Our Father, who art in Kovalam

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

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Sunday, November 30, 2003


Hi there Westerners, here's the latest report from the East.

Roundup of the our stay at Bethsaida Hermitage, Kovalam:

Generally we found Bethsaida a nicer experience, friendlier staff (piccie attached of our favourite twosome), better bungalow, nicer food & restaurant and Kingfisher (are we obsessed with beer?)

One of the highlights was actually meeting the man behind Bethsaida, Father Benardine.

We were having dinner one evening, on practically a cliff edge, overlooking the bay with beyond that hundreds of lights from fishing boats on the horizon and zillions of stars in the sky, v. romantic.

Davidson, luvverly cheeky fella, came over and said that they had some dignitaries staying overnight, most notably the local minister of education who was inspecting the orphanage (and subsequently gave it a gold star or the like).

At about 8pm some drums sounded in the distance which signalled their arrival. I then took my elbows off the table and held my knife and fork correctly while Soph slapped on the lippy.

Out of the darkness came a group of around 6 people, mostly dressed in crisp white shirts and male skirt-like sarongs. They swept by us, and observed us, as if we were tropical fish.

Bringing up the rear was an old dude with slicked-back grey hair and silver-rimmed specs, in natty attire of ankle length brown monk-like tunic, big black silver buckled belt and large hood, which he no doubt put over his head whenever he felt like rapping his sermon to the congregation. It was the Father.

He glided over to our table and smiled. There was a calming aura about him like a Reddy-Brek glow. We sat there motionless awaiting a sign.

"God Bless You" he said to each of us in turn, in a velvety Wogan-esque voice (we later found out that Keralans are Christians).

Now I'm no bible-basher, but two strange occurrences then transpired.

A bolt of light hit us both from what seemed like the sky - a tractor beam of salvation from Heaven . . .

. . . we then felt a bit deflated when we noticed the lighthouse around the corner.

Then within twenty seconds I sneezed. Weird. The Father could actually see into the future aswell! I held back from asking him the 1-2-3 at the 2.30 Calcutta the next day.

The next morning we were having breakfast and again they skirted by us, and once again Father blessed us (and once again I held back from asking him the 1-2-3 at the 2.30 Calcutta.)

That week we spent most of our time on the beach, not venturing out from the resort perimetre, still treating our first two weeks as chill-time before embarking on some trips in week 3.

The beach clientele were mostly made up of female Germans, Swiss & Austrians. The latter two obviously making up for the fact they live in land-locked countries I cleverly summised?!?

We were still waiting to hear a British voice since we arrived in India. Until one day we were put out of our misery/happiness.

There they were.

The species Greatus Brittanicus in all their pomp and glory, preening themselves on the sand.

Steve, as he will be known by, was a typical alpha-male. Short cropped hair (I can talk), tattoo on flacid bicep, perfectly nurtured beer-belly protruding over bright blue football shorts (probably Southend United).

Tracey, as she will be known by, was the archetypal little blond. Perfectly straight peroxide follicles tied back with a New Look hair clip. Diet by Kate Moss. Black bikini fresh from the pages of Next Catalogue. High pitch mating-call of "Steeeeeeeeeeve, come 'ere".

They hadn't let us down.

There was 1 hawker to every tourist on our little beach. With a few days of sunbathing under our rubber rings they knew us by now and realised that they weren't going to get any change out of us - literally. Not through being tight it must be said, but due to the fact that we already needed the help of 5 people to zip up our rucsacs as it was (I did tell Soph she didn't need 4 pairs of stilletoes where we were going.)

Although we did help the local beach economy by being the only ones who would buy freshly sliced pineapple from our very own nice-little-old-lady each day (see pic of Soph without sunblock).

However, the hawkers showed Steve and Tracey no mercy, swooping upon them every 5 minutes, just in case they changed their minds about buying a sarong since their last sales pitch. Each time, Steve batted them off with his bear-like hands, protecting the female of the species. If only David Attenborough was there. A BAFTA beckoned, this was the animal kingdom at it's glorious best.

Our 4 nights at Bethsaida were nearly over and we were wishing we had stayed 7. Especially when you read about our next stop from where I'm writing this, but that's another semi-entertaining story.

Our final night we said our goodbyes to Davidson who was off up to Alleppy at the crack of dawn the following morning. He was going for a driving exam and interview for a job in Dubai as a chauffeur which would mean him living there for 3 years, leaving his wife and kiddie back in Kerala. Some guys have all the luck. (Following the last sentence I was struck by a glancing blow, can't see why?).

The next morning we packed. The cab was ordered for 11am which would take us 200km up the NH-47 coastal road to Alleppy.

The drive would take 3 and a half hours, which involved: going through about 3 bustling towns including Kollam where we were stuck in a mini traffic jam and observed by the locals through the car windows; playing chicken with oncoming vehicles in the middle of the road; and some crazy overtaking manoeuvres around blind bends that Schumacher wouldn't even consider. But overall the trip went pretty quickly as it was comparable to a 3 and half hour visit to Alton Towers, with just as many twists, dips and black-holes.

The last 400m of the journey had to be made by foot along a river bank, which led to Keraleeyam Backwater Resort.

On first impressions it didn't look much until we turned a corner into the resort and the whole panorama changed. The main building to the resort looked 100 years old but was in superb nick, made from solid looking dark teak wood. The view was peaceful as well as stunning. A great expanse of calm water flanked by palm trees, with all sorts of craft bobbing along, from canoes to pleasure boats to houseboats. Along with loads of wildlife and birds whose occassional squawks would puncture the serenity.

Our accommodation was a semi-detached arrangement built with the same sturdy looking wood of the main building. We entered the room and were a bit worried by the lack of mossie-net being that the backwaters are a mosquitoe's favourite holiday haunt aswell. The staff informed us that we wouldn't need one as the rooms were airtight. We'd have more chance of dying from asphyxia than malaria.

Once again, everything seemed perfect.

Once again, the needle would swing off the turntable.

All shall be revealed in our next despatch from the sub-continent.

Don't work too hard (obviously that doesn't apply to Alastair).

Gazwinder & Sophani xx
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