Yet again, India managed to tug at the sides of my mouth and make me smile, even though I took forever to acclimatise and spent most of the 18 days of this visit feeling sorry for myself. The homesickness kicked in big time on the backwaters, the humidity and heat totally drained me in Kochi, and the effects of budget travel wore us down in Periyar, but despite all this, India refused to tolerate my bad mood and jumped around, tugging at my shirt sleeves as if to say, 'Don't be glum – look at what fun life is!'
So yet again, India has charmed me, and I'm delighted to say that she's also charmed Peta. Tired of hearing me harping on about what a fantastic time I had travelling round India in 1998, she persuaded me to organise this little batch of exploration, and even though Kerala is almost an India Lite, with its easy travelling, coastal paradise and fairly advanced tourist facilities, it's proved to be a good taster of what India has to offer. She wants to go back, which is an endorsement that places like Morocco completely failed to win.
As for me, I didn't create the kind of itinerary that I would typically go for. I love crazy Hindu temples, serene Islamic architecture, desert fortresses, holy cities and long train journeys, none of which figure in a typical journey round Kerala. As a result it took me a while to get into this trip, because the subtle joys of houseboating, beaches, hill stations and wildlife parks are... well, a little more feminine than thrusting Dravidian gopurams and dead bodies in the Ganges. But eventually Kerala won me over, and I'm glad we took the slow option.
As Peta kept pointing out, this was a holiday, not long-term travelling, and there's a big difference. Luckily, India is such an amazing destination, she can cater for holidaymakers just as well as budget travellers. I have no doubt that we'll be back, again and again. That's what happens when you fall in love...