We landed at 10pm, were met by a representative and our new driver. As we drove to our hotel in Cochin they explained that Kerala is very different from Delhi. Less crowded, cleaner, and a 95% literacy rate compared to 65% in Delhi. Interestingly, it has been governed by a communist local government for years. However, they do have a lot of strikes, and one was scheduled for the next day affecting all tourist transport, protesting against a hike in fuel costs. Petrol is 69p per litre! We may not be able to leave!
Next morning our walking tour of Cochin is delayed to 11.00. A charming local guide, Peter James showed us the huge Chinese fishing nets, working on a cantilever system. Fresh fish abounds and is a key part of Keralan cooking.
He explained that Cochin was a key port on the Spice trading routes, first settled by Chinese, then Portuguese, then Dutch, then British. The Portuguese brought Catholicism, the Dutch were Protestant, and the British Anglican. In the state of Kerala they are 25% Christian, 25% Muslim, 40% Hindi 5% Buddhist, 5% the rest. It is a state where they live pretty harmoniously, and where women’s rights and respect are taken much more seriously than in other parts of India.
So on our tour we saw the oldest Christian church in India, plus the oldest synagogue in India!
Cochin is also where the 2nd BBC Marigold Hotel Documentary was made. One shop is taking full advantage!
The Cochin palace museum contained some amazingly rich painting from the 16th Century. We couldn’t photograph the best bits!
A lot of men here wear a skirt like garment called a Mundu. It can be pulled up short, dropped long, or flapped to aerate the nether regions!
Cochin is a charming, delightful place, and indeed a big contrast to the chaos of Delhi. But then we were given permission to leave for our 4 hour drive up into the mountains! Twisty and turny but remakably quiet due to the strike! We reached tea country and the Thekkady hills. Our best hotel of the trip so far, the Cardomom County, awaited. Amazing buffets … we tried so many delicious new Indian dishes.
Next day, a bird/animal safari in the Perygar reserve. The posters all show tigers… but chances are almost zero. And so they proved. (We were secretly a bit relieved…the tour was a combination of a tiny, completely open jeep, plus a brilliant guided walk! Neither ideal for meeting a tiger! We did see loads of new birds, monkeys galore leaping through the trees, and my favourite… Mongoose. Plus these gorgeous flowers frequented by humming birds and sunbirds.
Then, back in town a superb demonstration of Keralan martial arts – Kalaripayattu. Look closely at the fire picture.
Another great dinner buffet.. then next day a fascinating tour of a farm for Kerala’s king products…Spices. Did you know that peppercorn plants have no flowers… they have reproductive leaves which need to be washed by rain. Then back to the coast for a lovely 24 hour trip on a houseboat through the Alleppy backwaters. Chris has found a good way to get a cheap haircut!
We didn’t realise we had a whole houseboat.. with driver and house boy… just for us! He was a great cook…. included in the price was lunch…. afternoon tea with hot banana fritters! Dinner… and a huge breakfast! We feel guilty eating it, but it offends the cook if you leave it!
We travelled 40 kms through the backwaters seeing massive of birdlife and a way of life that has gone on for centuries. We tied up for the night by a tiny house in the middle of nowhere. Many houses like this one have no road access at all. No running water. The river is used for everything! We even saw people cleaning chicken and vegetables prior to cooking. Teeth cleaning, washing of self, clothes and dishes.
The small boats were for fishermen, and also they dived to the bottom and collected the mud for making pottery.
(Paul, Pam, Sue,Alan – I even chilled very happily! I reckon I could do a canal boat ….. for a weekend… with lots to look at…. and some nice stops!)
Finally, our last day in India was at the Marari Sands hotel at an unspoilt beach facing west across the Indian Ocean to Africa!
More great food… who were all those people who said we would lose weight in India… we have put it on!
We were anxious about coming to India.. health, security, poverty. We are so glad we came. We loved everything about it.
India is an amazing, vibrant, colourful place. It has its problems, but there is great optimism.
We would come back in an instant.
Tomorrow a new adventure beckons. 😀 xxx