Alright so it's blog time again. Sorry to anybody who regularly checks what I write, the internet so far in India has been a bit sketchy, and my little laptop is running on it's last legs. Currently we are in Kochi which is in the southern state of Kerala. Our India experience thus far has been a very good one.
By my best guess, the expectation that I had of India has so far held true. I know that I expected worse in terms of the ability to travel in the country and the general reception that people would have. We have been in India for 9 days now, so I'll give a rundown of how things have gone.
We arrived in Chennai on our flight from Frankfurt at midnight. We breezed through customs and made our way to the domestic terminal to wait for our 6:30 am flight to Kochi. The airport gently broke us in to India. Like a little safety net that allowed us to get used to being the visible minority. It's something that I have experienced before, and it was a first for Audree, and it really can be an awkward feeling, especially with the
Indian peoples'penchant for staring non stop. After a slightly chaotic airport experience, we were checked in and jumping on our plane.
Arriving in Kochi felt like the real start to the India part of the trip. We grabbed our bags and began the routine, that happens in every new place while travelling, figuring out how things work. We pre-paid for a taxi, and made our way to our hostel. After many stops to ask for directions, the driver found the place we were staying. It proved to be a good and comfortable place for our first few nights in India. We spent 3 days in Kochi, spending time walking around before the real heat of the day hit, when we would head back to our room and try to not move. The temperature during the day was always around the 35 degree mark, but with the humidity it was easily over 40. There's not a great way to explain it. I'm not sure if Mexico will ever really feel hot again. It's like getting a big wet, sweaty bear hug from the world. Doing anything is
shortly followed by sweating. walk. Sweat. Eat. Sweat. Think. Sweat.
4 we went by taxi to Alleppey which is 1.5 hours south. The entire state of Kerala is tropical, and is widely considered the "relaxed" part of India. At first I would not have agreed, but after 9 days I think the statement is true. Alleppey is well known for it's "backwaters", which are really just a major course of rivers and canals which stretch for over 600km. In Alleppey our hostel manager hooked us up with a man(he has a name. That i cannot remember, or spell. For this blog we will call him Dave) who lived in a village that was an hour and a half by ferry into the backwaters. Yes, ferry. An Indian ferry. The type that can hold 100 people, but they put 542 on it and when it sinks, everyone asks, why? Dave met us at the hostel and we travelled with him to his village. He lives with his wife in a small house on the bank of a canal in the heart of the rice growing area in Kerala. We arrived at his house, and had a typical Keralan breakfast of rice noodles with coconut and sugar.
We then set out
in his canoe for a 3 hour trip through the backwater canals, where village life reigns supreme. I haven't mentioned it before, but India is LOUD. Noise everywhere. But in the villages of the backwaters, there was quiet. Just the sounds of birds, maybe a goat, and the constant slapping of Indian women washing clothes in the canal. The canals serve as the lifesource of the people, and they utilise it for everything. Baths, laundry and dishes are all done in the canal. It makes sense, since they are water people, but I think we all know what happens when you bath in the dish water. And likewise.
Nobody likes getting rice in certain body parts, and why does it always taste funny when I brush my teeth?
After the peaceful canoe ride, it was back to Dave's home. Once there his wife prepared a Keralan lunch consisting of potato, fried banana, rice, vegetable stew, coconut ginger salad and fried fish. All served on a banana leaf. And the best tea ever. The only 2 thoughts that crossed my mind as I ate were: I didn't know tea could taste this good, and I hope I make it to
a bathroom before this bathwater, laundry dodging fish destroyed my stomach. You'll all be happy to know that no tummy problems, or "squealers" have attacked either of us yet. We returned to the noise of Alleppey by ferry after an amazing day in what can only be called Incredible India.
That night we discovered that our hostel room, which had a suspicious thump and some moved articles the previous night did in fact have another resident besides ourselves. It was the first time that Audree had seen a rat, and I was impressed by her ability for the most part to hold it together. Coming from wonderful rat free Alberta, I was not keen either on having this guest, but we made the best as we knew it was our last night in the room.
On the fourth night in Alleppey we did what tourists go to the backwaters to do. We rented a houseboat for 24 hours. It's the big business in the area, as over 700 houseboats roam the waters. The boats are all built in traditional rice barge style and come with a captain, a cook and a deckhand. All for the price of 100
dollars. The houseboat journey was fun, sitting in the "living room" as we slowly trawled through the waters, but we both felt that the experience the previous day was much more authentic. Never the less, it was unique for all of it's own reasons, and we spent the night docked in a lake surrounded by rice fields. It was more quiet that we enjoyed, because we know there will not be a lot of it for the rest of our time in India.
Yesterday we returned to Kochi by taxi for 2 more nights. I could write a lot about the taxi rides, rickshaw rides, or even the 2 motorcycle trips I took holding on tight as my driver drove in ways that easily surpassed Rwanda both in terms of danger and traffic (sorry mom), but I won't. They're all insane.
In Kochi we went to a traditional Keralan dance/play called Kathikhali, in which actors wear elaborate face paint and costumes and perform plays to traditional drumming and singing. Interesting is the only way we can describe it, but the talent and skill involved was easily evident.
Tomorrow we hop on a plane and head north to
Udaipur, which will be a completely different India. No more palm trees. No more ocean side. No more extreme humidity. There will be lots of history to see and lots of sweating to be done. Current temperature shows 43 degrees. Good times to follow....
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