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Published: December 8th 2011
A manly mosque
Done in a very pleasant shade of fuschia...
So we're now in Alleppey, perched in a hut/room which overlooks and overhangs one of the massive canals that traverse the countryside here. But how we got here, that's the real story. After a night which was (as was stated earlier) fairly bereft of actual sleep, we dragged outselves out of bed to power still cut (ie A/C and fan not on) and started to pack our bags. At this point the decision to bring torches and other sundry equipment feels totally justified, after lugging tonnes of redundant crap around Japan and Hong Kong. So after showering by torchlight, we went up the path to grab a quick breakfast (mainly for Aisha as Tess was abstaining from most foods by now) and back to our room in time for our driver to rock up a whole 5 minutes late and apologising for the delay (now that is definitely NOT the India we've come to expect!) in a big Chevrolet 4WD. So we piled in with our luggage and settled in for the extremely frenetic and manic drive from Varkala to Alleppey.
Tess tried to keep expletives to a minimum during our 374 brushes with death. Indian roads are kind of
Old lady in sari
With an umbrella. Next to a wall. Walking.
like a life size, 3D version of Frogger, except instead of you getting across the road, you're going down it instead. Lanes are 100% optional, 100% of the time. Horns, on the other hand, are entirely compulsory and used constantly. They signify a combination of "I'm here, everybody! Just a general warning in case you hadn't noticed me and were thinking of doing something stupid, I'm here!" as well as, "Look out! I'm coming up behind you pedestrian/auto-rickshaw/scooter/motorbike/car/bus and I'd like you to either stay where you are or move to the side so I can pass you!" and best of all, "WARNING WARNING, I AM ABOUT TO OVERTAKE TWO CARS, AN AUTO AND A SCOOTER WITH THREE PEOPLE AND A GOAT ON IT BY CROSSING INTO THE ONCOMING LANE OF TRAFFIC FOR A SIZEABLE DISTANCE WITH ONLY A SECOND BEFORE THAT ONCOMING TRUCK AND HIS MANY FRIENDS REACH US! HERE I GOOOOO!!!!" *HONK HONNNK HONNK HONK HONNNNNNNNNK*
So we set off up the road to Alleppey. Several things became very clear quite quickly, there's a LOT of mosques in this country. With minarets populated by blaring loudspeakers, they're hard to miss and we must have passed something around
twenty (no exaggeration) between Varkala and Alleppey, though as Aisha would remark that this is probably a good thing or we'd be eating vegetarian the entire trip (as observant Hindus will not kill animals, leaving the job of butcher largely open to the Muslim population). The second observation is the colours of the houses, which are absolutely spectacular. They vary from bright pink to iridescent green to stunning blue and so many shades in between. We spent a good portion of the trip with our cameras out the windows attempting to capture this, but more often frustratingly capturing whatever was 10 metres AFTER what we were trying to photograph. The last observation was that this is is clearly a part of Kerala which wears its political inclinations on its sleeve, its walls, its lightpoles and just about anywhere else you can put a paintbrush to a surface, or string a flag. We deduce that the Keralan affinity for the communist movement has not really waned despite their recent electoral loss, as just about everywhere there were posters, graffiti and flags bearing hammer and sickle or the face of Marx, Lenin and Trotsky (also Stalin... sigh) and the logos of the
CPI and CPI(M) the two main communist parties in India. As Tess remarked to Aisha at one point, 'This might be your kind of town.'
