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December 16th 2009
Published: December 22nd 2009
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Jew TownJew TownJew Town

you wouldn't get away with that in Blighty!
As we've moved down the country we've seen a big change in landscapes and crops. From cotton to rice-paddies, to hillsides of tea bushes and coffee, and crops of root veg and now the more tropical outline of banana plants and palm trees.

Finally we arrived at the coast and first stop is Kochi in Kerala and we opted to head for Fort Cochin which is one of the small islands just off the mainland. It doesn't feel very much like India with it's blend of Portuguese, Dutch and English heritage. India's oldest European style church is here along with a Synagogue, a thriving Jewish community (all centred around a place called Jew Town, which doesn't sound very pc to me!) and a port with cantilevered Chinese fishing nets - it's a right old hotch-potch, but very relaxed and with great seafood.

Kerala is actually a communist state, but it works here and the state has really high rates of literacy (90% +). There aren't any obvious signs of communism apart from the odd sickle and hammer flag (really!) and the Indian ridiculousness on the roads is still evident.

There are lots of westerners here and it's pretty
Best dressed GoatsBest dressed GoatsBest dressed Goats

the neckerchief is THE fashion item this season....
geared up for tourism which has its pro's and con's. On the downside it doesn't feel very much like India and there's lots of tat for sale, but on the positive side there are more bars around and I managed to find a beauty salon which does waxing!

I also had a full body massage, which would have been lovely if only the lady doing it didn't have a gas problem - she kept burping all the time. The body massage was followed by some kind of facial which involved a girl washing my face over and over with what smelt like carbolic soap and really cold water with a little massage in between each wash. I reckon she washed my face maybe half a dozen times - and I know that it's pretty grimey here but I don't think I was that grubby! Anyway with my sparkling clean face they then gave me a head massage using some kind of almond oil, which was lovely, except by the time it was finished I looked like I'd modelled my hair on Amy Whitehouse and I smelt like a bakewell tart! The experience was finished off with the girl rubbing me down with a damp flannel to remove the oil - a but like having a bed bath!

We went to see a traditional Kathakali dance show while here. The make-up and costumes are really elaborate and the dancers use different eye and facial expressions to help tell the story along with hand signals. The dresses that the men wear have huge crinoline-like skirts and when they thrust their hips they can shake their booty like Beyonce! Before the dance they showed us the different eye movements and facial expressions for different emotions and the sign language for different phrases, so when the dance itself started you could kind of follow the story. Boy meets girl, they fall in love, fish swim in the river, the sun sets, they have an argument, bees swarm around a lotus flower (oo er, Missus), anger, tears, he cuts off her breasts.... The End.....

We also had a day on the backwaters of Kerala which was really peaceful. The small canoe type boat was punted through these small waterways and you see the villagers going about their day to day business - washing themselves in the water, beating the living daylights out of their laundry etc. We stopped at a small-holding and were shown how they use the husk of the coconut to make coir rope which is then sold on to be used in the manufacture of different items, mats, furniture, ornaments etc. The individuals are formed into groups of maybe 150 people and this works on exactly the same principles as co-operatives in the west. It was really lovely to see how everyone lives but up close on the waterways you quickly notice that there's as much a litter problem in these backwaters as there is on the streets - there were random single flip flips floating everywhere like some strange water-borne crop! I'm sure there's a business opportunity in second hand flip flops if someone could be bothered to gather them up and make them into pairs.

So it's nearly Christmas and as there's quite a high presence of Christians in Kerala there are more signs of the festive season, with Christmas decorations and trees everywhere - it looks kind of odd in the glorious sunshine. It was also Kim's birthday - one of the ladies that we met in Ooty so we had a birthday night out with her, which was celebrated wearing Santa hats!

We left Kochi to head back towards the Western Ghats for a homestay place we've heard about. The bus journey was pretty hair-raising as we headed back up into the mountains - the road is quite narrow and there are loads of buses and lorries as well as cars and bikes and one section of the road has 9 consecutive hairpin bends and there's a sign at each bend counting down and reminding you that death is a definite possibility if you don't drive carefully!

