From the mountains to the sea
10.01.2017 - 14.01.2017 30 °C
Day 24 - Tuesday - 10/01/17 - Ooty - Coimbatore
Our last day in beautiful Ooty.
It seemed a bit cooler today and a bit overcast. We had to rise early in order to take a trip to the railway station in order to buy tickets for the toy train down to Mettapalyum and, if possible for the onward trip toward Kochi. We arrived at the ticket office at 7:15am and were third in the line.
The ticket office doesn't open until 8:00, but we understand that we must get our tickets now or we may miss out on the only ride down to Mettalpalyum (ie the 14:00 train)
There was a sign restricting each passenger to 4 tickets. To assist the fellow who was second in line and wanted 7 tickets, we bought 4. However, when we looked round to find him, he was gone. So we had an entitlement to 4 seats at R15 each, a total outlay of R60 or about $1.50 in aussie dosh! Not bad at all for a 3.5 hour ride o a heritage train, more than half of which is a steam hauled rack system.
Of course being a ticket doesn't guarantee a seat. You are to line up o the platform an hour before the train goes in order to be eligible for the bun rush for seats when the train arrives.
After acquiring our tickets we tried to adopt another scruffy ginger kitten outside the station restaurant before heading back to Hotel Tamil Nadu for breakfast,shower and packing. It is with much regret that we move on from here. The room, the restaurant and all the staff have been absolutely delightful and it was always a pleasure to walk up the approach road, salute the security guard a head up to our room with a Aldo hand a view over the city. But all things must pass and so we must move on.
Leaving our bags at reception, we headed back into town for coffee. Firstly we had to find the post office so we could post the belated Christmas cards to Europe. Our apologies, Helen, Mike and Manfred. But, better late than never as they say.
The post office was a bit further away than we thought but on the way back, Carol spied another ladies' clothing shop (ie every second shop. She can't resist a nightie in the window which she wants to cut down for a Chemise and then she buys material as well.
We need a tailor to alter the nightie and the lady from the shop takes us through the side streets until we find one. It's a scene straight out of "A Fine Balance". Two tailors with there treadle sewing machines sitting in a tiny clapboard box accessed by a strangely angled stair. But boy, could they cut and sew.
R60 and a few minutes later, we were back on the street heading to Hotel Nadal for our final coffee and hot snack in Ooty.
After collecting our bags it was back to the station to grab a seat on the train.
Carol managed to convince the station master that since we were third in the ticket queue this morning, we should get some good seats on the south side of the train (in order to enjoy the best view). He put us up to the front of the queue, bless him and Carol too!
We got the best seats in the carriage. Facing each other at the door on the south side of the carriage. On the basis that we had paid for 4 tickets, we occupied 4 seats, what with bags and the need to have a window each!
We got to Mettapalyum at about 5:30 and acquired tickets there to Coimbatore. It was 9:00pm by the time we got there and there was no going on to Kochi tonight. We were pretty tired and definitely not interested in another train ride.
We stayed at Legend's Inn for R2065 a night and dined at Rani's Grand Hotel restaurant (and used his wifi as we don't have at the Legend and we still have the Rani's password in the phone!
Day 25 - Wednesday -11/01/17 - Coimbatore - Kochi
I got up early to buy our tickets for Kochi. Talk about sending a boy out to do a lady's expert job. I thought I asked for tickets to Kochi but what I got was tickets to somewhere called Thalassery or something similar. As it was the same price as we quoted the evening before for Kochi I assumed it was just the name of the station for Kochi.
Suspecting something amiss, we asked again when we came back to catch the same and it turned out that Thalassery is somewhat in the opposite direction from where we want to go. We were advised to just board the train and the TT man (short for ticket inspector man) would sort it out with a squiggle of his. pen.
We explained the situation to the first TT man and he did just that. However the second TT man insisted that we pay another R258 being the extra fare from the nearest junction on the Thalassery route to Kochi. It didn't ring true but it was too difficult to argue the case and hardly worth it for a matter of. $5.00 or so.
