Taking a Leap at Skydive Elsinore [First Time Tandem Skydiving & What to Expect]

Skydiving
I went Skydiving with my Mamma and our friend Tena in celebration of my 29th! Woohooo last year of my 20’s. You ladies are troopers and I’m so grateful you said yes. And thanks to my Hub for pushing me to fulfill my life-to-do’s… I had many sleepless nights before this day and you never stopped encouraging me. You’re the best babe. I know jumping out of a plane is not your idea of fun, but you knew it was mine and you gave me endless support and I love you for that and so much more. Here’s to stepping outside of my comfort zone, trying new things and living life to the fullest. Love you guys.

Here’s how my day went and what to expect on your first tandem jump.

Anticipation is the worst part. I’d suggest making your appointment a few days before you go…no need to make it weeks before like I did. There were too many days filled with watching YouTube videos of skydiving gone wrong. Don’t do that! Check the weekly weather report for your drop zone and pick a day that is sunny with low wind.

Morning of, we drove out to Skydive Elsinore and checked-in at the office. We watched a funny outdated video – an older guy with a majestic beard discussing the dangers of skydiving. Brilliant, they already have me laughing…I can’t take ZZ Top-in-a-suit seriously, so I’m just going to sign these release forms. We signed about 10 different papers stating that we wouldn’t sue anyone if we ended up hurt or dead. And then we were filmed as we read a short statement out loud and signed one last document.  Done and done. Try not to let this deter you from the experience – it’s merely protocol. Tandem jumps are preformed by professionals that have hundreds, if not thousands of jumps under their belts. Sign away and it’s time to get stoked!

We were some of the first tandem jumpers that day so we didn’t have to wait long. I heard if you pick a later time slot that you might have to wait around the drop zone longer, because earlier jumps are postponed for whatever reason (weather, plane maintenance, late arrivals etc). Plan on being at the drop zone for 3-4 hours. Bring some items to help you pass the time or just hangout and watch other skydivers land. It’s pretty fascinating watching them zip down so quickly.

We had about 45 minutes of downtime. I walked out to the Skylark and watched a military plane takeoff with a bunch of camouflaged divers packed in like sardines. Training maybe? I sat on log near the runway by the old Airstream trailer and Winnebago and called my friend Julia who had jumped a few months before.

“So Jul’s I jump in just a few minutes…any tips?”

“Just smile and enjoy it.”

“Oh God, OK. I can do this!”

I was the first to meet my instructor – Marcelo Zoni, who came up to greet me with a smile and the tandem harness in hand. I got suited up and he made sure everything fit correctly. I remember feeling that the harness wasn’t tight enough… “don’t worry I’ll tighten it later in the plane.” He gave me the lowdown on what I needed to do – “keep your arms in close to your body and hold onto your shoulder straps. Keep your head up and tilted back while we jump out. Once we’re out I’ll tap to signal when you can put your arms out to the side. Don’t forget to arch your back while we fall.” So I listened and replayed his instructions over and over in my head…and then my thoughts turned to how I would frantically attempt to save both of us if something happened to him because of all those damn youtube videos that I had watched days before. I bet I would qualify for an AFF 1 jump, with the amount of skydiving research I read over the past weeks. Oh Lord. Think happy thoughts Britt. You can do this. You’ve always wanted to do this. Everything will be fine. This is an exciting, happy day…

I found myself asking stupid questions like, “so how many times have you jumped (which I’m sure every instructor gets asked multiple times a day)? How old are you? Do you have a family? Children? You need to be there for someone right?  Just checking.”

Uggghhh.

Sorry for the mild interrogation Marcelo, but that’s what comes out of my mouth when I’m terrified. Check, check and check. OK, I’m feeling better. I also discovered that it was his birthday that week as well, so that was neat.

