Happy Days (and Nights)

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

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Friday, November 28, 2003


Roundup of the first week at Manaltheeram, Kovalam:

Overall, a pretty typical first week abroad, with ups and downs.

Ups being:
· Picture-postcard setting.
· Best ever massages.
· Pulses dropping from 74bpm to 56bpm in the space of a week, meant we'd really chilled out and forgotten about the rat-race.
· Good food, albeit veggie. Although, after feeling a bit weak one day, we did fall off the veggie-wagon and had a bowl of chicken noodles behind closed doors! At one point we were hallucinating at dinner, cheese turned into chicken, aubergine into meat and lime soda into Kingfisher.
· An overall feeling of wellbeing at the end of the week, and waking to a clear head each morning.
· Good Internet access!
· Taking the mick out of some of the fellow 'patients' who would come down to dinner in their green mentalist gowns straight from treatment. I ask you, surely it takes 5 mins to change into civvies?
· Being the only Brits in the whole resort, which made a change. Germans everywhere, I had to physically hold myself back from saying "You bombed our khasi" in a scouse accent.

Downs being:
· Weather a bit ropy for a couple of days, as it's still a bit close to the end of the monsoon season. Especially the day we went to the beach and the storm clouds gathered. It then honked down which was a bit surreal as we huddled under the parasol for 20 mins and all the colours of the umbrella started to run and made a lovely multi-coloured waterfall.
· The resort turned into a bit of a money-grabbing machine when we checked out. We did yoga one day, of which I took 3 days to get over, and there were no charges mentioned anywhere until we looked at the final bill and were charged £13 for 1 hours beginners yoga. After spending £500 on treatments you would have thought yoga was complementary. It seems you have to agree a price before you do anything in India. The only thing free was hot water & lemon, so generous.
· Lack of sleep, the cottages were, if anything, too close to the sea and throughout the night there was the deafening sound of the waves crashing against the rocks every 10 seconds combined with the loud fan on full blast. This led to Soph saying she hated the night, in the style of a horror film.


At about 11.30am we left Manatheeram for Bethsaida Hermitage in the back of the resorts' coach, for what we thought was going to be a half-hour drive up the coast. It turned out to be a 5 minute dash around the corner to the next beach along. We probably could have walked along the beach in 5 mins!

We pulled up outside the gates, and up to our left we could see the orphanage where most of the proceeds of the stay would be going. Little boys ran up to the fence to get a peek at the new arrivals. Leo, the receptionist, came out to greet us and seemed like a really nice bloke (shakes head in bewilderment at how everyone is sooo nice), and with a porter, led us, carrying our bags, down a winding path which led to the bungalows and the sea.

Cue peaceful background music, birds chirping, children laughing, waves rolling onto shoreline, you know the sort of thing.

The bungalow looked inviting, red and orange swags & tails draped over and above the bed. The bare minimum of lighting gave it a cosy feel. An ensuite open-air bathroom was nice and spacious (see piccie) where we could shower under the stars. Bamboo chairs were outside looking over an impressive dining pavillion and beyond that, the Arabian Sea with nothing for miles. Davidson (as in Harley he told us), the restaurant manager, came to say hello (shakes head again with dumb grin on face, an even nicer bloke) and took our dinner order which would be made with fresh ingredients that evening. And most importantly we had just downed our first Kingfishers.

Everything seemed so perfect.

Peaceful background music stops abruptly . . . needle sweeps off record with a screetch.

What's that in the mossie net?
Just a small tear, nothing to worry about surely.

No mosquito-repelling coils?
A mere oversight.

Netting seemed a bit slack around the edge of the bed?
Never mind, we'll have a nice breeze.

Wrong . . .

. . . The Night Beelzebub Created.

After enjoying a day frazzling on the beach, and a dinner of Butter Chicken and Anti-Malarial tablets for dessert, we settled into a deep slumber at about 11pm with just a few tiny midges flitting around - no problem.

Midnight, awoken by the sound of small buzzing. With no specs at hand, and the light still on, I squinted at the face of my watch and could just make out 12.02. Disorientated and thinking the electric light was sunlight I woke Soph to tell her we had slept in.

Soph wakes up, perfect eyesight, she immediately spies them. Fifteen juicy blood-suckers perched above us, waiting for their cue from squadron leader to divebomb.

In a flash, we periscoped down, and slid under our sheets.

We were prisoners in our own bed.

For hours on end we kept hidden, not letting one square inch of freshly burnt skin peek out from beneath our white fortress (bit melodramatic). Not wanting to sleep, it was a scene from 'Invasion of the Body-Snatchers'. Soph perspired, I sweated buckets.

Soph made a tiny triangular airhole by her nose, I decided to do the same but was immediately attacked by a flanking pincer movement Rommel would have been proud of.

