I left Goa on the 19h30 train to Kochi (formerly Cochin) in Kerala. Which left the station at 22h00. I can’t complain: some fellow Brits had been waiting since 17h00 for the “Express” train to the same place and had just heard that their train would arrive at 1.30am when I left. Train times are mainly aspirational in India.
I slept as much as I was able and soon found myself in Kochi: a pretty town with an old, Dutch fort at its centre. Within 5 minutes of my arrival my Airbnb hosts had arranged my schedule for the next 24 hours. Walk, dinner, sleep, small boat, big boat, traditional lunch then Kathakali (all will be explained in due course). I ceded all power over my destiny to them and went for a snooze.
A pre-7am knock on my door told me both morning and breakfast had arrived. I tried, with limited success, to fit enough food for 5 people into the stomach of one (the anguished look when I tried to stop eating told me leaving off when I was full was simply not an option).
I waddled out of the house onto a minibus bound for the backwaters where we would take to traditional canoes.
On arrival we were split into two groups: one in canoes, one in a larger vessel (my group) and we would switch after lunch.
The larger boat, quaint though it was, didn’t afford us views of anything spectacular so eyes (all except mine) were turned to the prospect of lunch.
And there was no anticlimax. We were served a traditional meal consisting of rice, coconut something, bean something, shambhar, dhal and something else (they did tell us but we were too busy eating to care). It was all served on a banana leaf: saves on washing up and is environmentally responsible!
Once we had eaten our fill, we were taken for a stroll through the nearby wood during which our guide pointed out herbs and spices in their pre-packaged formats. We saw pepper vines, a cinnamon tree (the cinnamon powder that we know and love comes from the aromatic bark), curry trees and a clove tree, amongst a host of others.
Afloat once more, this time in small wooden canoes, we glided (extremely slowly – perhaps the guide had over-eaten too?) along an narrow canal and then back across the main river to where our van awaited.
Would I do the excursion again? I’d wait for Alleppey, to be honest. You’ll see why in the next post.
Kathakali is a popular form of Indian theatre in which actors are heavily made-up and communicate through hand signals, body language and facial expressions (with amazing eye movements).
The audience was given a one-pager to explain the plot line and the play subsequently began. The short version of the story is that a nobleman tried to be less than noble with a female servant and got his comeuppance. I was enthralled and thoroughly enjoyed every moment of the play.
I returned, edified, to my Airbnb to find a fish feast awaited me. It may not look it, but these were, unequivocally, the best two fish dishes of my adult life. I’m getting a little nostalgic just thinking of them!
My time in Kochi was brief yet enjoyable. I left for Alleppey, in the south of Kerala, the next morning. On a bus with no rear door.