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Published: January 14th 2017
Early morning breakfast saw us on the road to Kollum (sounds like Gollum - a complete other story) which was just up the road from Varkala. We asked our taxi to stop at any ATM's that looked open. I had read in the Times of India whilst down in Sri Lanka that the government had changed the rules and increased the amount that could be withdrawn from ATM's to 4,500 rupees (about $90) due to a higher availability of cash and the new $500 notes being introduced.
During our 90 minute trip we stopped 4 times and checked 8 machines (5 were in one place in the biggest bank in Kollum) and none had cash. Our spirits sunk a bit because we were hopeing the daily drudgery of getting or changing cash had disappeared because what at first had been a bit of an adventure was wearing thin. We arrived at our hotel in Kollum and it was spectacular. It had an automatic opening door and looked so clean and tidy. Our room wasn't ready so we asked about an ATM that might be working and were told there was one just around the corner that should be ok. With
low expectations we headed out and as we had expected the person using it was having troubles and the security guard indicated it wasn't working. We decided to take a stroll and look a bit further down the street and walked into a pop-up festival. Both sides of the street were lined with small cooking fires on each there was a small pot of what looked like dal being cooked and many offerings were laid out. A group of men had an object ( I am guessing it was a sacred relic from the temple where the parade seemed to merge to) mounted on a two man shoulder bourne alter. A small band accompanied them. We spent a while walking in the parade but decided to head back to the hotel via a side alley which would get us back on a parallel street. In there we encountered what must be the centre for spice and grain merchants, lots of small warehouses filled with sacks of many interesting products.
We made a last visit to the ATM by the hotel and much to our surprise it was working and distributing 100 & 500 rupee notes. We were likes pigs
at a trough making three withdrawls up to the maximum and dancing a small jig. Strange things happen when you deprive a person of something considered normal. As it turns out we have had no other issues with cash since so that aspect of our holiday appears over.
Back at the hotel we booked an afternoon trip around a place called Munro Island which involved a 20 minute rickshaw ride out to the island, crossing a car ferry on the way, and then a one hour canoe ride around some wareways. It was a great trip and an insight into how people who have made their homes in the Kerala waterways live and farm. We saw many fish farms and coir (fibre from the husk of the coconut) factories plus bird life along the way.
We decided to celebrate our successful day with a gin. Finding one wasn't that easy. Kerala has stamped down on alcohol sales and its only possible to get a drink in top class hotels. Beer and wine is available in 3 star places but to get Hard Liquor (I.e. Gin) we had to go to a 5 star place. There was one on
Kollum which luckily enough was on the small beach and the bar had nice view.
We finished the evening with a meal back at our hotel which was top class apart from slow service due to a kids party upstairs.
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