Based on our recent experiences, Indian Railways are certainly not running at a loss!
The train was pretty crowded but some nice pilgrims shuffled up and made room for us. They were all wearing black lungis (men's sarongs similar to what I wore in the temple at Madurai) and a black top of some sort or other and they all carried their possessions on there heads in a small bundle wrapped in brightly coloured cloth. Believe or not, they called themselves 'the boys in black'. They were delightful company sharing food, laughs and snippets of information.
If we understood them correctly, (of which there is no guarantee!), their pilgrimage lasts for 41 days during which time they must do everything for themselves, ie cook, wash, clean etc. I thought they were exclusively men but Carol said she saw a few women similarly dressed in black and carrying cooking utensils on their heads.
They all got off at Ernakulam Junction which is near Kochi and then had to make a bus trip for another 70 or 80km to the temple which was the focus of the pilgrimage. They were all having a fun time as is probably the case with most pilgrimages, the camaraderie of the road etc. Probably something akin to Kristine's amazing experiences on the road to San Diego de Compostela last year.
The boys in black made light of what could otherwise have been a long and tedious journey.
Ernakulam Junction was also our stop, being closest to Fort Kochi.
The auto ride from the station to our hotel in Fort Kochi, was some 8km and at R180 was a bargain by the standards of previous rides. Needless to say we added a few more Rupees to the final fare.
Our hotel is called Adam's Old Inn and is in the heart of things here in Fort Kochi.
Having settled in, we went for a walk in search of an ATM and dinner. These we found.
We had dinner at the Hotel Sun Park Restaurant at Kunnumpuram Junction. Very tasty and very reasonable.
Day 26 - Thursday - 12/01/17 - Kochi
We had a bright but not particularly early start today. I had a cold shower, which was quite delicious given the heat here at sea level.
A short walk toward the harbour frontage brought us to the Kashi Art Cafe. This partly roofed and partly shady al fresco eating house was delightful in both the architectural and culinary sense. I had a cappuccino and a mouthwatering paneer omelette. Delicious.
So, that was breakfast. Afterwards, we decided to head towards Jew Town to take in the synagogue and the Dutch Palace. On the way we espied the Chinese fishing nets and stopped to watch these huge cantilevered counterweighted nets being raised and lowered into the harbour. They don't seem to catch much and one has to suspect that they are maintained and manned in order to entertain the tourists.
There are many European tourists here. By far the most we have seen. Many are young singles. We avoid them like the plague. There is truly nothing less friendly than a young European backpacker when they meet an 'elderly couple' like us. I'm afraid they do not compare favourably in any way to the Indian youth who seem to have a much greater respect for older people and go out of their way to talk to us. It is invariably "Where from?" and then "What is your name?" And the conversation goes on from there.
Our walk toward Jew Town was somewhat circuitous and took us past many small warehouses storing rice, flour and spices. It was very interesting but by the time we got to our destination the synagogue had closed for the day.
Some things are still not so salubrious here. You need me to tell why the water is that colour. Luckily you can't smell it.
But we did get through the Dutch Palace. This was built by the Portuguese and presented to the local Rajah in the 16C and renovated by the Dutch ( who had kicked the Portuguese out) 100 or so years later. It contains many meticulously painted scenes from the Ramayana and other traditional legends.
We dined at the Lucky Star again and came home to a well earned rest.
Day 27 - Friday - 13/01/17 - Kochi
We had another try at reaching the synagogue at Jew Town. Being in a hurry we took an autorickshaw but our driver was so intent on showing us the sights that we arrived about 20 minutes after the morning session had finished. The disappointing news was that, being Friday, there is no afternoon session. Not to worry, we will try again on Sunday.
I have to put in a plug for Google maps here. As soon as possible after arriving in a new town, we seek out a bit of wi fi and update the map detail on the phone. Then you have a built in GPS and you can navigate to and from anywhere. Thanks Mr Google.