My videographer interviewed me on the ground and in the plane… he asked several questions about whether I was nervous and if it was my first jump etc. I said something like…”oh I hope we make it, I love you family. Send my love to my hub.”
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Before I knew it, it was time to go. I’m sure every plane is different, but ours held 14 people with two benches and a few floor spots. The plane took off and we climbed higher and higher until we reached about 12,500 ft. It was cold and loud inside our tiny plane. I was the closest to the door when the single jumpers rolled it back. My heart raced and I grabbed my shoulder straps while looking out the door. Wow this is really happening! And then the first team of 3 singles jumped out. They just fell out door in a cute little party pack and disappeared. Weird. My mind seemed to disconnect at this point. This is all so funny. People jumping out of planes…how is this OK? Then the next guy literally swan dived out the door. I remember watching him get smaller and smaller. Well, I’m up.
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Skydiving
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We scooted up to the door. I knelt down on one knee looked out and saw the curve of the horizon.  Amazing! My photographer put his hand on my shoulder (I’d like to think he was praying for us), I think it was just a technique to stay level with us when we jumped. Haha. I smiled at him, but couldn’t see his face clearly under his helmet. I hoped he was smiling back. And then I felt a hand on my forehead – a reminder to keep my head back before he threw me out of the plane.  I was definitely in shock of what was about to happen…just grinning from ear to ear and feeling out-of-body. It felt like a dream. Then he gave two swings and pushed away from the door.
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Oh my God…

Those first 3 seconds took my breath away in the best possible way. It’s wasn’t scary or painful. I didn’t panic.

It’s pure magic.

It’s out of this world one of the most amazing feelings. You’re falling but you don’t feel like falling. You feel like you’re flying on a windy day. It’s very odd, peaceful, thrilling, happy and freeing all at once. There was no anxiety, no tension, no worry about plummeting towards the ground. I know this description is eye-roll-worthy but it felt comforting in a spiritual way. What was I afraid of? This is beautiful. (side note…I bet a solo dive is completely different. The best part about a tandem is you get to sit back and relax).
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Skydiving
Skydiving
Skydiving
^^^A message to my Love at home who took over my work shift and told me to jump out of a plane…so sweet of him. I think 😉 Love you babe.
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Skydiving
Skydiving
Skydiving
Then there was a quick jerk up and a moment of heaviness. Our chute had opened and the wind had stopped. Back to reality. I think I yelled “It opened!” and he said “Of course it opened!” He showed me how to direct the parachute, pull left for left turns and right for right. Pull both to slow down and let loose for full speed. It was surprisingly easy. Happy Birthday Brittany! Thanks, Marcelo! Happy Birthday to you too! Then we just cruised and enjoyed the view. Still slightly in shock, I must have said thank you a thousand times.

The landing was fairly easy. He pulled a few quick S turns to position ourselves for the drop zone. At the last moment he flared the chute and we landed graceful on our bums! Not even a grass stain on my jeans. Nice job! Very impressed. Thank you, thank you, thank you for such a fun experience.
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Skydiving
My mom and Tena landed right after me. All three of us had an amazing time, one that I will never forget.

Later that night after googling more jumps I stumbled across the Fresh Prince himself who had some wise words to share and I quote, “at the point of maximum danger [that first second you jump out] is the point of minimum fear. God places the best things in life on the other side of fear.” I couldn’t agree more. Anything worthwhile in this life will make you nervous – all those big decisions and moments. The rewards are so spectacular once you have the courage to commit. Sometimes you just need to trust your gut (or in this case a complete stranger) and take that leap. I’m so glad I did and you will be too. It’s fun to see what we are capable of. Life is good. Everyone needs to experience this at least once in their life – or maybe more. Sign me up again!


