing in Trivandrum – Overnight stay at Trivandrum
16-02-2016 Proceed to Alappuzha – Overnight stay at Alappuzha
17-02-2016 Proceed to Marari – Overnight stay at Marari
18-02-2016 Proceed to Kumarakom – Overnight stay at Kumarakom (in the “backwaters” of Kerala – houseboat country!)
19-02-2016 Proceed to Thekkady – Overnight stay at Thekkady (home of the tiger sanctuary)
20-02-2016 Full day at Thekkady – Overnight stay at Thekkady
21-02-2016 Proceed to Munnar – Overnight stay at Munnar
22-02-2016 Full Day at Munnar – Overnight stay at Munnar
23-02-2016 Proceed to Muziris – Overnight stay at Cochin
24-02-2016 Proceed to Kozhikode -Overnight stay at Wayanad
25-02-2016 Full day at Wayanad – Overnight stay at Wayanad
26-02-2016 Proceed to Kozhikode – Overnight stay at Kozhikode
27-02-2016 Proceed to Kalamandalam – Overnight stay at Cochin
28-02-2016 Full Day at Cochin – Overnight stay at Cochin
For lots more information and lots more pictures, you can check out the Kerala Tourism Board’s site. But if you hang on for a few weeks, I hope to show you all of it.
Febuary just happens to be one of the hottest months – highs of 90 and lows of 73 and one of the driest.
Okay…I’ll stop talking now. WOOOOOHHHOOOOO!