We came home for a bit of a rest and then off again for an evening walk and dinner.
Whilst we were resting, we noticed that we have two other guests staying with us. There are two little lizards who seem to live behind the a/c unit and come out every now and again to dine on any available mozzies or other insects.
We took a turn around some of our local streets, looking for a nice restaurant. This involved a tour of Vasco da Gama Square with its sidewalk seafood restaurants and the bulk of the Chinese fishing nets which were still being worked in the evening.
We didn't really fancy fish so we we started back toward an Italian restaurant we had previously seen. Then we saw a sign, on the wall of the Italian restaurant advertising a Tibetan restaurant. Now we had had some wonderful Tibetan food during our stay in Darjeeling in 2010, so we thought we would give it a go. Service was a little slow but it was well worth the wait. Veg, almonds and cashews with fried rice, preceded by veg soup and sweet corn soup were very tasty.
We met an Aussie lady (Yoga Linda) who had stopped by for a coffee and pancake. She told us she lives here for 3 months at a time and does the same in South America between stints at Port Stephens.
We philosophised over our cheerful acceptance of the crowds and congestion and crap here and our opposite attitude towards such conditions when we find them at home. We came to the conclusion (probably erroneous!) that there is something in the Indian Psyche which allows them to cheerfully accept, nay enjoy, the crowded conditions, the crazy traffic, the frustration with the trains when booking tickets and arriving hours late. People of European extraction just seem to get angry when things are crowded and congested.
Having thought a little more on the subject, I reckon it's either the meat in our diet or perhaps it's just that the food is so flavoursome here that you just can't resist having a big smile on your face all day!
Day 28 - Saturday - 14/01/17 - Kochi
We started the day with banana and honey pancakes and coffee at last night's Tibetan restaurant. These pancakes are seriously 20mm thick and are scrumptious. (I'm starting to run out of complimentary adjectives for describing food although I don't think there is much chance of running out of super food to attach them to!)
The coffee, not cappuccino, is excellent and is tempting me to renounce the frothy stuff in its favour.
Having satisfied the inner traveller, we started the Fort Kochi walking circuit or at least the bits we have missed out on previously. There are no end of quaint little streets with a mixture of Portuguese, Dutch and British colonial architecture and more modern Indian styles. There is also a great deal of vegetation with many magnificent fig trees providing abundant and very welcome shade. I would be misleading you if I said that we didn't chose our route to take advantage of any available shade with special emphasis on shady spots adjacent to the beach and glorious sea breeze off the Arabian Sea.
Our list of sites visited included the Bishop's House and museum, the Dutch Cemetery, the new, Indian VW Ameo car launch and St Francis' Church, wherein the body of Vasco da Gama was first interred before being shipped home to Portugal. Wasn't Vasco the first guy to circumnavigate the Globe or was that Magellan? (I'll check that on google before I publish). It turns out that Vasco was the first European to reach India by sea.
We also had a look at the outside of what is reputed to be Vasco's house. It is now a home stay and restaurant so I presume it is possible to sleep in a room with a sign in 3 languages saying "Vasco slept here". The house is just behind the aforesaid Church of St Francis so his funeral cortège wouldn't have had to travel far. Just as well in this hot climate.
Talking about the heat, which we never do, St Francis Church has a number of the ubiquitous propeller type electric ceiling fans. However, it also has retained the old fashioned punkah fans which consisted of a swinging timber beam from which is hung a piece of heavy, weighted curtain material. These ran lengthways down the body of the church. You can just imagine the old time punkah wallahs sitting outside, hopefully in the shade, pulling a rope to operate the fans.
Having exhausted ourselves, we gave up at about 4.00pm and had a cheese omelette and toast and coffee at Cafe Oy's. Ok but not up to the standard of Kashi Art Cafe.
Too tired to do much else we picked up Carol's dressmaking, bought some more pro biotic capsules (which appear to be working quite well so far) and came home for an early night.