Drifting off to sleep a couple of times I was awoken first time by the realisation my foot had poked out the bottom and with only 3 bites, I think I got off lightly. Second time I awoke to find a tiny little bedmate had snuk in (not Soph) for a cuddle/blood-transfusion. Reactions of a praying mantis kicked in and I took him out with a karate-chopping right-hander with added Tarantino-esque sound effects, splatting the little bleeder (getit) like a paintball onto our clean white sheet.


6.30am and sunrise eventually reared it's lovely head.

We made a dash for it a la Starsky & Hutch, dressed in the blink of an eye, and went down to breakfast in our Zombie fancy-dress complete with uncanny make-up.

Little did we know that the Annual Conference of International Mosquitoes 2003 (ACIM 03) was held in our bed last night.

After breakfast we decided to confront Leo, but before we got to reception Davidson pulled up on his Harley Bicycle.

"Have a good sleep?" he said happily.

"Hold me back Soph" I said crappily.

To cut a long (entertaining?) story short, Davidson performed miracles, switching us from Bugalow D (for Devil I think) to Bungalow B (for Babylon). It smelt a lot cleaner, there was more light and within an hour a brand-spanking new mossie net had been installed and tucked into our mattress.

That evening 2 guys came around the bungalow just before sunset (sunrise for mossies) with what looked like a wok with smouldering coals in, they then sprinkled some magic dust onto them and fumigated our room. We had left the bungalow in darkness with no mossie-attracting lights on, 3 mosquito coils were burning and all doorways & windows were airtight.

We dined that night on mussels, prawns, Kerala chicken, muttar paneer & fluffy rice washed down with a couple of Kingfishers, still a bit uneasy with a sense of paranoia.

We came back to the bungalow that night, didn't turn on any lights, bumped around a bit with the torch and limbo-danced into bed under the netting.

All seemed quiet.

We read a little under torch-light. Still quiet.

And finally drifted off to sleep to a nightime cricket chorus.

Our soundest sleep since we arrived in India. Nighttime in India had turned from Indiaaarrrrggghhhh to Indiaaaaahhhhhh. Soph feared the night no longer.


Woke that morning at 8am, fresh as daisies and went down to our complementary breakfast of eggs, toast, fresh fruit and tea.

Went for a stroll along the beach before any hawkers could attack. Hadn't realised the snobby resort Surya Samudra was next door. Had a stroll around their grounds. Lots of nice stone statues and snazzy teak-built bungalows with even snazzier-sounding names: The Octagon, Cinnamon Lodge, Banyan Tree Lodge. Found the infinity (make sloany apostrophe gesture with fingers when reading this word) pool with a few flush/flash bodies sunning themselves. With a price of £12 for non-residents to use the pool we gave it a miss, instead settling for our own infinity pool (The Arabian Sea), we know where our roots are, we don't mind a bit of sand between our tootsies.

Had a morning on the beach then went back to the pavillion for Kingfishers & pineapple. Borrowed The Hindu Times from Davidson.

Soph spotted it first but, she handed me the back page struggling to keep a straight face.

I hadn't heard anything about the Rugby World Cup semi-final yet.

It read: Fabien Galthie has played his last game for France . . . hang on a minute . . . injury will cause him to miss the Third-Place play-off with . . . yyyyyyyyyeeeeeesssssssssss . . . New Zealand. England had beaten France 24-7 in the semi-final of the Rugby World Cup. 5 Austrian ladies behind me looked over puzzled muttering 'Was is das?' as I let out a squeel of ecstacy and whales 40 miles out at sea stopped in their tracks.

After reading on the Internet how they squeeked past Wales and were outscored 3 tries to 1, I feared the worst against the in-form French. The boys did me proud (wipes imaginary tear from cheek), how could I have doubted them?

Joan of Arc, Jean-Paul Gaulthier, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Jacques Cousteau, Vanessa Paradis, Café au Lait, Croissants, David Ginola, Stripey Tops, Berets, Gerard Depardieu . . . your boys took one helllllluvabeating. There, got that off my lobster chest.

Immediately I thought, where are we going to be for the final? - Alleppy. Is it a big town? English/Ozzie bar? Internet access? My mind was spinning.

If they win the final. Australia here we come.

Union Jack shorts on 24/7, doing the Lambeth Walk along Bondi Beach, British Bulldog tattoo on *arm/back/calf.

(*please delete as inappropriate).

If they lose the final, 1-day course in mastering Ozzie accent & phrases here we come . . . me old cobber, bruce, throw another shrimp on the barbie.

After another celebratory tipple, we headed back to the beach, me with a smug grin on my face, Soph with an is-it-really-that-important look on hers.

Settled down on the sand in a state of orgasmic nirvana, even giving the hawkers 10 minutes to show us their wares (but not that orgasmic to actually buy anything).

Watched the sun go down, virtually alone on our private beach, nicely crispy after a scorching day.

Nearly the end of the perfect day.

Happy Days* (and Nights).

*Copyright Phil Tufnell.

Gaz & Soph xx
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