It took us two days to get from Himachal Pradesh at the top of India down to Kerala at the bottom. The trip was uneventful, apart from the sight of Kanvarias (pilgrims) walking into Delhi carrying water that they had scooped up from the river Ganges, which lies over 130 miles (210 kilometers) from the city at its closest point. They were part of the annual Kanwar Yatra pilgrimage for devotees of the Hindu God Shiva.
Some of the pilgrims were showing the signs of wear from their long journey, with bandaged legs and feet. Our journey was considerably less arduous. Following our bus ride down from McLeod Gang, we stopped over in Delhi for one night, and caught a morning flight to Kochi. By the afternoon, we had a new view from the terrace.
We were staying in a part of Kochi called Kaloor, which isn’t very scenic, and with the new metro line being built nearby the traffic was fairly hectic too. Thankfully, the Thomas Inn homestay was tucked away from that, so it always felt peaceful; the wifi was good; and Mrs Thomas’ Keralan breakfasts was tasty and filling.
Within Kaloor there is an international cricket stadium. It was shut, but a friendly security guard let us in for 5 minutes, when we explained that we lived close by to the Headingley in Yorkshire. We had found that Indians are more likely to have heard of Headingley cricket ground than Leeds (no-one has heard of Leeds).
Here is the ground,
and some heroes from Keralan cricketing history (if anyone can put names to the faces we would be grateful).
On the way back we stopped off at St Antony’s Shrine, which because it was a Tuesday was thronged with people singing beautiful Keralan hymns as part of the Catholic ceremony. Kochi is full of Christian (mostly Catholic) churches, and many of the locals have Christian names. Basically, if you run out of things to say about cricket, you can start talking about saints.
Next day we took a Rs60 auto-rickshaw (the local phrase for tuk-tuk – ‘auto’ for short) to the ferry port. From there we could catch a Rs4 ferry to Fort Kochi, where the influence of the Portuguese, Jewish, Dutch and English was evident in the landmarks and architecture. We just couldn’t believe that we were on a ferry ride that cost four pence!
On the way we saw an Indian aircraft carrier.
We turned left at the exit of the ferry station and walked up to where we could see the famous Chinese fishing nets. Unfortunately, their operation is done only for show, as the catch is too small to be commercially viable. The dirtiness of the area around them doesn’t help to sell the scene.
However, around the corner we found this team of volunteers helping to clean up the beach, which must be commended and highlighted. The beauty of India does not deserve to be wrapped in refuse.
The ice cream auto rickshaw was on the move.
Outside the locked the Dutch Cemetery, an auto driver was trying to convince us that we needed a tour of the area in his Ferrari (an auto-rickshaw with a Ferrari sticker on it). Just walking around isn’t good for business.
We persisted, and turned our attention to the flora in the area, which was more rewarding.
A few days later we returned on the 4 pence ferry, and we were lucky enough to catch this heron majestically perched on some floating foliage.
This time, we turned left at the exit of the ferry station and walked down into Mattancherry, which is a trading area for spices.
The traders and wholesalers were busy balancing lorry loads onto carts, and tanker loads onto lorries, which as mentioned in previous posts is standard practice in India.
Worked into this commercial scene, amidst the Dutch, Portuguese and English architecture, were some beautifully rendered examples of street art.
We captured one of the artists taking a break,
and soon after turned into a shop, which was in fact a treasure trove of articfacts from antiquity gathered from houses, churches and palaces of the area; and all for sale, though some were designated ‘not for export’ by order of the Indian Government.
Having realized that in spite of our curiosity we were unlikely to buy (no room in the rucksack for a 10 foot high bronze statue), the sales assistant led us through to the adjoining restaurant, where we had their delicious signature dish of ginger prawns overlooking Kochi harbour.
Then it was time to head off.
We stopped off for some chewing gum at a shop where we were treated to this smiling face, and then had to shell out another 4 pence each for the ferry home.
That evening Nikki had a mobile phone crisis – the touchscreen had stopped working. Luckily Kochi has a place called Penta Menaka, which is a multistory complex devoted to the mobile phone. This immense automaton marked the entrance.
Within we found a shop, which was able to source and fit the part that evening, but at a price that made us realise just how great a proportion of their incomes Indian people spend on mobile phones.
We spent most of the next morning struggling to find the Folklore Museum, which isn’t particularly close to anywhere. Once in, Nikki was able to take this shot of a carved Jesus with her newly fixed phone. The feeling of joy derived from the phone’s rejuvenation was enhanced by a playful wooden St Antony photo-bombing the shot.