Elephants, Boats and nothing else!
Trip Start Dec 30, 2010
53Trip End Jun 29, 2011
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To describe Kerala in comparison to the little of India we have seen, it is much more geared of for tourists who come for a couple of weeks on an annual holiday, the streets are so cleaner than anywhere else we’ve seen, it doesn’t smell and the people are even more pleasant than the rest of the country it seems. Even the tuk-tuk drivers who in every other place we’ve been persistently harass you, just quietly ask you if you’d like to go somewhere and on your reply of "no its fine, but thank you" simply say ok and they’re off
So the plan is to check out Fort Cochi, an hour’s drive from the airport for a few days then move on up to Cherai beach for our final few days in India. Our hotel is a very modest guest house with a few rooms. Some have aircon, some don’t but we booked one on HostelBookers with aircon as the temperature is still pushing 40c down here. Well, the room we were first given was tiny, no aircon and subsequently hotter than the air outside. Beak almost went into meltdown at this point, as she was still feeling unwell from the past few days and to make matters worse a bout of the Delhi belly had struck her (from where she picked it up we don’t know, as we’ve both eaten the exact something for our entire time here in India) Sensing her distress and a swinging right hook, the manager shows us another room with aircon. But he ashamedly tells us that it would be 700rupees more. Well, that was it. Beak is in full nuclear meltdown and Willy has to step in front of her to avoid a global catastrophe and murder! Negotiating down here is harder than up north we quickly find – they must make so much money during the peak season that they can be a little more pushy with their prices and hold out for good ones, something we discover time and time again when it comes to booking trips and taking tuk-tuks – still, Willy got the room price down to an acceptable cost and we’re in the cool breeze of a 20c air-conditioned room
We book a couple of excursions, one of which is something we have been looking forward to for months, washing some elephants from a local sanctuary in the river a short drive from Fort Cochi and boat ride around the rivers and lakes in a traditional South Indian house boat. Our hotel is within a 5 minute walk of pretty much all there is to see in Fort Cochi, so it’s straight out into the town to get our bearings, find some good restaurants and watering holes (still of the non-alcoholic variety) and shops to collect gifts for everyone back home. Fort Cochi doesn’t disappoint as Becks is in heaven with the endless amount of 'tut’ shops (beaks word for a shop that sells everything you didn’t want but always have wanted!), Willy is in heaven with the amount of good smelling places to eat and we both are happy to notice very few tourists and overall feel of relaxation and calmness we haven’t felt anywhere else yet. With a full stomach of Peener Butter Masala, a few garlic nans and some lime and sodas to wash it all down, we are back to our room for the 9 o’clock movie (3 main film channels in India and all show movies in English at 9pm) to crash out.
Awake early today, 5:30am as we have a driver to take us to the river where the Elephants are washed daily
In Zoos and safaris, you may only get within a few feet of one, but here, we are right on top of them, scrubbing the mud off their backs with half a coconut shell. This is going to sound really cheesy and very American, so apologies now, but this was one of the best things we have done in our whole time around the world and really very moving, to get up close and so personal with such an incredible, placid gentile creature. We had four Elephants to wash, the first that arrived at the river banks was a female adult, of around 15 years old, so just a mere teenager, but damn, she is big! Obviously she has been doing this for some time as glides down into the river and with a simple command from the worker, plonks herself into the water and rolls on her side causing an almighty tidal wave to welcome us to her bathroom! The other three to join us are two infants between 3 and 5 years old and still a little uncomfortable with the whole getting in a river and lying on their side routine as one kicks up a fuss, lets out an almighty roar and scares the hell out of us all stood patiently on the banks! The final Elephant is very young, a little over a year we’re told and as such is not yet allowed to be washed by the tourists, so the workers clean him
With a little more shopping down and discovering the best restaurant in India (no joke has won loads of awards) – it’s called Dal Roti, and does the best Chicken Kati rolls ever. The manager is fantastic and we end up coming here 4 nights on the trot, but not being too adventurous and we both order the same thing each time! – we head back for the hotel for another 9 o’clock movie and bed as again we are up early for a boat trip on the rivers around Fort Cochi.
Now this boat trip, this 7 hour boat trip; well, we’d love to talk to you for hours about it and tell you all just how fantastic, enlightening and spectacular it was, but really it was 6 hours and 45minutes too long and 500rupees too much!
It was soooo boring. We had expected to see wildlife, people, some great scenery and jungle. But all we were given was a few chaps making bleach, (yes bleach!) and a lady making rope from the husk of coconuts. (actually the lady making rope was pretty cool and very interesting so we purchased some of that) Very disappointing and huge contrast from the events of the day before
Now, we had planned on spending a few days up on Cherai beach taking in what sun there was between the showers and cloud, but we hit a small snag, something we mentioned a little while ago. On trying to book a room for a few nights, we were utterly gobsmacked to find that not a single one of the hotels, hostels, guesthouses or home stays would budge from their peak-season prices. To give you some scale on these prices. We are paying 500 rupee a night for our air conditioned room, which is around £7-8 for both of us – up on Cherai beach, we can’t find anything for less than £25 a night and thats without aircon. So they make so much money in the peak season that they can afford to be complete scrooges and charge astronomical rates. Well they’re astronomical on our budget anyhow. So with that out the window we admit defeat for the first time and stay put where we are.
This isn’t all bad though as Beak has a chance to purchase more goods and help to the fiscal statue of India’s economy and Willy the chance to put on some of that 4 stone he has lost since travelling by eating another 4 double Chicken Kati rolls!!