11th – 18th March: Kerala to Tamil Nadu Ruby
: On Sunday we went to Kovalam Beach. We had a big splash around then we went to a swimming pool. Then we had lunch, I had fish and chips. On Monday we just chilled out but this evening we went to Sheela’s house. We had a massive meal. Tuesday we went to Isla di Cocco because it has a swimming pool. I got bleeding gums and George got a stung finger. Then we went home. We had fun!!!!! On Wednesday, we walked along the beach by our house and we found loads of playing cards. On Thursday I bought an orange scritchy Indian dress at Kovalam Beach with money from my Nanny & Grandpop. We did some boogie boarding in the sea. I liked it. I kindly bought chocolate for a girl who asked for chocolate. She lived up the road from us. On Friday we got up at 5.30am because we had to catch a train to Coimbatore. We got to Coimbatore and I put on my Indian dress for dinner. On Saturday we woke up at 4am so we caught a train to a station then my dad bought
some Oreos. We got on a different train, we saw monkeys and my dad took a photo of me and George driving the train. Then we got to Ooty. We found our hotel!! George
: It’s Sunday, we are going down to Kovalam Beach today in Sojan’s rickshaw. It is nice and sunny and the waves are nowhere near as rough as the beach by the Lotus Jewel. Daddy, Ruby and I went in for half-an-hour and then when Mummy arrived we all went for some lunch. By the table there was a pool, and me and Ruby played for ages.
It’s Monday at 7pm and Sojan is going to pick us up in about 5 minutes to take us back to Sheela’s house for dinner. We have bought Abhishek a remote control car. It’s 8pm, dinner is very filling and I am eating a lot. We are all stuffed! Today is Tuesday, we are at a hotel called Isla di Cocco to go swimming. The pool is huge! Afterwards we go to lunch and I have spaghetti bolognaise. It’s Friday, we get on a train to Coimbatore and stay at a hotel for one night. We have to
get up at 4 o’clock in the morning the next day!!
On Friday the first train we catch today is boring and normal but then we get on the second train which is in the book of best trains and we are all amazed. The view is wonderful and we see monkeys! Even though it is only 10 o’clock in the morning it feels as though I have been travelling all day. On the train we have Haribos and Ruby is constantly asking for them. The train stops sometimes to let us get out and take pictures of the view but when the whistle blows everybody must get back in. Carla
: 16th March
– The second week at the Lotus Jewel Beach House in Nellikunnu Beach was notable for the contrasting peace as the Temple Festival concluded on Saturday afternoon. The bliss of an uninterrupted night’s sleep was welcome. Sunday was a Kovalam day; it’s the most touristy place in Kerala which means that you can get pretty much all requirements fulfilled there. These include high speed internet, dairy products, Bob Marley T-shirts, stationery and toys. After a rummage around the supermarket we picked out a toy car to
take for Abhishek on Monday night and, feeling a little guilty about the 6 batteries needed to power it, we looked forward to surprising him with it. An east-meets-west thing about Kovalam is that the tendency for European women to wear bikinis and the unusualness of this in India has created a weird domestic tourist industry. People (mostly men) get day trips to Kovalam (probably officially to stroll along the sand and enjoy the surf) to look at women with less clothes on than they are used to. Staring is absolutely open and unashamed and since being here previously I have decided to stay pretty much covered up on the beach to prevent this. You may laugh and say “What’s she got to be worried about?” but honestly I saw a woman at least 2 decades older than me who happened to be wearing shorty-shorts, get attention from some twenty year old men on the beach. She smiled as she walked away but sometimes it can be a little oppressive. They call it ‘Eve Teasing’ here, which is a rather sugar-coated word for hassling women I think.
On Monday, following a day of little activity apart from gazing towards
the sea, we tuk-tukked round to dinner at Sheela’s house. Abhishek loved his car and introduced G&R to more delights of Indian children’s TV (Disney XD to be precise, George informs me. The food was ridiculously bountiful and despite our best efforts Alex and I were unable to make a dent in it. The odd thing was that we sat and ate but Sheela, her sister and brother-in-law did not eat with us which did make us feel a little uncomfortable and unsure whether this was the normal way of doing things. After dinner, Sheela’s cousin arrived who is a pastor in the local Anglican Church, as he had been roped in to borrow a car and drive us home in style. He also bought palm nuts with him which he decapitated with a large knife and presented to us telling us to scoop out the jelly and juice from the inside. This was a refreshing digestif but not particularly flavoursome. It was rather like eating the plain jelly from the outside of a pork pie with some sweet water to follow. As we left, Sheela pressed a large amount of fruit, sweet treats, peanut brittle and banana chips on
us. We protested that we were travelling onwards on Friday and so managed to resist the second full bag of fresh bananas.
