Published: February 24th 2012February 20th 2012
After staying in Varkala for more than we intended (don't get me wrong, I am NOT complaining
) we finally got off our butts, packed our backpacks (again) and off we were to the train station on our way to Alappuzha or Alleppey, as they call it.
Alappuzha is one of the spots where you can do boat tours around the backwaters and discover the numerous canals. They call Alappuzha the “Indian Venice”. I guess the similarities are there – people living surrounded by water, there are no roads, all the traffic takes place on the water, but I suppose that's where it ends. Yes, Venice are smelly too, but you can hardly say the smells are the same. You would understand if you have been there
. You can take a whole day trip around the river canals (but it does get slightly boring after a couple of hours), people also do tours that take days, hiring houseboats (beautiful and luxurious boats, with 2 or more rooms on the boat, but trust my word when I say the luxury costs as well).
We arrived to Alleppey in the afternoon, so we decided to go round
town a little bit, do the backwaters the next day, and than leave for Gokarna. One thing I will definitely remember Alleppey for is The Great Battle – namely the battle between us and the really huge, humongous mosquitoes. I swear, they were huge, I have never seen mosquitoes this size. And there were gazillions of them. Jan and I just sat in front of our room, when they attacked, biting us even through our clothes. So it started, we were clapping our hands like idiots, killing as many as possible, but they had amazing back up, and it was 2 of us against an army of them. We did not falter though, and the pile of dead mosquitoes around our seats was getting bigger and bigger, but so was the number of new arrivals. So for 2 evenings straight, we were fighting for our mere existence. There was this Indian guy watching us and he said: “Mosquitoes, ha? Yeah, they come in the evening, many of them. And they like your pale skin.” And then he laughed and left, leaving me thinking I should of done a better effort of tanning my pale, white skin.
morning we went to town, as we were told it is best to look for and hire a boat by yourself than to have an agency organise your trip around the backwaters. So we found this guy, who was offering us a motor boat for a decent price, but once we got to the boat, we saw he was just the middle man. He started fighting with the boatman and Jan assumed (correctly) they were fighting about how to share the money. So Jan took our money back from the middle man and we agreed for a different price with the boat man, and off we were. It was quite nice and to be honest, observing how the people live with the water was quite interesting. They do everything but cook with the river water. So we saw many people bathing and washing, women doing the laundry...It was also very quiet, because there is no traffic there, apart from boats. Our boat man tried to give us some information about the backwaters, but after an hour or so, he kept repeating himself up to a point, when Jan and I could hardly stay serious any more. We also made a
quick stop at his house, where his wife prepared some chai
for us. But that's when the guy started acting weird, he was all cocky, asking us same questions 6 or 7 times (how long will you stay in Alleppey, where are you going after...), it was very obvious he was trying to show his wife and mother (who joined us later), how cool he was. And also, I think he took something, cause it was all gibberish coming from his mouth. So you can imagine we were more than happy when our 3 hour tour around the backwaters was over and we were able to get away from the guy.
I can't remember when I was last so happy to leave a place, but I was thrilled when we left for another overnight train to Gokarna. As there was no direct train from Alleppey to Gokarna, we had to get off at an interim station of Kumta, at 3.30 in the morning. I have to say, I am starting to love the Indian trains. You could easily live there and lack nothing. There is always food available (fresh, as they have a huge kitchen on the train), you
can get chai
or coffee, snacks...And everything is so cheap. If you buy anything on trains around Europe, it always seems to cost a fortune. We got the side bunk beds, which were quite comfy, so it seemed like we arrived to Kumta in no time. As it was only 3.30 am, we slept on the train station and we woke up at about 7am, ready to continue our trip to Gokarna. When we stepped out of the station, we were like “What the hell?”, the area seemed so isolated, so quiet and so far away from any life. We walked to the road and asked around for the bus station. A guy just told us to wait at the side of the road, where we were picked up by a sleeper bus, on its way to Gokarna. An hour later, we were finally there.
Following Diego's recommendation we took a tuk tuk
to the Om beach (it got its name following the fact that the beach is in shape of the Indian sign for “om”). The tuk tuk
dropped us on the top of the cliff, so a flight of stairs later, we were on Om beach, looking
for the Dolphin bay hostel. I was so tired and soooooo in need of a long shower that I was quite taken aback when I first saw the huts behind the Dolphin bay cafe. They were the simplest huts, put directly on the sand, with a bed occupying pretty much the whole room. Wow, I totally lost my spirit, whereas Jan loved it, there was this really easy going, nice group of people sitting in the sand around a huge round table, which was placed in the middle of the walking path, a row of about 6 huts on each side. Jan joined them, whereas I was fuming, so I took some me time, and went round the beach. When I came back, I was shown how the “shower” works (there was a huge tank of water, you had to drop your stuff in the so called bathroom, grab a bucket and fetch the water from the tanker). After a “shower” (the place had no running water), I felt a bit better and I started to absorb the feel of the Dolphin bay “slum” (I don't really know who came up with the “slum” thingy, but it was so right
– basic huts, no running water and a bunch of hobbos
The first couple of days, we felt as if the slum was colonised by the French, pretty much everyone but us were French. But everyone was really nice so we felt like home very soon. Apart from walking to town one afternoon (climbing over a hill, walking over Cudly beach and walking over yet another hill – about an hour's walk), we didn't do much. Well, that's a lie, I walked to town and back again, as I managed to ruin one of our torch lights and lose another one, so with the daily power cuts in the slum, we really needed one.
Also, as Om beach is full of “free spirits” and new age hippies, it wasn't weird to see people doing yoga on the beach early in the morning. I must admit something: I became one of them. Following the yoga course we did in Varkala, I got into a habit of doing yoga every morning (still am, here in Goa), although I am not into the whole “spiritual crap”, I just like how my body feels after a full hour's stretching and bending.
Anyhow...after 2 days, we got new arrivals to the slum, that kinda became our own, non – French “posse”. A German girl called Anna, a couple from Sweden, Jonas and Helene, and the legendary couple from Yorkshire, now pretending to be Scottish, Julie and Steven. It was our posse versus the French contingency, fighting for our spot around the slum table. We would pretty much just sit there and chat, and thanks to Julie share some life wisdoms (for example why we should never have kids, as they are pretty much a waste of time
). Julie was the life of our posse, I really couldn't help but like her. The discussions we had...well, repeating stuff that was said or talked about just wouldn't do it justice. So, see Julie, you ARE mentioned in our blog, and you ARE still the QUEEN.
Oh, and do say “hi” to Posh and Becks for us, and organise a small gathering. We will make sure we bring Tom and Katie.
. And Julie, please keep practicing and follow Anna's advice by Jan
Jan and I also got in a routine when it came to food. Lunch almost always consisted
of the huge and yummy Nutella pancakes. Erm, my figure is still long and lean, have no fear
Another thing that became pretty routine were the rats crawling round and in our huts at night...we became so annoyed with them, and having them on our bed one night, we slept the last night with our light on.
With all the delights and the easy going life we had in Gokarna, it was yet again time to move. With sad hearts we said farewell to our posse, and again, off we were, on our way to Goa. Oh, yeah...new age hippies, here we come!
There are more photos below