Monday March 21st, 2011
Off the West Coast of India- Arabian Sea
Latitude 14 degrees 37 minutes’ north- Longitude 73 degrees 53 minutes’ east
We had an excellent day yesterday in the Port of Cochin. We drove about an hour into the countryside surrounding the bustling city of Cochin. India has 28 states and we ventured out into the state of Kerala. This part of India has a tremendous amount of waterfront. The Periyar River has been dammed and controlled to create many lakes and islands throughout the region. We made several stops along the way, one of which was to visit a textile mill where workers were making cotton sheets for the hospital. All done by hand on wooden looms the work was obviously long and tedious. Another stop was at a factory where they were making carpets out of the fiber from coconut husks. A third visit was to a coconut oil factory where they dry and then press the coconut meat to extract the oil. All of these operations were in very old and decrepit facilities. The only economic advantage came from the extremely cheap labor cost and an abundance of the raw materials. The
name Kerala is derived from the words which mean “Land of the Coconut”. The whole area is covered with millions of Coconut Trees and many other fruit trees to create and a very lush landscape. The National Geographic Explorer Magazine has called this area one of their 50 “Paradises on Earth”. After our factory stops we boarded a small riverboat for a scenic cruise. We had a two “horse” motor, one man on the front and one on the back each with long poles to push us along. We visited a fishing village located on their own small island. There were probably 40 houses on this island. The houses were rustic, but some were made of masonry and quite substantial. The people were very sweet and welcomed us into this glimpse of their lives. They served us a lunch of local foods served on a banana leaf in the back yard of one of the houses. The handmade wooden boats they have are used for everything. These boats are their only way on and off the island, plus they are used to bring all supplies and building materials from the mainland. These people lead a very simple and peaceful life.
They have electricity and running water, but they bathe and do their laundry in the river. I don’t know how long this life will continue as I saw a couple of houses with satellite dishes and some of the older children had smart phones. So, an awareness of the modern world is encroaching into their lives. I think this can be said for all of India. They have the highest birth rate and one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Their young people are some of the most educated in the world. On our way back to the ship you could feel this mass of humanity that is India. Thousands of people were walking, working and moving about the city. Many of them waved and honked at us all along the way. There was, of course, trash everywhere and obvious poverty, but also you could see this clash of old and new cultures as well. As we turned north into the dock area an Elephant passed us on the right, but he was riding in a truck.
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