Sunday, January 16, 2011

Kochi Jan 15

We arrived in Aleppy at 6:30 p.m so it was nearly dark.  We had phoned ahead to Gowrie Resort - a collection of cottages with a main building in the centre of town.  A young man was sent in a tuk tuk to guide us through the town.  He was able to take all the luggage and me and Richard followed on the bike.
At the dock, there are always the auto-rickshaw drivers (tuk-tuk) as well as touts to offer ideas for accommodation.  In the dark and with nowhere planned, they can be a boon, of course.
On the ferry, we had got talking to Charlotte from Denmark.  She worked for an environmnental organization and was quite despairing of what she saw in India - the relative lack of hygiene and the general inadequacy of garbage disposal.  She had spent her first week, however, well insulated from such local and ubiquitous realities.  She went to an ayurvedic resort and had herself done over.  The analysis of her chemical/physical needs resulted in her being put on a porridge diet for every meal every day.  What she was paying for this treatment did not get spent on her food, she said!
It sounded though as if the time was well spent - water poured all over her in a rhythmic spiralling movement that had a strong emotional as well as physical effect and consultations with doctors that she found alerted her to herself in new ways.  She was travelling alone and when we all got off the ferry, she was relying on touts to help her find a place to stay.  She was quite taken with our mode of travel so we were amused to see that the person she chose to take her to a guest house was not driving a tuk-tuk but a motor bike.  So, her large backpack strapped on, arms around the driver, she sped off into the night with a wave and a grin - she was young, of course - maybe 35.

The place where we had booked turned out to have the most luxurious beds/mattresses we have encountered on our trip.  What a treat to have decent 6in  foam to sleep on!  The rest of it was minimalist.
The owner must have found a discarded consignment of children's sheets - or sheets usually bought for kids.
Teddy bears and Disney characters, balloons and balls were the decoration.  As usual, there was a bottom sheet around the mattress but we had to ask for a top sheet - the same vintage, much washed, faded and frayed at the ends, but clean.
Camel riding in Alleppy beach (not us!)
  We were put in a non air con room that was very large and had four beds - yay! - extra pillows and space to spread out all our stuff. At $14 it was just fine and we had a comfortable sleep.

We rode around town next day and went down to the beach.  Only a couple of tourists (i.e. white people) swimming and Richard hadn't brought his bathing suit so he couldn't swim.  I sat on the wall while he went exploring a bit to see the camels.  Of course it was tourists getting rides - but local people - and the ride was about five minutes - which could well have been long enough for most people's anatomy!  We tried it in Karachi long years ago and had no desire to repeat the experience here!
Packed, ready to leave Alleppy

The second night at the Gowrie, we moved into an airconditioned little cottage which Wendy liked very much.  Packed up again in the morning and set off for Kochi/Cochin about 70km up the coast.

We took a coast road which was longer of course but more scenic and probably less traffic - especially few of the dreaded busses that hurtle along, sending the minions among us cowering on the sidelines.  We had also been told about a particularly lovely beach en route so planned to make a stop there.

 It was lovely and virtually empty as far as the eye could see in both directions.  Fine golden sand and the sea rolling in - inviting some, but alas, not me!  Richard had a good long swim while I cut up our papaya and held court to local children who came in search of pens, sweets and money.  Alas we had not brought a supply of pens - often asked for - but I had some candied ginger to share - papaya they were not interested in :-) - and resisted the request for money. 

A beautiful beach - fine sand for miles and miles
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The boats were fishing boats and behind us, in among the coconut palms, were the fishermen working on their nets and further back, their houses.  We saw no women but two of the children who came up were girls - they said they go to school but since it was a school day, who knows whether they understood my question.

Kerala regularly elects the Communist Party

The  first sight of this hammer and sickle was a bit of a surprise, but then we saw it several times, even though it is pretty outdated, despite the fact that the communist party is still regularly elected.  

new catholic church
We stopped for a coffee and snack at a place that turned out to be historically important and that was in the midst of preparations for a major Christian festival celebrating the martyrdom of San Sebastian. We wandered around there for half an hour and then went on our way, not wanting  
to get to Cochin too late in the day.

