Southern India

Trip Start Nov 18, 2002
Trip End Ongoing

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Monday, February 6, 2006

Tuesday 7th February 2006

So here we are back on the road again. Not bad after our little 9 week jolly through France and Spain which ended on 6th Dec 2005.
We had planned to be away in India before Christmas but alas that was not meant to be.
So our starting point this time is Gatwick Airport, unlike other times when it has been the dreaded Heathrow airport run. Flying with Emirates we took the train to Gatwick at a sensible hour of 9.30am.
Emirates came up trumps again with exit seats for the both of us. We even bumped into some friends who were flying out to Dubai on the same flight. They were spending a company bonus week in "shopping Ville" as Dubai has become and we were flying onto a more challenging country but still they were traveling Business Class and we were in pigeon class all but with leg room.

The flight was extremely quiet and we ended up moving to a whole compartment that was completely empty. We helped ourselves to 4 seats each and proceeded to enjoy the 7 and a half hour flight to Dubai.
We were stuffed with food and watched an endless list of films then tried walking it off in Dubai airport where we had a 4 hour wait for our connecting flight to Chochi, India.
Wondering around the airport we came across the "Emirates Transit Lounge." We thought we would give it a go since we were transit passengers. We showed our onward flight tickets and "hey presto" we were given our first curry meal with all the fresh fruits you could wish for and juices too. As if we hadn't eaten enough on the plane.

So the next flight was rather quiet too and full of Indians, funny that. We arrived at about 9.30am local time which was 4.30am our UK time!
Having been to Sri Lanka in 2002 we had had a taster of the constant hassles and countless "no thank you" we would say and still the seller, tout, or general annoying person would not listen, and so our guard was up and we felt we were ready for the on slaught. We donned our reflective sunglasses (to avoid eye contact) and proceeded through immigration and then customs and then INDIA.
Now it has to be said here that in Colombo airport in Sri Lanka we were besieged by at least 30 hasslers all wanting to be our guide, taxi driver, hotel booker you name it they wanted to be it. Well, we went through expecting the same and 'blow us down with a feather' we didn't get one person! We couldn't believe it. One bloke actually passed us and said 'taxi' but didn't wait for our answer.

There were literally hundreds of people outside waiting for relatives, friends, parcels, crates of chickens who knows? Our first priority was to get to an ATM for some Rupees. This we found across a dusty road in the soaring heat. I waited outside being the usual 'bag lady' while Martin went into an air conditioned room for cash.
Again no one hassled me. Outside I watched the comings and going of ordinary Indian folk. Children holding hands with their parents passed me by waving and smiling.
Martin returned with some cash and then it was up to us to hassle for a taxi!

This we found easy enough and we were soon on our way with all the other Ambassador cars (in every sort of condition from brand new to on borrowed time) on our way to an area called Fort Chochi. This journey took over an hour to do approx 40 kms. Every driver lives on their horn, beeping for what appears to be 'get out of my way even though I cannot over take you because there is a huge on coming bus in our way' or 'get over bicycle as I'm bigger than you' seems to be a common reason to beep. It soon gets on your nerves especially when you are tired as we were.

Once in Fort Chochi we checked into a hotel and had a much deserved hot shower. The temperature was rising outside and hitting 30 degrees already. Out came the little travel kettle and we (did the English thing and) made a cup of tea. Yes how sad are we??? But it is one of our (well Martin would insist it's my luxury but I don't hear him ever saying no to a cup of coffee)! Luxuries that has been good to carry around especially if someone does it for you!!!!
Sitting out under the veranda of our new abode we contemplated Indian life. We chatted with other fellow travelers and once re-cooperated we hit the town.

The sun was very hot as we meandered around the town. Groups of goats hung around shady street corners. The locals said hello and smiled. It felt such a friendly kind of place that we were still waiting for what we were used to in Sri Lanka, hassle.
This town is well known for its fishing. The fishermen have an ingenious way of catching fish by way of a counter-balanced arm with a net at one end and a pile of rocks hanging from old rope at the other. A Chinese fishing net they call it. See photo. If the balance is right one or two men can easily haul the net up. If not (as we saw) eight blokes also hang from the ropes to haul in their catch some directly under the rocks!. Alternatively, another approach is to have too many rocks and have two blokes walk out to the end of this precarious arrangement to shove the net back in the water. These guys are very good at catching the odd tourist taking photos of them and use this to their advantage as we witnessed them inviting the unsuspecting tourist to have a go with them. 'Yes' thinks the tourist this will look good in the album at home..........then the poor guy is encouraged to give them some rupees before he leaves. We loved watching that. The thing is these poor fishermen make more money pretending to catch fish and having photos taken of them than actually catching them. Depending on the season that is. It's a win win situation though as the tourists is doing something they have never done before and the fishermen is able to supplement their income.

The next few days was spent in this town soaking up the peaceful hot dusty atmosphere. We took the local boat over to the main land (as Fort Chochi is actually on an island joined by to the mainland by 2 bridges or local cheap boat) one evening as we had heard there was a temple festival taking place. It was actually the last day of the 8 day 'Shiva Festival'
Here we were treated to many different types of Indian dancing. Brightly coloured costumes and make up with all sorts of music. Then to top it all there was a procession of 15 elephants all wearing traditional head gear. It was an incredible sight to witness and we felt privileged to share this important Hindu event with literally hundreds probably thousands of Indian families.

Jet lag certainly took it toll on us in our first few days. Both our sleep patterns were very confused. We were pleased to have cable TV for those first few wakeful nights. Martin even took to being up and dressed by 6am and out helping the fishermen!! No that is not a typing error I did type 6am! He would leave me in bed fast asleep. Usually it's the other way round as all our good friends know!
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ug_cal on

Fort Chochi
Hi, i guess it should be Fort Kochi or Cochin (the old name). never Fort Chochi... :)

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