Anyway we arrived safely and the place was so peaceful - it's in a nature reserve and there was hardly any traffic so no horns blaring night and day, just the sound of the cicadas. It was really lovely to be staying with a family, they were really welcoming and the food was absolutely gorgeous - enough to tempt Hugh out his self-imposed vegetarianism (not me though!). There was also plenty of it so still not heading in the direction of India thin!!

When we first arrived we went out into the forest and I came over all Bear Grylls and spotted some elephant dung - Hugh thought it might be cow or water buffallo but to be honest I've seen enough cow dung close up to know it wasn't that - time on the farm well spent! Apparently Bear Grylls says that if you're in dire circumstances and dying of thirst in elephant country you can squeeze water out of their dung - thankfully I'd had a nice cup of chai before heading out so wasn't feeling too parched! The family told us that over the recent few nights they'd had elephants tramping over their rice paddies and eating their banana crops. I was well excited and imagined the elephants coming right up to the house and having a little nosey around. In the morning after the first night I looked for signs of elephant footprints but I don't think they were actually anywhere near the house.

So we headed off the next morning to a local waterfall which involved scrambling up rocks to get to the top - I didn't actually make it to the top because I kept slipping and sliding and having suffered the number broken limbs that I have in my life decided it would be prudent to stop before it got too tricky. Hugh and the guide went to the top though and waved down at me! When they came down we went to the bottom and I went for a swim in the pool at the bottom with some local lads - the water was a bit on the nippy side but nice!

In the afternoon we headed out with a guide into the national park - unfortunately it was Sunday and everyone and their aunts and uncles were also there so it was like driving up and down the M5 and hardly conducive to luring the animals out of hiding. We did see some spotted deer, some langour monkeys, a couple of huge squirrel type things and a bison that was the size of a transit van. The guide tried to get us excited by telling us that the noise the monkeys were making indicated that there was a tiger nearby but to be honest it didn't really do it for me. So we were heading back to the homestay really disappointed about not seeing the elephants when a driver told our guide that a group had been spotted about 5km away near the road so we headed off and sure enough there was a group of 5 or 6 elephants (including a couple of young ones) munching away on bamboo leaves only about 20 metres from the road! It was lush!!

So after a couple of days of peace and quiet in the country we took a couple of buses and a train and headed back to the coast and are now in Mangalore. The trip back down the mountain wasn't as scarey as going up and Hugh made friends with a little lad of about 8 and let him share his i-pod - he seemed particularly keen on Primal Scream!

All the trains to Goa have been booked up for weeks but we've just managed to get unreserved seats (ie, third class!!) on a 'local' train first thing in the morning - this means that instead of the 5 hours that the express trains do the trip in we're probably going to take 8 or 9 hours but at least we'll get there even if we have to stand all the way. We don't actually have anywhere to stay when we get there either, but have a couple of folks looking out for places for us, so fingers crossed. I can feel a nativity type scene coming on where we arrive but there is not a room anywhere and we end up sleeping on the beach - note that in this particular nativity there is no conception - immaculate or otherwise, and I doubt there are any donkeys either, though plenty of cattle lowing!

Wishing you all a very happy Christmas and New Year - hopefully my next blog won't have much to report apart from a relaxing time in Goa!





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Hope you all have a lovely Christmas and New Year xx
Dont; move...Dont; move...
Dont; move...

they might not spot us.