Bali Packing List

Bali Packing List
1 month countdown until we leave for Bali! I am beyond excited to say the least! We hope to spend a few days in Uluwatu – exploring different surf breaks and zipping around on motorbikes. Then upwards and inwards to Ubud – jungle trekking, hanging with monkeys in the Sacred Monkey Forest, a sunrise hike, swimming in waterfalls, walking along the rice fields, coffee tasting at plantations, cooking lessons and much more. The last leg of our trip we’ll be spending time in Canggu to meet up with some friends who live there. Surf, surf, surf, snorkel, explore cafe’s, babi guling shacks, fruit markets and then… doing absolutely nothing 🙂 I can’t wait! I’ve heard Bali is paradise on earth. Here is a packing list I put together for a 2 week trip.
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Bali Packing List
1. Sleeping case. Perfect for those hotels with questionable/no blankets.
2. Playing cards. It’s a looooong flight. Dan and I like to play cards to pass the time.
3.SD card adapter. I use this to transfer my pictures from my camera or GoPro to my iPhone or iPad. Super useful! Bring and SD 32GB or bigger to take lots of pictures and videos.
4. Camera. I use the Canon Rebel T3. Durable and easy to use (bring your charger too).
5. Passport, wallet (cc, cash in both currencies home country and Indonesian rupiah), money-belt, travel docs, important papers, copies of passports, international drivers licence, itinerary, phone numbers and medical information in case of an emergency (and in case your electronics run out of juice/ are stolen/ break)
6. Day pack.  Canvas bag that is easy to roll up and stick inside your larger pack. Something smaller that you can use during the day while you leave your bigger pack locked up at the hotel.
7. Flashlight and extra batteries
8. GoPro for capturing water pictures and videos (bring your charger too).
9.Travel Pillow. Great for the airplane and your lower-end hotels that don’t provide pillows.
10. Small thin towel that will dry fast.
11. Mini speaker for playing tunes in your room or at the beach.
12. Digital waterproof travel watch with multiple alarms for catching sunrise hikes and waking early etc. This one has multiple time zones so you’ll know what time it is back at home. Pretty cheap too!
13. Hat
14. Sunglasses and/or Rx glasses
15. A few dresses: Tobi olive & toast knit dress -I like this one for the beach. It has a cute low back, but still modest enough for a cafe or Tobi Magdalena black shift dress – perfect for a night out at Single Fin or Kubu. Tobi has a bunch of cute affordable outfits. It’s fun to pick out a few for a trip.
16. A few blouses, bodysuits, tops (mixed up). I  like this this Alley Rose Ribbed Bodysuit. Remember to cover up if you’re visiting a temple or a sacred place. This suit is best for lounging by the pool or around your hotel or rental home.
17. Cover ups. Thin shawls or light kimonos to cover your shoulders. It will keep the sun off as well as the mosquitoes.
18. Tanks for the beach. It can get hot and humid so a comfortable tank is perfect for keeping cool. Oh and undergarments. You can’t forget those! I’d say bring 1 weeks worth and do laundry half way through.
19. Flips, flats and one pair of sneakers and socks (for riding your motorcycle or scooter).
20. Mosquito net to keep the mozzies at bay. I’d also suggest bringing insect repellent with deet
21.Calculator for those moments that you don’t want to use your phone –> calculating currency exchanges. Double check everything and learn how to haggle.
22. PJ’s or 2 or 3 shirts that are comfortable to sleep in
23. Shorts about 3 pairs  – 1 jean, 2 lighter material
24. Long flowy pants. Similar to the Thai style. 1 or 2 pairs
25. Sarong. Keep it in your day pack and whip it out if you need to cover your legs while visiting a temple. Also great for the beach and around the house.
26. Swimsuit (2 or 3)
27. Backpacking Pack – Store everything in this baby!
28. Hairbrush, clips, pins and bands
29. Earplugs earplugs earplugs! They will be your best friends – the only way you’ll be able to sleep on the airplane or in the jungle. Those cicada bugs party all night long.
30. It’s a 10 – hair detangler. A bit of splurge and one of my luxury items, but boy does it do the trick.
31. Shaving razor
32. Carmex is the best for lips and errrr your nose! OK this might be TMI, but the inside of my nose gets super dry on long flights (hurts to breathe through it), so freshen up in the bathroom – put a little carmex on a Q-tip and coat the inside of my nose. It works wonders me…feels so much better for hours. OK done being gross.
33. Eye drops
34. Make up essentials (concealer, powder, eyebrow pencil, tinted lip balm, waterproof mascara, bronzer) toiletries (mini shampoo, conditioner, toothbrush, paste, floss, face wash, face cream, nail file, feminine products, small Dolce Mia Tuberose lotion – smells so good, any personal products you’ll be needing.
35. World power adapter
36. A scarf! One of my favorite items…so useful! Use it as a blanket, a head cover, a towel or tie-strap etc.
37. Jacket with hood. Semi-waterproof for staying dry on land and toasty in the plane.
38. Multi tool knife. Don’t pack this one in your carry-on! Leave it in your checked bag. Comes in handy while traveling…cutting food, ropes, getting out splinters, protection etc.
39. Tissues (for your nose and…your bum). If carrying your own T.P. Roll is too big, then take a bunch of these tissue packets with you. T.P. is not always available in every bathroom so bring your own.
40. Basic first aid kit,  hand sanitizer, band aids, tape, scissors , alcohol swabs, iodine, gloves, Rx medication, Aspirin, Imodium, Pepto,  tweezers, extractors, tourniquet etc.
41. A Pen (and small note pad while you’re at it)! You’ll be scrambling to find one when you fill out travel forms.
42. Not necessary, but I love bringing watercolor brushes, pencils or a mini brush kit to paint in my travel journal. A bit silly but it’s something that makes me happy!
43. Travel Journal. I love writing down bullet points, ideas, things we did, places we visited etc. you can make it as elaborate or simple as you want. It’s fun to look back on.
44. Sunscreen! Put it on everyday!
45. Chargers. FOR EVERYTHING! iPhone ✓ iPad ✓ camera battery ✓ music speaker ✓ gopro ✓
46. Phone. Preferably with wifi capability or a travel plan. It will help you plan your trip along the way.
47. Travel lock or bike lock. If you’re planning on using a lock on your checked baggage, make sure your locks are TSA approved. I usually like to bring a bike lock with me so I can lock up my scooter, or lock my bags in a closet when we’re out and about etc.
48. Travel Mug. Great for keeping drinks hot or cold. Fill it up after the security check in the airport.
49. Dry bag and ziplocs. I like to bring a bunch of bags with me to help compress my clothes in my backpack. They also come in handy when you want to organize clean vs dirty for laundry day.
50.Wet Ones anti-bacterial wipes.