Some two and a half hours down the track and the joy of driving had started to wane slightly, Tess had drifted off to sleep and Aisha was left trying to apportion numbness between left and right arse-cheeks so neither would feel left out. We'd opted for a Non A/C vehicle (a standard distinction that we don't tend to bother about at home) - of course we needed the windows down so we didn't melt, but 2.5 hours of face blasting is actually quite tiring and definitely dehydrating. The fun began when Tess attempted to dial the phone number of the place we'd booked in Alleppey the day before, only to find that it was turned off. The place could only be accessed by boat, and the manager had said to call when we arrived so they could send the boat, see? After many attempts and a sense of slowly rising frustration, we were left with no option but to have our driver leave us at the Alleppey Tourist Centre, a tiny cinderblock building
Sunset in Alleppey
Beats Varkala. (view from our balcony)
hugely overstaffed by a number of men who didn't speak much English and whose version of 'helping' was to keep trying to dial the hotels.com internet booking confirmation number as if it was a phone number, not believing Tess when she said it was NOT a phone number for the 54th time, because it just happened to have the same number of digits. After a long time, during which Aisha's frustration levels with India hit a new all time high (he swears at that instant if he'd been offered a plane ticket home he would have taken it), Tess running across to an internet cafe to try and get more details on the place, we eventually managed to make contact and get underway in an auto rickshaw. RIGHT BACK THE WAY WE'D COME!!! Obvi, one of the men from the tourist centre had hopped in the rickshaw too, saying "It's OK. I'll help you!" Thanks mate.
So eventually we made it out into the backroads around Alleppey and along a tiny road through rice paddies and palm trees, fringed with tiny canals and to the dock, where we pulled up and found a boat waiting to take us to
On the boat to Green Palace
Excuse the expressions. We were well and truly delirious by this point.
the Green Palace Resort. By this point it was getting close to 4pm in the afternoon and we'd been underway for a good 5 hours, so both of us were tired, sweaty and fed up (Aisha) or manically delirious (Tess). However once we'd checked into our nice (albeit somewhat basic) hut our collective mood lifted. Our balcony is inches above the water, with a view across to palm trees on the other bank and a prime position to watch life on the canals drift by. Dinner was a pretty nice and spicy affair served in the open sided, semi-detached dining area at Green Palace. The place has a very old school feel to it, being isolated on a little island, surrounded by small canals on one side, a rice paddy on the other and the vast expanse of one of the main canals on the other. So we turned in for the evening pretty early, both of us being completely exhausted.
A hot, sweaty and power-interrupted night followed, which turned into a mosquito borne nightmare for Tess after the power died for good and we had to open the doors (no fly screens or mosquito net). The A/C Hut
Life drifts by...
...in front of our waterfront hut
is only any good if there's electricity to go with it, huh. As well as being stifling hot, the night was filled with the sounds of music blaring from somewhere on the opposite bank from about 3am til sunrise, which was a combination of traditional Indian chanting and singing and...Chinese Opera. The tens of roosters in the vicinity also thought they'd pitch in from around 3.30am. We arose hot and sticky and not overly rested. Once we'd decided we were going to make it to breakfast after all, we sat down to be served with noodles cooked with coconut and a rather rich and pungent egg moli curry (or moilee, depending on who's spelling you use) , toast, butter and jam. A slightly eclectic breakfast to be sure.
Today was basically just a day spent lazing around and doing not much, catching up on some reading and writing, a bit of sketching for Aisha and some photography of the surrounds. Tess did get her first (and possibly last?) Ayurvedic massage this afternoon, which we'll tell you about next time. Oh
Lonely Planet describes it as a 'sleepy little town'. THEY LIE.
Something about India ensures that it always throws the stark contrasts in your face, as our brief afternoon walk ensured. Just down from our rooms there's a small grove of banana palms and a small jetty out onto the main canal, but right there is a dumping ground for rubbish, with brightly coloured plastic bottles and refuse in heaps. So you have to take the picturesque with the ugly. To anthropomorphise a whole country, all India seems to do is push you until you're so frustrated you want to bash your head against a wall and/or leave, then presents you a few snatches of serenity and beauty, only to push you all over again. So it is with trepidation that we look forward to anything, knowing that (as 5,000 movie taglines tell us) Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong; and that behind every beautiful view lurks some ugliness to be discovered. But that's just real life, isn't it?
Aisha & Tess
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