So I have some bad news, I have no pictures of the breathtakingly beautiful Kovalam beach. These pictures are of the Christ Flower at the spice garden in Kumily, and another picture of the Periyar sanctuary below. We took a bus from Kumily to Kovalam, pretty much a whole day event. I much prefer trains to buses but that was not an option. For those of you who have never been on an bus in India, celebrate that. For those of you who have, you can already envision what my day must have been like. We had luckily packed light because I had my luggage on my lap while crammed into a seat with three other people. There were multiple bus changes and most of the trip was done in a bus that had bars on the window (rather than glass) so it was open to allow all the dust and dirt in. There were several fun adventures including a public bathroom (Indian toilets are not like western toilets, they are a hole in the ground and two foot pads, in some places it is just a trough, and in this particular instance, it was just a room) and our bus breaking down on the side of the road. After we caught a bus going by, we spent the last two hours of the trip standing packed into the bus, carrying our luggage, a bit of a strenuous trip. When I got to Kovalam, I was not feeling my best and by the next day it was pretty clear I had heat stroke after I passed out in the middle of the beach and had to be carried back to the hotel (pretty much the most mortifying thing that has ever happened to me).
After a day or two I was able to recover enough to enjoy Kovalam which has to be the most beautiful place I have ever been to. There were two sandy coves with lots of fishing boats, and fish were caught in the traditional way with men dropping the net out far and swimming it into shore. The water was a gorgeous clear blue, and if you swam out 20 feet or so the waves were big but gentle so you could just float and have the water lift you up and set you back down. Back on the beach we rented chairs and an umbrella, and women wandering up and down the shore sold us fresh fruit and coconuts (this was a little tense though because if you bought from one woman, you had to buy from them all). We also had to contend with people wanting to take pictures of us (keep in mind we were dressed modestly in shorts and a t-shirt) but it was still paradise. Of all the places I went to in India, I would have to say Kerala was the best since it catered well to tourists at the same time that it didn't feel like it had sold out and it had the least amount of pollution I had seen during the trip. So I am sorry I don't have pictures, but I guess this means you will all just have to go and see it for yourself!