Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Entering the state of Kerala, Fort Kochin

After a long hot train ride, we arrived at Ernkaulum station in the state of Kerala (south western side of India's tip), around 10 am. Even though it was only 10 am, it was the hottest we had been in all of India. It was about 95 degrees with 90% humidity...Horrible! We had plans to meet up with our friends Mel and Dev from Hampi, who took the bus down, so we headed to an internet place to track down there number. After climbing 3 flights of stairs with all our stuff in more of an apartment building than an office site, we dissappointedly reached a closed internet place. Luckily some guy that was walking down the stairs was able to call the man who ran the shop (who was apparently out for chai), and he came back and opened up for us. He was so excited that we were from the states because both of his kids lived there, and he was planning a trip there in the next month or so when, he said "the heat gets unbearable." Ha, apparently it gets much worse then what we were stuck in. So, of course we couldn't figure out how to get their number to work, so we decided to just head to Fort Cochin (at the tip of the peninsula, but more like an island), and find some housing, then look for them there. We took a nice ferry ride for 2.5 rs (realizing that the ferry guys in Hampi were making a killing by charging us 15 rs each way for a distance less than 1/20th of what we were doing), and landed in Fort Cochin. We found a nice tuk tuk driver who took us around to try and find a place. As we were driving a motorcycle drove up beside us and recruited us to check out his "homestay." The place was actually pretty nice, and a decent price for the overly priced area that we realized Fort Cochin was; so after looking at a few other places, we decided to take it. We had a big room with bright pink walls, a bathroom, a small balcony, and a powerful fan, which we took full advantage of! The place was pretty funny, because downstairs was a pharmacy, then as you walked up to the second floor, there was a dental clinic where tons of people were lined up for some pretty painful work I'm sure! Then, one more flight up, and there was our little apartment. It was nice because we had our own outside entrance, so it really felt like our own place. After awhile the lady who ran the place showed up with her son, and we were able to check in. Her son Akhil was super cute, and kept posing for pictures for us. Soba (the mom), was also very cute, and helped us learn some new phrases in Malyalum (the language of Kerala). She also managed to get the water working which was a miracle because we both were in desperate need of bathing. Unfortunately the water tanks in India are all on the roofs, and they are black, so as we jumped in the shower so excited to cool off, we found only Hot water! It was such a let down. By this point it was about 2pm and the heat was almost unbearable. We had gotten in contact with Mel and Dev, and arranged to meet up with them later on. So, after laying spread eagle under the fan for about an hour we decided to try and motivate. We attempted to walk around, but it was so fricken hot that we gave up and found a rickshaw driver to take us to the nearest bar (which was not so near). Of course, he ripped us off by charging us more than the agreed price, but we were so excited to be near AC and cold beer that we gave in. The place we found was super posh, but we didn't care. Luckily for us it was happy hour, otherwise we definitely couldn't have afforded the place. So, we were actually able to cool down, and come back to normal with some powerful AC and two cold beers (the first in a LONG LONG time). As the air outside cooled down a bit we headed back. We met up with Mel and Dev for an amazing meal of Chapatti's, Alu Paratha (a potato stuffed bread), and some delicious Veg curries. We all decided that there wasn't much to see or do in Fort Kochin, and it was much to hot to kick it, so we planned to leave the following day. Unfortunately we had paid for two nights in advance, but we were able to sweet talk Soba into giving us our money back, with the help of some silver plates we gave her! The next morning we set the alarm for sunrise and hit the streets early to avoid the heat. We walked down by the bay and found tons of men operating 500 year old chinese fishing nets. The process is really interesting. They have a huge pulley system where one side has the fishing net, and the other side is weighed down with thick ropes with huge boulders attached to them. The 7 or 8 men it takes to operate these contraptions stand at the ropes and pull the huge boulders down to raise the net. The guys saw us wathcing and taking pictures and called us over. They seemed so excited that we came over, and they started having us man the ropes, and pull up the heavy fishing net. Once the net is in the air one guy runs over and scoops out the catch. Unfortunately it didn't seem like they were too successful. The fish that were coming out were more like minnows than fish, and I don't know how it's enough to support the 8 men that run the nets. After hanging out with them for awhile, they started asking us for donations, so we figured it was time to leave. It's funny because in India a lot of the time if you give someone an inch, they take a mile. If you are actually nice and super thankful to anyone, they take it as an opportunity to ask you for money. So it's really difficult to navigate the thin line between appreciation and invitation. Anyhoo, we met Mel and Dev for an amazing breakfast at this organic cafe. I spent the most I have spent on breakfast so far ($2) and got an amazing bowl of oatmeal with fresh bananas, pomegranite seeds, and wild honey...it was well worth the splurge! After some confusion we finally made it onto a bus to take us to Alleppey. As Kate will explain it was quite a freaky ride, but a successful ride nonetheless~

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