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I knock it back. It’s sweet, yeasty and slightly musky, and burns my throat as a couple of pieces of coconut husk catch in my back teeth. Saji laughs at me as I get back into the car. I’m woozy, but from the heat more than the drink, and 10 minutes later, I’m fast asleep. Coming round, I see that the last few bendy roads to Munnar are strewn with flowers, but that the town itself is a cloudy and uninspiring time warp. I decide to stay a few kilometres further down the road, at British County,a pretty guesthouse.

Painted blue, there are rattan chairs on a large balcony, and I plonk myself down to soak up the views of the misty Sayha mountains and the bright green tea plantations, watching for the odd brightly dressed woman inevitably balancing a huge bag of tea on her head. It’s blissful, and Rajeet the guesthouse manager proves an excellent cook. For lunch and dinner, I tuck into spicy tomato stews, beetroot curries, super-sweet pineapple and fresh juices.

The next morning, heralded by much trumpeting, I cross the road to ‘Dreamland Spices’ to try an elephant ride. Ganga is female, 28 years old and appears to be suffering from wind. I heave myself gently on to her back and pat the thick spiky hair on her massive grey head, which is covered in morning dew. The mahout gives her a tap and we’re plodding gently through curious fruit shrubs and spices with names such as ‘cough potato’, ‘rough lemon’. Elephant farts aside, it’s a perfect start to the day and I end it with a teeth-shatteringly sweet ginger tea at a little café nearby.

Fort Cochin

Upon leaving Munnar, I choose to finish my Keralan adventure in Fort Cochin, which I had heard nabs perfect scores for its shopping, bohemian vibe and bright-and- breezy seashore. It also boasts a 500-year-old colonial history, resulting in some curious, photogenic architecture.

I rise early to watch the huge Chinese fishing nets being hauled at 8am and then spend the rest of my day in the excellent Indigo bookshop – where bookworms can quite easily send their credit cards into meltdown. Keen for a final dose of cultural immersion, I head to the Greenix centre, just after sunset, to take in a traditional theatrical Kathakali show. Based on the Hindu epics, Kathakali performances have been staged for hundreds of years and are a must-do in Kerala.


God's own country: A peaceful paradise awaits in Kerala, India
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