Kochi & Day Trips 1.16.17

A slice of daily life in India and my reflections:

Joost and I departed the Rainforest Retreat via tuk-tuk. We hoped to leave at 11:00am. For unknown reasons our tuk-tuk arrived around 1:00pm. We chatted and rested while waiting. It is rarely possible to rush others in India.

After a 45-minute ride, we arrived at the Madekiri bus station and boarded a government bus to Mangalore for a 3-hour ride. In Mangalore we took a tuk-tuk to a restaurant for a quick dinner. After eating we hailed another tuk-tuk for the 30-minute ride to the bus pick-up landmark listed on our tickets.

The bus tickets listed this pick-up landmark: “Opp Infosis Kottara.” There was no bus depot, office or mile marker to indicate our pick up location. Using mapping applications, we located the Kottara neighborhood and the Infosis building. Then, we showed our tuk-tuk driver the information and headed on our way.

It was dark when we were dropped off on a 4 lane road at the only business directly across from the Infosis office building, a mechanic shop. We showed the mechanic our ticket and did our best to ask where to wait. He pointed towards a local bus stop one block away and across the 4 lane road.

With effort, we crossed the busy street and walked to the bus stop.  At the stop we showed people our tickets and asked if long haul busses stopped here. We were told no. We spotted signs for a competing bus company’s office and walked one block further to ask their staff for help. The staff were unable to assist. Crossing the 4 lane road again, we returned to the mechanic’s shop. At the shop, we found the bus company phone line for passengers with questions and a neighboring shop owner placed the call asking where we should wait.

With our pick-up location confirmed through the phone call, we were directed back across the 4 lanes of traffic to the bus stop one block away. This was the same bus stop we first visited. The stop was located on the same side of the road as the Infosis building. In the U.S. a person might use the words “next to” when describing the location of the bus stop.

About 30 minutes after the departure time on our tickets, the bus pulled up! It was the only long-haul bus we saw pass the bus stop during our wait.

Traveling in India I learned everything will work out. It always did. Even when I had no idea how or why or when, in the end, the outcome was what I sought.

Traveling in India also taught me that details like locations, times, places, and names are all subject to change. A ticket or a person or a website is not the final authority. Most of the time I was flying blindly. By asking questions, paying attention to the cues in the situation, and being proactive I safely and happily traveled through India even when the process was rarely obvious or clear.

I am grateful for my many travel companions who laughed with me as we muddled through these situations. For the rest of this Year of Sarah Joy, and when I am home, few daily life tasks will be as entertaining, daunting, and uncertain as anything I accomplished in India.

 

Sitting with Joost on the overnight bus to Kochi we worked so hard to board.
Joost and I traveled for about 20 hours to ensure we were in a place with New Year’s Eve festivities. We arrived in Kochi, a city of 2.1 million people on the Arabian Sea, and quickly made friends with great people from our hostel. Our group toast to 2017!
Since the 1980s, the Kochi Carnival is celebrated in the last week of December. The origins of the festival date to Portuguese colonial times. The carnival is celebrated with sporting competitions, art, street vendors, and decorations. A main event is the Pappanji (Portuguese for ‘old man’) burning at midnight on January 1. For the 2017 new year a 37 foot effigy resembling Santa Claus was constructed in 5 days by more than 20 workers and students. Our group spotted a piece of construction machinery and climbed on top to get a better view. Some things are only possible in India!
The New Year’s Day parade is another main attraction during the Kochi Carnival. Along with Rachel, Kinga, Emma, and Joost, we walked the parade route until we found an open spot. Then, we waited 3 hours for the parade to begin. White bunting decorations hung throughout town to symbolize peace and tranquility.
A view of some of the parade participants. I do not think I have ever been in crowds this large. People were 5 to 10 deep along both sides of the 5km route for the entire route.
I met Nick and Naomi at the hostel in Kochi. They were on a short holiday in (dry) India and came prepared. In their luggage they brought prosecco, which after chilling in their room fridge, they shared with me. This small plastic cup of sparkling wine was a real treat.

DAY TRIP TO ALLEPEY AREA

Because I did not follow a schedule during my travel in India, when I reached my last week in this country there were still places I wanted to visit but I did not have enough time for overnight stays. To see as much as possible, I based myself in Kochi and enjoyed day trips. The first day trip was to experience an area known as the Kerela backwaters located near the town of Allepey. It was about 90 minutes one way to reach our destination. Once in Allepey, we traveled via large boat through the main waterways. This boat was propelled and steered by two gondoliers.
Using coconut fiber to make coir is one of the cottage industries in this region. Coir is used in mats and rugs. Burning shells yields a fine powder used for industrial cleaning and as an additive to cement.
In the afternoon portion of the tour, our group moved from the larger boat to smaller gondolas enabling access to even smaller and more gorgeous water ways.
Practicing my camera skills photographing the vegetation.
I learned nutmeg grows in a shell with a red husk around the nut. Our gondolier talking on his cell phone and wearing a common bottom for men in southern India called lungi.

DAY TRIP TO MUNNAR

My second day trip from Kochi was a 4-hour, one way journey to Munnar. Munnar is another hill station. It is known for fertile land conditions ideal for tea and spices. Our day trip began with a visit to Kerala Farm.
Sites from the farm grounds.
Some of the plants we saw included cardamom, pineapple, turmeric, ginger, and coco beans. The scents were fantastic.
At the end of the tour we smelled perfumes and oils made from the farm’s plants and herbs. Kerala Farm also sells spices and ointments.
The green tea buses are lush blankets covering the earth. The air here was also fresh and crisp.

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A quick stop at the Mattupetty Dam in Munnar to see the man-made lagoon.

KOCHI TOWN

With more new friends from the hostel, we walked about 3km from Kochi to Jew Town, a small community considered to be the first place in India where Jews settled. We arrived at the Paradesi Synagoge, one of seven in the area but the only one still in use, during a time of day when tours were not available.
On the walk to Jew Town we passed many art galleries showing both professional works and student works of art. The galleries were open as part of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale event. Art shows and art museums are experiences I enjoy in Minneapolis. Having the opportunity to spend time in a similar environment felt special.
Street art in Kochi. Indeed, I am lucky.
I have traveled in many tuk-tuks and rickshaws and this ride may have been the best. The driver had a complete and loud sound system. He also took seats from a car, installed them in his rickshaw, and re-upholsterd the seats to match the roof. The back seat reclined and had an arm rest!

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