I had started this blog with the solemnly stated intention of writing about travel, especially green and responsible travel, and I have written about practically everything but. So I am pulling up my socks for once and getting down to the task at hand.
I have mentioned before on this blog that we try and get in a holiday with family at least once a year. Usually it is with my side, because we always spent our time with my husband’s family at their home in Ghaziabad.
So this year for our post Christmas – pre New Year break, we drove down to Kanhangad near Bekal in the Kasargod district of Kerala. I should mention at this point that we are very poor pre-holiday researchers, usually contenting ourselves with consulting our good friend – a self styled Phd on most topics under the sun – and going where he tells us to go to do what he instructs us to do.
So he told us to go to Bekal, mapped it on Google, lent us his car and packed us off. My mother-in-law, my parents, my brother and his wife, my sister+spouse and kids, self+spouse and kids – all packed into two cars with severely rationed luggage.
I am not rambling here by the way. I bring all this up merely to underscore the importance of planning before embarking on a trip of any sort. Because Indian Railways runs a perfectly good train from Bangalore to Kasargod. You get on at 10:30 night and reach at about 9 in the morning, probably refreshed after a good night’s sleep and all set to enjoy your day. Totally unlike us who staggered in at five after a ten hour drive with no lunch in us and desperate for tea. It was a good thing therefore that the Kannan beach resort was so designed to please.
Turning into the driveway of what looked at first glance to be no bigger than a biggish home, we found ourselves at this cosy and welcoming place – right on the beach! We gulped down our welcome drink of coconut water and repaired to our rooms for a quick wash up before meeting at the restaurant for the promised high tea.
A gripe here about the interior decor at Kannan. I wish common sense hadn’t been sacrificed at the altar of pretension and I really wish they would do away with the complicated sliding doors. They are very pretty no doubt. And it feels nice to be in a living space that opens out on two sides to the beach. However, the cons of the thing start to hit you as soon as the mosquitoes swarm in and you have to push and push to close the damn thing. Thereby earning your meal.
The meal now was nice and filling but surprisingly expensive for such a small place. In fact all of our meals were like that. Breakfast was rather meagre with no cooked food except one Kerala item. My husband and I faithfully tried every new dish but for less adventurous eaters (namely my mother in law) there was no option but eggs and fruit. Also, every meal had to be ordered an hour in advance. And till you have had to estimate the hunger of thirteen people including four children an hour before they are ready to eat, with little room for error (since the restaurant staff are not very flexible) you really haven’t done much. However, the restaurant itself was quite pretty with no walls and opening onto the beach.
Food woes aside, this is a lovely place. It is not as popular a beach getaway as Goa for instance and is cleaner for that. There were no water sports or beach hawkers or anything like that. Just the ocean and us. We spent most of our days between the beach, the pool and the hammocks.
A quick word here on the green quotient. Although there was no waste segregation to speak of, I was relieved to find no black plastic liners in the bins. Only brown paper bags. So while it was not the best arrangement, it was better than most. I faithfully segregated my waste and was happy to note that the housekeeping staff did not mix them up. The housekeeping staff were also very quick and efficient and impressed me. What did not impress was the state of the bathrooms. Under-lit, a bit leaky and dingy on the whole. A little maintenance is definitely needed here.
Continuing on the green factor, there is a small kitchen garden on the premises. I doubt it would be enough to contribute much to the restaurant but it was fun for the kids to see the brinjal and tomato laden plants. Last point, they allowed us to fill our water bottles from the RO filter in the restaurant and we returned our daily quota of bottled water unused. So points for that as well.
While walking on the beach one evening, I noticed an open fire in the adjoining property and on inspection found that they were burning leaves. Now open waste burning is a punishable offence as stated by the NGT and I debated with myself on whether to confront the miscreants. Wisdom prevailed however – it is always my policy not to argue with people holding sickles. I opted to discuss with the hotel management first.
Enquiring of the management staff, I was told that this was the culture of the people living next door. This remark was confusing. I asked them if there was a cultural significance to the daily burning of leaves in the evening and we realised we had been talking at cross purposes. It seems the neighbour was unwilling to sell his land to the resort at a mutually agreeable price but was annoyed because his access to the main road was now cut off. This daily burning of leaves was by way of being a mark of protest and looked down upon by the hotel as being unseemly.
My husband who has a Ukridge-ish turn of mind wondered how much this plot of land would cost in such a small village and whether it would be worth our while to buy the place and lease it out while retaining rights to holiday at our convenience. I should mention here that Kannan is crazily advance booked at season time – all the way up to Feb 2018 I believe, and relatively last minute travellers like us can only manage fill in the blanks style dates. Anyway, I liked my husband’s idea but had formed my own notion of the situation and assured my husband that I had no desire to spend my evenings burning leaves so it was probably best if we stuck to being visitors.
The only time we left the resort at all was on a trip to the Bekal Fort. The Bekal fort is about fifteen kilometres from Kannan. I took the trouble to research this time and concluded that there was a lot of walking to be done and it was probably unsuitable for children. I was mistaken in this but we were a small group that ventured out that day.
While driving in the area, we noticed what we had previously missed. We saw a number of flags that appeared to be Pakistan flags which confused us till we realised that they were in fact flags representing Islam. We live in such troubled times, even ordinary people like us can’t help but feel worried by overt displays of religion. But they are not after all very different from people putting ‘Om’ signs on their doorway. And who knows which came first? The insistence on religious identity or the fear that it will be taken away from you.
Anyway, we reached the fort in good time. It was not much of a walk to the parapet and even though it was a very sunny day, we weren’t too tired to enjoy the spectacular views from the top. I would definitely recommend a visit to Bekal fort to anyone in the neighbourhood!
I found a stepwell on the grounds of the fort. There wasn’t much water and no one to tell us about the history, especially the water history of the well which was such a shame. Rain fed open wells and step wells are an important part of our environmental history and teach us water management – preserving and sharing. Far removed from our present day over-exploitation of borewells.
Movie buffs might remember the Bekal fort from the lovely ‘Uyire’ or ‘Tu hi re’ from Bombay. Surprisingly the mossy walls from the song are all immaculate and dry now. I am not sure if this is a function of the dry weather or a clean up act which would be a pity since I rather like the mossy version.
On our way back we stopped at a small roadside cafe to eat our lunch and had an amazingly varied and delicious repast, served up super fast by the smiling manager at a ridiculous price. I can’t recall the name of the place but it was right next to the Fatima supermarket and had a ‘palace’ in the name. Also, Fatima supermarket sells some rather yum biscuits which are the sort of thing that come in handy on long road trips with children.
Kasargod borders on Kannur somewhere (I know because I saw it) and while we did not buy anything at all, partly because we had no room in the car, if you are in the neighbourhood it might be worth your while to check out the textile market. Kannur cotton retails in Bangalore and is rather nice.
So that’s it! All my Bekal experiences neatly summarised. What do you think then?