Black gungy tar-like boot polish flavour medicine

Trip Start Nov 08, 2003
Trip End Oct 22, 2004

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Flag of India  ,
Friday, November 14, 2003


Woke at 10am to the sight of Mumbai in full manic swing.

Legged it down to our Wacky-Racer at 10.20am and put the peddle to the metal, flight to Trivandrum leaves at 11.40am.

First set of traffic lights and a fingerless beggar was tapping me (if that's possible - cruel) on the shoulder through the window. Don't acknowledge him, GREEN, GREEN, GREEN I pleaded at the lights. RED, RED, RED for what seemed 5 minutes.

Screeched up to Mumbai Airport at 10.40am, here we go again, but no, an oasis of calm, there was us, dark shades, bulletproof jackets and stun guns to the ready and nothing, typical.

What's going on . . . boarded the plane on time to the soothing sounds of 'Save all your kisses', followed by 'Tie a yellow ribbon' and building to a crescendo of 'My Way'. Sat down, back row as usual (riff-raff), small carton of apple juice and a boiled sweet for popping lugholes. This was all too refined, harking back to the good ol' days of air travel.

Took off on time, and were presented with the obligatory veggie Indian meal (No. 3 and counting, eat yer heart out Jack). Few adventurous backpacking types on board - and us.

Landed in Trivandrum on time and coasted through customs - which was nice. Met by a chatty chap called Raju, who gave us a potted history of Kerala en route. Covered the 13 miles to Manaltheeram Ayurveda resort in a new course record of 15 minutes.

The resort is (cliché coming) picture-postcard perfect. Accommodation is round brick-built bungalows with thatched roofs, not too dissimilar to Middle Earth Hobbit-land. You overlook the Arabian Sea from an elevated position over a small sheltered beach surrounded by rocky headlands. The rooms are really clean, with hugemongous double bed and romantic blood-splattered mossie net, and an adjoining bathroom with powerful shower.

Outside is a brick-built table for 2, and a string-built hammock for most definitely 1 (Soph's already taken a cartoon-style tumble). All of this is sheltered by palm trees and surrounded by gazillions of plants in terracotta pots - words cannot picture it (especially my words).

Footnote: Sorry about 2 paras above, Soph told me to be a bit nicer.

Just when we were ready to properly chiiiiiill, we were summoned to meet the resort doctor and his wife. After being shown into his office, we were given questionnaires to fill in (containing some v. personal questions - blimming cheek). Blood pressures were taken and pulses were checked for any signs of life.

After the Doctor gave us the history of Ayurveda 120BC to present day, they gave us their diagnoses. I was a Pitha Vatha and Soph was a Vatha Kapha. Our hearts sank, this sounded serious, it was, it would cost us €720 for an 8 day Rejuvenation Therapy course, there goes our £30 a day budget down the tubes, literally.

Just when we dreaming of a Chicken Vindaloo, 14 Kingfisher beers and 89 poppadoms, we were rudely awakened . . . there was a catch. We'd been at the resort 1 hour and the course had to start immediately (7-night stay, 8-day course, do the sums).

We were frogmatched blindfolded (sorry, only joking) to adjoining rooms in Cell Block H and then . . . (the following is not suitable for minors) stripped naked as the day we were born, yep, you heard right.

Once over the initial please-ground-swallow-me-up embarrassment, the next 2 hours were probably the best 2 hours of our lives apart from our wedding day (Soph told me to write that as well, funny enough).

Beginning with an upper body massage on a small stool, followed by a foot massage, but not the foot massage you're thinking of, oh no, while we were spreadeagled on the floor, the masseur hung from a rope above us and disco-danced our bodies into a pulp. Then over to the mortuary slab for another going over, this time with his mate, for a spot of synchronised massaging (Olympic Sport 2012), where no crevice had a place to hide, and no digit remained uncracked.

The end you may think, pah, the piece-de-resistance was nigh.

Remaining on the slab, with enough oil on us to cover a body-building contest , a terracotta pot appeared above our heads with a hole in the bottom filled to the brim with warm oil. For the next 15 minutes this was swayed gently over our foreheads and then drizzled continuously, heaven.

Semi-conscious, we floated out of our cells and landed on the Chill-out verandah, just about remembering to get dressed in our natty green cotton dressing gowns, me with a pile of brown powder on my head, Soph with a fetching tea-towel tied into a turban.

After some coconut juice, the Doctor gave us a goodie-bag (but no medal). Inside was:

Our sessions for the week, which includes a 2-hour massage every day, 3 head-oil thingumbyjigs, 3 steam baths and 2 facials (er, see the Bears play the other day, helluva game);

A big bottle of thick black gungy tar-like medicine to be taken after meals (I think it's boot polish flavour);

A menu sheet of the only foods we can eat in which Soph can't eat any fried foods (ooh ooh ha ha - to be read in a Dr Evil-like fashion), there's even a dish called gruel - no kidding;

And finally the rules. The rules are - there are no rules . . . we wish.

No meat, fish, chicken, alchohol or fried food (only for Soph, ooh ooh ha . . . sorry done that already). Not a Meat Phall in sight, not a drop of Cobra, just aubergine curries and herbal water. That in-flight food was a horrible premonition.

Saying this, we needed this week, to get all the toxins (crap) out of our bodies which we've stored up over the years, and especially the last week. We're gladly giving up meat and alchohol this week, the treatments will more than make up for that.

What a first couple of days, only 350 more to go.

Footnote 1: Soph would like to point out that she was in fact massaged by 2 girls. Oo-er missus.

Footnote 2: Future travelogues will probably be sent one per resort, Internet Cafe permitting. Sorry to all my literary fans out there who've, no doubt, been hooked on my bulletins from the frontline. You'll have to start watching Eastenders again. Ciao for now.
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