Other items that could help you out.

clothesline or rope( if you plan on doing your own laundry), scissors, small sewing kit, zip ties…
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Picture credit: 1,2,3,4,5,6


Vegas Road Trip: Calico Ghost Town


We took a last minute road trip to Vegas to meet up with some friends. On the way home we thought it would be fun to check out Calico Ghost town!

36600 Ghost Town Road
Yermo, CA 92398

Calico is an old West mining town that has been around since 1881 during the largest silver strike in California. With its 500 mines, Calico produced over $20 million in silver ore over a 12-year span. When silver lost its value in the mid-1890’s, Calico lost its population. The miner’s packed up, loaded their mules and moved away abandoning the town that once gave them a good living. It became a “ghost town.”


Coconut Cabbage Thoran : A Southern Indian Dish

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Thoran is a coconut cabbage veggie dish from Kerala – Southern India. Our friend and chef Shravan was kind enough to teach me how to make a few of his Mama’s recipes while we were cruising along the jungly backwaters in Alappuzha. His cooking was some of the best home homestyle food we had in India! Before Dan and I left the country he helped make a list of all the spices I would need to recreate these dishes back at home.

Coconut Cabbage Thoran

2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
5 curry leaves
1 clove garlic (diced)
1 small green chili (chopped)
1 1/2 onion diced)
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
2 cups finely chopped green cabbage
kosher salt to taste
1 cup freshly grated coconut