22nd December 2009

snow
Hi Carol Anne, snowed in yesterday so had to work from home such a shame! Sounds like you are having a great time, we are off to Cornwall on Thursday weather permitting. Have a great Christmas love Rosiexx
22nd December 2009

Merry Crimbo
A quickie (steady on, not that sort of quickie!!) before I get the babas dressed and we head off in the snow to get supplies for the next few days, it was -6 over night, freeezing, it is officially well cold up Norf. Can you make us any more jealous than we are already, everything looks such fun, apart from the face washing, not sure about that. At least it wasn't me, what with my lack of Sunday washing etc, I would have still been there, having my bedbath. And... whirlwind of forna, you are turning into a Dr Doolittle, or should that be Lady (in the loose sence) Doolittle - just a bit of advice watch out for those them Munteys!!! Glad you were able to get rid of the pant beard, I've had the same, thought it was about time I did the waxing - for me it was whole body, not sure if the northerner had seen such a hairy munter before, she said it wouldn't take long - how wrong she was. I'm sure the growing rate of my hairs has doubled since being in Leeds, it must be the cold, my body is adjusting in a hairy way. Hopefully, we will be able to head off to Bristol xmas eve, but even some of the motorways have been blocked, once you head up north there is no escaping it. Have a fab xmas Baker Sager and if there is any immaculate conception at least you know you are TIDY. Miss u lots. All our love. Big kisses from Lils and Alfredo XXXX p.s. did you know that one of your ladies has two heads....... and no your bum doesn't look big in that but the lady to your left, her bum defo loks big in that.
22nd December 2009

bangers
Now that I've read Lizzie and Pip's emails all I can do is scrutinise your chesticles in the pics!! Good girl .... that's why you're attracting all those crowds! ;-) Well, you might think you have it tough with your hair-raising bus rides and promise of death roads, but I tell you lady, it's nothing compared to trying to get to Staines when there's been a millimetre of snow!! There's a war time camaraderie in our office today as people turn up at regular intervals with their tales of travel woe. Jeez. Hope everything works out in Goa ... I'm sure there's a hay bale somewhere with your name on it. Have a lovely Christmas Carole and look forward to hearing new stories soon. A x x
22nd December 2009

Happy Christmas
Hi Carole Wonderful blogs as usual and highly entertaining. You've definitely missed your calling in life. It sounds like you're having a fabulous time. Snowing here so looks like we're in for a white Christmas - yipee! Have a great Christmas and New Year and look forward to hearing more of your exploits. Love Alex et al xxxxx
22nd December 2009

Sunny Merry Christmas
Morning lovely, I have a stonking hangover from Xmas drinks last night so your blog eased the pain considerably and bought some smiles to my haggard looking face. India sounds wonderful. I'm going to put it on my retirement holiday list now. Bloody typical that the first Christmas I spend out of Europe is the first White Xmas in what seems like decades. Hope yours is a great one and keep those stories coming.... Lots of love Helena
22nd December 2009

Lucky You!
Hi Carole, great to hear that you are still having fun without me. I arrived home to snow and had to drive up to the Lakes to start the job - a bit of a shock to go from the heat of Kerala to -5 degrees in one day! Having been thrown in at the deep end (the owners left an hour after I arrived leaving me to get on with it!) I am slowly finding my way around the house. I keep waking up at 4am (I'm still onIndia time) so by 8pm I am knackered but trying to stay awake til 10pm to get myself back on this time zone. It's certainly a contrast from India - the peace and quiet and with the snow, its picture postcard beautiful here and I'm sure I eill enjoy it once the madness of Christmas is out of the way. Say hello to Hugh and enjoy xmas. Thanks for the birthday pic in the blog, Love Kim
23rd December 2009

Happy Christmas Carole!
Looks like you're having a fab time. We've just had a couple of days of snow here, which was lovely, just before Christmas, but sadly it's thawing - We were all hoping for a white one. Lots of love and keep on having fun in India - I'm enjoying living it thro' your blogs! Sasha x
23rd December 2009

dad
hi Carole, glad you are having a wonderful time, i'm enjoying your blogs, keep them coming, i hope you have a wonderful Christmas and a happy New Year. love Dad
24th December 2009

Christmas Eve
Hi Carrie, Maddie is in bed and I'm about to shove the carrots back in the fridge, and pour the milk down the sink! but she'll never know. I've written a nice note from Santa saying thanks! Also, in true christmas tradition, David is asleep on the sofa, after having one too many pints! Hopefully speak to you tomorrow, Love Lorraine

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