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Published: February 25th 2010
Our first night in Kovalam was fine. But after a most unusual breakfast of boiled eggs, a pot of filter coffee, and toast made from the brown bread baked at the restaurant at 5 o'clock every morning, we went off to explore. And found at the very end of the beach, just before the lighthouse, the Sea Flower hotel, where we negotiated the nightly rate down from 1200 to 850 rupees for 3 nights. So back to Ravi's, the first hotel, and told the somewhat disconsolate owner we were moving on. And this we did - we don't put down roots these days!
A fabulous room, light and airy, with a big clean bathroom, and a balcony which almost got sprayed from the bigger waves. Step out of the hotel door, and straight onto this wonderful beach. Why aren't there enough superlatives in English??
We stayed in Kovolam for 3 days, just unwinding. Although I disliked Kovalam at first, I quickly realised that as an antidote to a European winter, it has a lot going for it! Eat healthily, and with room and food you can get by on around £10 to £12 a day. Try doing that anywhere in Europe! We went to the Swiss Cafe for breakfast each morning, because the food was great, and the location meant that while we ate our breakfast, we could watch the guys pulling in the nets that had been set by boat earlier. The catch was only smallish fish, and our waiter told us that these were only for the locals - 'too bony for Westerners'!
The fish in the restaurants along the beach had to be seen to be believed. The fishing boats set out late each afternoon from the fishing harbour in the next bay, and at night you could see the string of fishing boat lights on the horizon. Next morning, they all came in with their catches - barracuda, king fish, sea salmon, red snapper, gold snapper, shark, calamari, lobster, crab. The restaurants from Kovalam bought their lot, and by lunchtime it was on the slab in front of each restaurant, eyes still glistening. And you get a portion of the fish you want, cooked how you choose, and served with salad and rice (or chips!!) for about a fiver! I think we might spend time here every winter!
We visited the fishing harbour one day, and it was a huge shock to the system to turn a corner from Kovalam beach, and hit Indian slum. No electricity, no running water, just standpipes in the street where kids and adults were washing their hair and themselves, ramshackle tumbledown houses. Yet the kids were joyous; they played with sticks, they played with makeshift cricket things, they bowled old motorcycle tyres down the dusty streets with a big sticj. And as we passed, the usual 'Hello. What is your name? Where do you come from? Do you have a schhol pen?' And all with a beaming smile of welcome. Humbling, really.
Next entry - our departure from Kovalam, and our search for the legendary Kumari.
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