Replaces this 16th century original

After much winding around on roads that were not marked for the ignorant but were clearly in the town somewhere, we happened into Fort Cochin, a section of a much larger city, Ernakulum, that now mainly caters to tourism with Ernakulum being  the  workplace  and business centre, .We had not booked anywhere to stay and by the time we arrived it was nearly five and thus ndusk.  We hesitated and stopped by the side of the road and were instantly spotted by a tuk-tuk driver who wanted to find us a place to stay.  It must have a good bed, says Wendy.  He took us to one place that we rejected, then to another that I was about to reject but then got bullied (it felt like that) into accepting since the owner insisted that he would put a new and softer mattress on top of the old one and it would be fine and besides, everyone else loved their ayurvedic mattresses so what was I complaining about.  They rushed about, pulled out these new mattresses from their store room, still in plastic covers.  I tried squeezing one and it did not seem to resist the pressure too much so I agreed to try it.  They rush upstairs to put them on the beds.  
They stand back and await the verdict.  By now about 20 minutes has gone by.  I lie down on it.  Well, my body makes a slight depression.  It is not a wooden board.  Richard leaves it up to me entirely.  I am "the princess and the pea" person.  The owner, a very large overweight man, and his smiling and sweet wife, nod heads and assure me it is very comfortable. It is very firm.  It is not as bad as the one in Kollam that we had to endure after we left Viri.  Okay, I say.  So we stay there.  The room does have aircon.  He gives us a slight discount for 3 nights.

Bernard is eager to please and be helpful.  We tell him about a restaurant we have read about in Lonely Planet.  He offers to show us where it is.  We start walking and he is on his motor bike and keeps stopping, waiting.  After a block or so, I suggest I ride with him since I am unlikely to walk/hobble all the way.  I get on the bike and he takes off leaving Richard walking with no destination to reach since we don't know where we are going.  It all works out, however.  He drops me off and then goes back and picks Richard up.  Great - very nice of him.  We had a good dinner and took a tuktuk back. 
 The bed was very firm and I didn't sleep well but it wasn't terrible enough to pack up again and leave.
We decided we would find somewhere else after the 3 nights. 
Fort Kochi jail, used by Brits to hold some prominent nationalists

Fort Cochin is historically very interesting and is also a great place for shopping and eating.  My ankle is getting much better and I expect to walk perfectly well in a day or so - faster than Richard!  It is no longer painful enough to demand painkillers and is looking healthy.  
On our way into town we had passed a white guy driving a tuk-tuk with a white girl in the back and luggage strapped to the roof. Hmmmm????
It turned out that they were one of 60 teams doing a 3000 km run from the north  of India south to Cochin and Saturday was the deadline for arrival.  A fund-raiser for charity, the run/race attracts people from Europe, the UK and also Australia and Canada.  This year they expected to raise $200,000 that would be used to build filtration plants that provide clean water to about 60,000 people. A really good cause and, to judge from the comments on the board and from teams we chatted to, the experience of a lifetime.  A Canadian pair we met had followed his parents (early 60's) in taking on the challenge.  You know who is now interested in trying this adventure but he won't have me as a partner! :-)

Tuk-Tuks after the 3000km run (3 Canadian entries!)

Enlarge if you can, to read comments from the Tuk-Tuk run
Inthe  evening we took the ferry over to Ernakulum and went to the

Shiva temple where we had read that a big festival  was underway.

Temple elephants

Elephants could not stampede!

About 70 musicians play a repetitive tune for several hours at the temple

 After nearly 3h with no apparent new dramas to witness, we left, much impressed by the brilliant
spectacle and amazing  perseverance of musicians - all male  and various ages

1 comment:

  1. I'll do the challenge with Dad! :-)

    Am jealous of your adventures!