Cochin, 30-31 August
The end of our visit to Sri Lanka couldn’t come at a better time: The only semi-decent restaurant near our hotel in Negombo is permanently shut. Faced with the prospect of another lentil curry from a dirty shack, and already dealing with some serious mac ‘n cheese withdrawal symptoms, it is here that one of us finally cracks up. Not even Pizza Hut can save us this time, we’re dining on crisps, chocolate and cream cheese on crackers. Goodbye Sri Lanka, India here we come!
Our flight to Cochin in the south of India takes less than an hour. You’re supposed to either love or hate India, and we’re off to a bad start because our travel cards don’t work. A credit card finally allows us to take out a small amount, enough to get us away from the airport at any rate.
We’re staying in the Fort area of Cochin, a pretty cool harbour town in the state of Kerala. Fort Cochin is a bit rough but also has a hipster vibe to it, not unlike Leith back home, rain included. September marks the end of the South West Monsoon, which manifests itself in short spells of torrential rain and it’s humid like a greenhouse.
Once we’re settled in we manage to stretch our funds enough to get in a few beers and a Tibetan meal with new friends from the hotel.
In the mornings we have our very first yoga lessons on the rooftop of our hotel. Sanoj, our instructor, is the friendliest guy you’ll ever meet. Whether it’s the stretches or the breathing exercises (or just his positive reinforcement), we feel fresh and ready to fight the good fight. “Now you are in harmony with your surroundings.”
We sure are, we even find an ATM that works, so it’s time for a bit of sightseeing. Not unlike a few places in Sri Lanka, Fort Cochin is known for its Dutch, Portuguese and British colonial architecture, and its Chinese style bamboo fishing nets at the beach.
The public ferry takes us to nearby Vypeen Island for the cost of only three rupees (about 4 pence). On nearby Bolgatty Island we visit the Dutch Palace, the former home of the commander of the Dutch East India Company, which has been turned into a fancy island resort and golf course. We come rocking up in our flip flops and sweat-stained clothes (mostly me) and are a little surprised security lets us through the gates just like that -white privilege, anyone?
Once inside, we stumble onto a filmset doing a piece on the upcoming Onam festival in Kerala with a famous Bollywood actress and actor, or so we’re told after we accidentally stroll right into the shot! At least the bartender gets a good laugh out of it when we tell him he may see us on the news tonight!
Late afternoon we walk to the nearest harbour to get a ferry back to Fort Cochin. There’s plenty of boats alright, but none of them are ferries. We ask around and end up on a boat we’re told is taking us to the Fort. Once the tickets are bought, the boat takes off, the party music turns on, then a guide comes up to the deck and suddenly it appears we signed up for a party/sightseeing cruise, which evidently will not be going to Fort Cochin. No panic though as India isn’t very regimented and the Indian people are very helpful: The crew go out of their way to drop us off safe and sound where we need to be at the end of the cruise. Lauren even has the pleasure of having our guide, a big guy with an even bigger gut, hold up his belly and give her a private dance show, while I’m away taking pictures in the front of the boat. Don’t get that on the ferry, do you? Lucky gal!
Next stop: Varkala