We spent Wednesday morning in Kochi. After a slow morning which involved Joe arguing with the Indian postal service (don’t ask!) we walked round the headland, through the markets to visit the Dutch palace & museum and a synagogue. Both were very educating, especially an insight into the Jewish community. In a population of 1.2 billion India has only 5000 Jews! After lunch at a smart cafe – that served thick, sugar-less proper brown bread, (this deserves a mention as it had us nearly sat in silence with pleasure for such a rare treat!) After a post-lunch coffee at another outpost of the authentic and original Indian Coffee House we took a 2hr state bus to Alappuzha and arrived just as the sun was setting with slightly sore behinds from a rather bumpy journey. Upon climbing down we were met by a tout from a hotel, a person who we would normally shoo (‘chal!’) away quickly. As we were only staying the one night and wanted somewhere sorted quickly we chatted with him and agreed to take the free tuk tuk to his hotel and if we didn’t like it we’d walk away. The guest house was very nice: good, clean, mosquito-netted room which for £4 we accepted.
Alappuzha is very small and the opposite of Kochi in that it isn’t really developed for tourism with no countless restaurants or shops. It is simply the place where you connect onto the backwaters. We went out and ate in a very simple Dhaba before retiring back to our room with last week’s dance anthems playing on the speakers.
Today we have spent the day journeying down to Kollam via the famous Keralan backwaters where we are now sat awaiting our 3am train. The day was very peaceful with the boat chugging down past countless villages, Chinese fishing rigs and waterlogged farming fields with the farmers pushing themselves around their crops in small boats. It was a really beautiful scene, Joe was particularly taken by how ‘exotic and romantic it seems’ – maybe he’ll be back one day and staying on the fancy houseboats?! We had some drama mid-morning with our boat pulling down a low electricity cable that stretched across the river. After removing it from the front of our boat it was chucked into the shallows for the villagers to jump in and fetch – we assume a couple of places are now without their power tonight!
Lunch was a decent South Indian thali with sticky rice served on green paper that was attempting to imitate the palm leaves that traditional Keralan food is served on. The dal seemed a lot thicker and creamier than what we have been used to in the North. A few of our fellow travellers (more likely short term holidaymakers) looked very fresh-faced to India, so we gave them credit for no complaints over the lack of cutlery and joining in by digging in with their hands! It was great to not only see the backwaters in such a gentle and slow fashion, but to *utilise* them as a way of getting from A to B.
We have now arrived at the rather nothing-town of Kollam, where our train isn’t until the small hours of tomorrow (Friday) morning. So we have a fairly long evening to kill and alarms have been set to ensure we’re on that train!! Our final journey in air conditioned class will bring us to the city of Madurai around midday tomorrow – a place I’ve been looking forward to for a while as it contains a huge living and ‘working’ temple. Can’t wait!