The rest of the week at Lotus Jewel was spent not doing too much in order to be fully recharged and ready to take the train onwards on Friday. Each peaceful evening was spent on the terrace, following Al’s imaginative suppers (one of tasty calamari from the local fish market), drinking ‘Knock Out’ Beer and spotting fire flies, fishing boats and the occasional planet (on Al’s new Night Sky app – thanks to Ian Hickey for that recommendation!). Other creatures of the night (and day) that visited the house and gardens were a squirrel (grey with black stripes) that had somehow got itself inside the palm leaf roof of the house, geckos, a small black kitten, Indian house crows and of course the rather less welcome flying cockroaches (thankfully only to be seen on our last night – perhaps they were on the move that day or something). Friday morning was an early start; up at 5.30am to catch the 7.15am train from Trivandrum Central to Coimbatore. The train was again as well provisioned and pleasant as
previously, although this time we did spot a mouse in the carriage. Was it the same one that had pestered George at the Lotus Jewel? Luckily we weren’t overnighting on this train as George may have slept fitfullly! Sheela’s treats were a blessing with the early start – peanut brittle, omelette and sweet coffee. What better breakfast? Alex
: 17th March
– Following the short early morning train journey from Coimbatore to Mettupalayam, we waited at the station for the steam train to Udagamandalam (otherwise known as Ooty) and ate orange cake and Oreo biscuits for breakfast with coffee that thankfully wasn’t mostly sugar for a change. We then boarded the train – just three carriages, and a steam engine. We were then told to get off and get on another carriage by a bewildered looking guard, who was surrounded by people trying to board the train and the poor man didn’t seem to know who went where. Anyway, soon after the steam whistle blew and we raced off at about 3 miles an hour! We were in the front carriage and could see the track ahead of us as it wound up into the mountains, and the brake guard
who waved a red flag to tell the engine driver to slow down and a green flag to tell him to speed up. Some of the bridges we crossed looked a little less than solid, to the point where I could no longer look down as we crossed them. George and Ruby loved them. Every so often the train would stop at a station for everyone to get out and have a look at the view, use the facilities or buy coffee and snacks at the station kiosk. We made slow progress, the train never really approaching anything you would describe as top speed (although I’d imagine the journey down may be somewhat faster) which gave us time to look out for wildlife. We saw monkeys jumping in the trees by the side of the track, some more of which came right up to the train at one of the station stops, and fed off biscuits and nuts thrown to them by the passengers. About a dozen of them came by including a mother with a baby clutching on to her belly as she ran and jumped along. We arrived in Ooty after about 4 ½ hours, and got a
rickshaw to a hotel just above the town. It is a fairly grand old colonial building, now slightly faded, but still impressive, set in the hills, with big fireplaces, and surprisingly it is cold enough here in the evenings to really need them. Big log fires were lit in the dining rooms at dinner time, and hot water bottles were provided in the beds. This isn’t really the roughing it part of our travels! The carvings on the wooden furniture are amazing. Probably won’t be getting that in the youth hostels.
On Sunday we took a look around Ooty. We started by walking to the Botanical Gardens, which were beautiful, but with some odd big plastic models thrown around the place, including a big plastic tree with a plastic tree house, and there really were a lot of real trees there they could have used. We then caught the end of the local football league match – a 3-0 drubbing – at the Ooty stadium. After lunch we got a rickshaw up to the top of Doddabetta, the highest peak in the Nilgiris range of mountains (part of the Western Ghats) at 2634 metres above sea level. The views
were spectacular if a little hazy. The drive up in the rickshaw was extremely bumpy and the rickshaw was really straining at some points of the steep climb. Everywhere we went people were asking to have their photo taken with us (usually with George and Ruby but oddly enough occasionally with me)!
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