In a large pan, heat oil until simmering. Add mustard seeds, curry leaves and garlic, stir until fragrant. Add chopped chilies, onions, turmeric and cumin powder. Stir to ensure the spices don’t burn.  Add cabbage. Stir until the cabbage is coated with oil and spices. Cover with lid and let cabbage cook, stirring occasionally ~ 5 min. Add freshly grated coconut and stir until  mixed. Season to taste with salt and serve hot with rice, daal, or puris (crispy puff bread).
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^^^Meet the chef! Shravan is on the left. His mom taught him how to cook – great job Mama! During the dry season he works as a chef on the rice boats. Shravan and Raj (on the right) were two of the three guys that accompanied us on our float through the backwaters! It was such a blast – crammed into that tiny galley with the engine humming, pans sizzling, amazing smells and misty water rainbows out the kitchen window. It was a very cool experience. A tad shhhhweaty but so awesome. Thanks for the cooking lessons friend!
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I saved my spice shopping for the end of the trip in Kolkata. I ran around New Market, following scouters through a maze of shops with my giant list of spices… “Does any one have Valampuli??? What the heck is Valampuli!?” I have know idea, but it’s on my list. Facepalm. Hey Google? 😉 Looking back on it, we had a lot of fun. I found many of my spices in the attic of a saree shop (because everyone sells a little bit of everything around here). A boy helped me scoop spoonfuls of turmeric, tea masala and Kashmiri chili powder onto an old-fashioned scale. We sat there on the floor filling little bags with spices and sealing them with a candle flame he had melted to the floorboard. I love moments that. Our pantry at home officially smells like India.
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How To Book a Houseboat in India {Alleppey Backwaters, Kerala}

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I love Globe Trekker! Oh what an amazing job that would be – traveling the world, meeting new people, trying fun food, exploring beautiful places etc. I’m pretty sure that’s everyone’s dream job. About a decade ago I was watching an episode about renting rice boats in India. You can hire a crew + boat and float along the backwaters of Kerala. It’s a beautiful and relaxing way to spend your time in southern India. “I have to do this someday…I’m going to do this, it’s officially on the bucket list!” So when Dan and I were invited to a wedding in India, I knew this might be my only chance to weave it in.

Here’s all you need to know about booking a magical globe trekker adventure of your own.

Do Not Book Online
 

I tried…numerous companies and TripAdvisor leads, but no one seemed to respond. That’s a good thing though; you should book it in person! All the prices online are 3x the amount it actually costs and you don’t know what/who you’re getting. Don’t worry, there are literally hundreds of boats for you to choose from when you get there. They come back every day so there is no need to book a boat in advance. You can show up on the same day you want to leave or arrange it for the next day etc.

Pick The Right Season
Make sure it’s not monsoon season, because that would not be fun. I’m pretty sure the majority of the boats are stored away during these months. It looks like Jun-Nov are pretty rainy…with a bit of a break for August. Dec-May are the best months for boating. Here is a rainfall chart for Kerala

Find Your Dream Boat
I’ve heard there are a few towns where you can hire boats, but Alleppey (AKA Alappuzha) is the granddaddy of them all. You’ll find they have the best selection and prices compared to other towns. If you’re arriving by plane, you’ll want to fly into Kochi airport (Cochin International Airport COK) and hail a cab to Alleppey. The ride from Cochin to Alleppey in an AC car will cost you around $25 for a 2.5 hour drive or if you’re a bit scrappier you can take the train from Aluva (AWY) to Alleppey (ALLP) but you’ll need to reserve your tickets in advance (usually with an Indian cell phone or through a travel agent) for about $10. Once you’ve arrived, stay near Finishing Point. D and I stayed here (about a 3 min. walk from the dock at Finishing Point). Finishers Point is where you’ll find 1000+ boats along a mile or so walkway. You don’t need a reservation, just show up early about 8:00AM and search for the boat you want. Everyone will want your business and welcome you onboard. Feel free to look at as many boats as you want, shop around and find one you like. The house boats depart around 11:00 or so and return the following day around 8:00am. There are so many that they usually double/triple dock them, so you’ll have to climb through numerous boats.
Boats are usually stocked with food and ready to leave the same day, so no need to plan ahead. My group wanted to do a two-day trip, so we gave our boat a 1 day notice to buy extra food. Everyone is very flexible with time – you’ll definitely be able to find a boat that meets your needs.

Chat
Talk with passengers who are just leaving their cruise. Ask them if they liked the boat and crew / pros and cons and how much they paid. It’s nice to hear some honest reviews from fellow travelers. Chat with the crew too! Ask them what their usual route is and let them know if you are hoping to explore smaller backwaters. Let them know if there are certain places you want to see.

