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Published: November 15th 2017
After a short flight from Colombo we are back in India in Kerala State , Cochi which is an old Portuguese town. The airport is in the new commercial part but we are picked up by "Reggie" and taken to Fort Cochi which is the old port and Old Harbour Hotel which is a lovely old colonial building. We are here for one night but then back in 6 days for another night and then to Bangaram Is for 4 nights and back to hotel again.
We are quite keen to have a drink and the hotel has beer and Indian wine but we decide to go out to find a wee bar.
We pretty quickly find out that there is no such thing and in fact there is only one government wine shop (wine shop means beer wine and spirits) in town.
So we decide to eat....the water is just over the road and we find a fish stall selling fresh fish prawns lobster etc and one of the little restaurants like Hawker's stalls cooks it for you. So we buy a kilo of tiger prawns and a squid and a young man leads us to his little restaurant and they grill it for us. This is probably the best seafood we have had while away....simply grilled with a salad. ..beautiful.!
Back to the hotel which is one of the only licenced establishments around and we lash out on a bottle of Fratelli Chardonnay ( Indian).
We decide to pack light for the next 6 days and leave one suitcase at hotel. We would be very happy to get the same room back next time...very large and airy.
Reggie ( pronounced like that but I am sure spelt differently) picks us up at 10am to take us the Rainbow Houseboats at Alleppy
for our 2 night cruise on the Keralan backwaters. I ask Reggie if he could stop at the Govt. Wine Shop on the way so we could get some supplies for the boat....no bar. It is down an alleyway and there is a small barred window with a line of desparate looking Indians after their half bottles of rum etc. They let me in through a side door and I get a couple of bottles of chardonnay some beer and a vodka. Every state certainly is different with their laws.
So we board our boat at Rainbow Houseboats Alleppy and meet the crew....another Reggie who is the chef, Shiva the captain and Shiji general crew member, and also find out we are the only other people on board a boat with 3 double staterooms. Good in a way but also it would have been good to have another couple of people to interact with.
The waterways are over 1000kms of sort of large lagoon opening to the sea and a myriad of canals all of which are above the level of the rice fields. There is a fairly intricate system of pump houses and pipes which allow the rice fields to be flooded or pumped out. The rice fields are so large that they use mechanical harvesters whereas in other places we have been it is all by hand. We have passed several large duck farms ( basically the males are eaten and the females kept for eggs) and the duck farmer is also able to rent his ducks to the rice farmer once the rice is harvested so that they clean up the fields before planting of the next crop. They have 2 crops a year.
So back to the cruising. There are over 1000 Houseboats plying the waterways. . from 1 bedroom to 10 bedroom. They are based on the original boats that took the rice down to the seaports. Ours is 100ft long and seems fairly typical...certainly the first night we slept like babies so very comfortable. The meals we are served are just beautiful. .Reggie the cook has done a Hospitality course. We have just finished lunch and it was a Keralan feast. . served on banana leaves (we pulled onto the bank earlier and cut them) and eaten with right hand only. Literally no utensils. We had about 8 dishes, all vegetarian, but apparently a full feast is 21 dishes. Needless to say we are now lying down for a rest.
The scenes have been real Kerelan country life....women washing clothes in the river, working the rice fields ( again seems mainly women) kids going to school and fishermen catching fish and mussels. Reggie and I are going to have a fish tonight apparently.
We stopped at an Areyverdun massage centre where S had massage. ..pretty fierce apparently.
Again a lovely meal and slept well....Reggie crowing in the am as India had beaten NZ in the final T20..altho rain shortened match to 8 overs.
Back to base by 10 and driver Reggie picks us up to go to Vanilla County Homestay at Vagamon in the hill country...tea estate country.
The homestay is a lovely colonial style property set in nice gardens and surrounded by forests and streams. The owner is called Baby Matthew......we settle into a cottage outside the main house next to a Canadian couple and arrange to go for a swim in a swimming hole in the nearby river. A lovely swim and waterfall and the the rain comes. The guide with us calls for a jeep to pick the 5 of us up. We get back to the cottage and water is coming through the roof into the bathroom so we move to a room in house which is lovely.
Reggie picks us up after breakfast and we drive up to Vagamon village in convoy with Chris and Helen the Canadians. The 15kms were a shocker and we quickly put to bed any thoughts of walking home.
A pleasant wee vilage where we had a lovely lunch for next to nothing..a lottery ticket seller came around and we bought half a dozen tickets for the guys at the eatery. ..wouldn't it have been a buzz if they won..!
At dinner that night we were joined by a Danish couple with their 2 young daughters who were travelling for 6 months. We now have contacts and invitations to visit Canada and Denmark.
Reggie picks us up in the am to go to Zuri Resort in Kumurakon....no need to say too much about that place as very tired and rundown. Next morning back to Old Harbour Hotel in Fort Cochi and in retrospect we should have not stopped at Zuri but should have spent an extra night at Old Harbour. It was like coming home..we were welcomed back like family.
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