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India – Kerala – Fort Kochi – 1st-3rd April

Our train to Ernakalum left at 10am (ish) from Kannur and so after another wonderful breakfast we sadly said our goodbyes to the friendly hosts at Kannur Beach House and to the other travelers and guests that had accumulated during our stay. We thought about staying longer but also wanted to move onwards.

The doctor’s got the same train as us and accompanied us in the reserved seat section. They had only paid for a non-reserved seat and so upgraded at a measly cost of 43rs for the 3 of them! Crazy that you can travel so far for so little here in India, train and bus travel is such a cost effective way to get around. Our journey took around 6 hours to reach Ernakalum and we were ready to get off the packed train when it did. Simply trying to get off the train can be quite a hassle (these are the downsides of cheaper public transport). When we got outside of the station our rickshaw driver from Mother Tree Inn was waiting for us and it took nearly an hour for the underpowered machine to reach the guesthouse in Fort Kochi. We didn’t end up at Mother Tree though, instead he took us to The Good Kharma Inn which is the sister guesthouse of Mother Tree. We didn’t mind and the young owner Anu was pretty amusing with it. The room came to 700rs/night with breakfast included, bargain.

We didn’t have much time to see any of Fort Kochi that night but we walked along the fort area people watching what seemed like hundreds of locals there for the evening. We also ate at the highly recommended Dal Roti; ginger, lemon soda and 2 paneer thali’s and we knew we would be back here the next night. The food is really good, the layout is pretty rustic and the maitre’d quite a character.

For our first full day in Kochi and after a satisfying scrambled eggs, toast and jam we took a walk out to the Chinese fishing nets located on the water front. It was pretty rammed full of cruise liner tourists that we weren’t feeling the authenticity of the nets at all, they are there really for tourism now and try to get you to buy fish from them and to go up and take photographs etc. From here we took a rickshaw to The Dutch Palace also known as (Manchetterry Palace) which we timed very badly as it seemed that all the cruise ship tourists had been bused in. We could hardly move in there and it’s not a very big museum at all, so for us we wanted to get out as soon as we arrived and managed to stick it out for 15 minutes before making tracks. At the Synagogue we were also faced with problems, they wouldn’t let us take our cameras in, regardless of whether or not we would take photographs there was no way we would leave our beloved Leica anywhere we weren’t!

However we did find some very nice items at Crafters in Jew town in the form of antique printing blocks which we thought would work nicely as decorative art back home. We actually wanted to get a wooden carved piece and found a beautiful old window cover but to ship it home would have been nearly 3 times as much as it was to buy! So we settled for the intricate designs of the printing blocks and bought 4 pieces for 1600rs. We also ate at the cafe upstairs mainly because we were hungry and didn’t want to be shopping around for food in a tourist area.

When we left Jew Town after exploring some more of the back streets we took a rickshaw to The Indo-Portuguese Museum only to find out that it was closed on Mondays! So instead we went to a shop on Lilly Street a few doors down from Dal Roti and bargained for a few more household items in the form of 2 very bold and contemporary block patterned bed covers and a material wall hanging. We followed our shopping trip by enjoying tea at Tpot Cafe another colourful rustic joint. We were finding more things that we liked about Fort Kochi! We once again ate at Dal Roti with a German couple we’d met at breakfast, this was followed by cheap Kingfisher at one of the drinking bars.

One our third day we went on a tour, our first tour in India and for 650rs each we paid to visit the Kerelan backwaters on a traditional wicker style boat. We opted to see the backwaters from Kochi rather than Allepey as we’d heard it gets very busy down there and so we hoped for a tranquil tour. We had a very friendly young guide who was also quite assertive and informative when required. With two boatmen using the punting technique we ambled through bigger canals down to very narrow ones throughout the day. It was a very relaxing tour, all we had to do was sit and take it all in. Along the route we stopped off at spice plantations, rope making, coconut farm and a calcium cement factory. A real mixture of the type of trade that occurs in the backwaters of Kerela. We also enjoyed our first banana leaf style lunch; the traditional way to serve a thali.

By the end of the day we were back in Kochi enjoying our final evening there, we had booked a train for the next day to take us to Varkala leaving at 9am. We ended up having food in the bazaar where a cool cafe place sits on top of the tourist information office. Although the presentation of the cafe is very in keeping with the yellow antique effect seen all over town, the dosa didn’t live up to earlier one’s we’d tried. We followed this with more tea at the Tpot (when we got back from the tour we nipped into Tpot for a juice and some of their delicious cheescake!) before heading back and preparing for another move the next day.

(Leica M9, Summicron-M 50mm f2.0, 18mm f4, 90mm Tele-Elmarit f2.8, Olympus PEN, 17mm f2.8 processed in Lightroom 3)

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