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Published: April 2nd 2017
March 27 - the stars are in alignment for us to move on - so stinking hot and Kelly's e reader rebooted and he lost all his books!!!! Last day lunch on the beach was chicken mint kebab - delicious. Then it was time to pack up and head to Margao railway station. We had some spare time so ate at the station restaurant - a new taste treat - bread pakora which was spicy potato stuffing between 2 slices of bread, dipped in batter and deep fried - yum although not the healthiest!
Train number 12618 Mangalore Lashwadeep Express was an hour late but when you consider that it left Hazrat Nizamuddin (Delhi) 34 hours ago, that's not really too bad. We have a 14 hour ride ahead of us so that is one long train journey for anyone going from Delhi to Ernakulum. And if anyone is interested in the cost for the 49 hr journey - approx $72 CAD for 2 AC ( the class we usually travel) and approx $18 CAD for sleeper (lowest class with hard wooden benches). And if you are a senior ( women over 55 and men over 60) the price is
roughly half. Cheap but boring as much as I love travelling by train here. We had an upper and lower side berth on this trip which are a little narrower than the 4 berth sections but it was just the two of us. Breakfast was an appam veg curry. Appam is a type of pancake made with fermented rice batter and coconut milk and you dip it into a veg curry. Great scenery in daylight hours - thousands of coconut palms and acres of banana palms.
Arriving in Ernakalum Junction at 11am we got a taxi to Aaron's home stay in Fort Cochin about a 30 minute drive away. There was no power at Aaron's so he had arranged for us to stay at his brothers guesthouse 1/2 a block away. That makes 4 reservations made through booking.com and we have stayed at only one of the actual places reserved (in Bangalore). But the alternatives have all been great.
An afternoon wandering up through the town - we were here 6 years ago and I do not remember the area by the fishing nets being so grotty. And we actually bought fish from one of the smelly vendors
then too!!!The Portuguese, British and Dutch all had their hands here during colonial times and there are some great mansions with deep shady verandahs as well as lots of quiet lanes to wander down. Lots of shady trees thank goodness as it is stinking hot! At night it continues to be a challenge to get the room at an air conditioned temperature that is not too cold - we are provided with one thin top sheet each. 25 deg C seems to be the best night temp for the AC to be set at.
An early morning walk showed me where the local food places were so after we were packed up we headed out for chai and pakora. We were watching our rupees as we did not have a lot left and didn't want to go to the ATM again. A bit of a concern was the price of the bus to the airport - someone told us it was 500 INR a person - so it was a relief to find it was only 85 INR for an hour and a half drive through massive amounts of traffic.
Once at the airport we had our passports
and e-ticket checked twice before even being allowed in the terminal - and after immigration, there were three more checks (within 20 ft) before getting to security. Hand luggage was labelled and stamped after clearing security as were our boarding passes after we were patted down in separate gents/ladies areas. But we were allowed to take our 2L bottle of water with us. REALLY good and cheap lunch in the departure lounge - and then another boarding pass/passport check to get into the boarding area, a boarding pass and hand luggage security stamp check before leaving the boarding gate and ONE MORE boarding pass check to actually get on the plane!!!!!!! And now it was time to say good bye to India - a rather "gentle" trip as it is the northern part and big cities that are really intense and which overwhelm in every direction.
The Sri Lankan airlines plane had barely taken off when the attendants started handing out juice and sandwiches for the 50 minute flight to Colombo international airport - and as soon as we touched down you could hear the click of many seat belts being undone. Immigration was a breeze AFTER we were
sent back to fill in arrival cards. Life was also made simple by having a taxi pre arranged to Silver Sands Hotel in Negombo. First order of business once we found the taxi was to leave my pack at left luggage. For the next two weeks we are travelling light - I am using my zip off day pack and Kelly still has his large pack but it is mostly filled with his pillow.
20 minutes in well behaved traffic (they seem to drive within the lines here) and we were at our hotel - nice older building right on the beach and our room is pretty basic - but with the fan on and window open it was a very pleasant night temperature.
The beach town of Negombo is much closer to the airport than Colombo is so is a popular starting point when visiting Sri Lanka. This is definitely tourist land with the long stretch of road adjacent to the beach (Lewis Place to Porutota Road) being lined with hotels, guesthouses, restaurants, bars and shops with new tourist items to tempt us. It is taking a bit to adjust to being in an "expensive" country but
in reality Sri Lanka is still cheap - but not compared to India - however we don't really feel like eating due to the heat so maybe it will all even out. New food to discover and already I love the spicy coconut/onion/chilli chutney that often accompanies most meals. And the ginger beer!!!!! My new favourite beverage. We are still working on finding a good alternative to Indian chai.
We had one full day in Negombo. The beach is rather grotty so we did not venture far on it. We did plan to walk to the old Dutch fort but after taking an alley way to get off the main drag, we ended up walking along the Hamilton Canal to the lagoon. The Dutch (and later, the British) enlarged the existing canals to enable easier transporting of spices and tea. A lot of fishing boats were using the canal to return home but many boats were also in the lagoon. They head out to sea about 2am, returning around 6am, so by the time we saw them, all actual fishing activity was over and the fishermen were sorting out their nets. From there it was a short walk to
the fish market where we spent an interesting hour or so. The first part of the market was all the fresh fish for sale - yellow fin tuna, sting rays, grouper, swordfish, mackerel, crabs- you name it, it was there. It didn't take long for a local fellow to "glom" onto us and showed us every fish there was to see - and then he took us to the fish drying area. These are the fish that are not going to be cooked and eaten fresh. The fish are gutted and cured in salt for a couple of days before being laid out in a single layer on a tarp or coir mat. After a day, each fish is flipped over so both sides dry evenly. I have to admit, these dried morsels did not look enticing to eat, and in fact our "guide" informed us that our digestive systems would not like some of these fish.
The heat and humidity were getting to us (and it was not even noon) so we decided against back tracking to find the fort and headed straight back to the hotel. Street food here is commonly called short eats and a yummy
version of spicy samosa held us over til a fish curry dinner. Moving on from Negombo we had debated the merits of public transport (bus and/or train) which is cheap or getting a car and driver for a couple of days and decided on the latter for our trip to the cultural triangle - and that adventure starts tomorrow.
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