Get That 2nd Story
If possible, find a boat with a 2nd story or sun deck. It’s a lovely space to relax and find some peace and privacy upstairs + better views!

Shop Around
Make sure you look at lots of boats before you commit to one. Things to look for –>
-Do the toilets flush / do the bathrooms smell bad?
-Do I care if there is hot water? Truthfully most of the boats don’t have hot water, but you may find it on the fancier ones.
– Are there mosquito nets?
-Do I want individual private rooms with a lock or a common room? 1 or more rooms?
-Is there enough privacy on this boat?
-Check for bugs, cockroaches and bedbugs. Check the mattresses and make sure they’re clean and comfy…
-Is there AC?
-Are meals included?
-Is the water bottled?
-Check to make sure that the chef can accommodate for any food allergies you may have.
-Is the kitchen clean?

Pick A Good Crew
Find a crew that is similar in age and fun to spend time with. You’ll be in close quarters for the next 24-48 hours, so make sure you can jibe with them. Our friends found a fun group of guys in their mid 20’s early 30’s they were fantastic and fun! Our chef Shravan was kind enough to give us cooking lessons for each meal! It was a blast. And our friend Raj helped us find a toddy hut, where the guys could try palm wine.

Negotiate A Price
In my experience most businesses in India mark up their prices by 300% of what you will actually end up paying after a 30 min bargaining session…so get your game face on. We paid $300 total for 4 people – 2 nights with meals included. Which ended up being around $37 per person per day. A little higher than I would have liked (the majority of our accommodations in India were around $10 per night) but hey…you’re on a houseboat in the jungle with really yummy home cooked food. Well worth it! The more expensive months will be January and February (when we went). I’m betting you can find one even cheaper than we did.

Overall experience = A+!
I highly recommend it! Hire a boat of your own if you ever find yourself in southern India.
Here are some pictures of our two-day rice boat trip in Alleppey and a short little insta clip. If you want to read more about our time him India or watch our travel video  here is another post you should read! Thanks for stopping by!

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^^^Our bedroom. Basic, but all that we needed – fan, soft bed, linens, mosquito net, fresh towels and our own bathroom with shower.
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^^^Our sun deck, complete with squishy cushions and bamboo chairs.
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Fresh Fruit
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^^^Home cooked meals. Masala pearl fish, sambar, rice and crispy puffy poori! I love them all.
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Sunrise from our bedroom window.
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Dan and AJ ^
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^^^We woke up early with the parrots and cicadas, sipped on chai and watched AJ befriend a huge water snake on his morning swim.
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^Yeah no… you should have seen how fast that snake zipped across the water.
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^^^Chickpea gram flour fried plantains with turmeric and black sesame, served with chai.
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^An abandoned pink church
Rice Boat Alleppey India
^^^My Babe
Kerala Pink Church
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^^^The picture is a bit fuzzy, but you can actually see the fireflies! We docked the boat next to the coconut shack one night…had a candlelight dinner and played Sinatra. The fireflies came out to dance. Alleppey is a magical place.
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Lounging on the deck, with a hot tropical breeze and too many coconuts to count!
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If you’re not interested in an overnight houseboat you can find smaller boats (Shikara) and guides available for 3 to 4 hour excursions . They’ll tour you around the narrow canals and villages across the lake. We picked our boat from the main canal in Alleppey (Vada Canal) where you can find hundreds to choose from. We paid around $10 for a 3 hour boat ride. Shikara offer comfortable seating and best way to explore tiny rivers that the larger boats can’t fit in
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Fruit stands in Alleppey. This is where the boats stock up on fresh food for your trip.
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^^^We cruised over to a little hut selling coconuts. You can buy them for 25¢! The man will cut off the top and give you a straw…you drink the water and give it back to him. He’ll then machete it in half with one big swing and give you the top as a spoon to eat the meat. Perfection.
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^^^Mango trees and kingfisher birds galore.
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