February 16th 2014
The day I boarded the plane to Riyadh for the first leg of my flight to Kochi. Sat down next to a husband and wife with their 10 month old daughter. Glanced across the aisle to my right to be greeted by a hairy-handed Sadaam Hussain lookalike! 6 hours of Saudi edited films and child entertaining later we arrived at Riyadh.
Spent another 6 hours holed up in Riyadh airport, never a fun way to pass the time!
We finally boarded the 3am flight to Kochi at which point I realised there was no in flight Saudi-edited entertainment! Shame! Although a few hours later everyone on the plane was totally focused on a debacle occurring in row 33! It appears someone was taken ill and was being connected to a drip and given oxygen! As far as I could tell they made it to Kochi alive and were wheeled straight off the plane and to the hospital! Good way to skip the immigration queue!
Made it past immigration myself, in record time for indian airports even though for a brief moment I thought I was going to get accosted after being questioned about my Somaliland visa! Probably didn’t help that I had yet to remove my headscarf so they probably thought I was a Samantha Lewthwaite wannabe returned from a Mujahideen training camp in pirate country!
Anyway jumped in a ‘rip you off’ airport taxi and headed to the Costa Gama homestay, which I must point out has proved to be a wonderful, family run place with a hippy vibe in a great location. After a good nights sleep, I woke at 11.30am refreshed and ready to do some serious chilling out and acclimatising! Had an indian shower (consisting of bucket, jug and some cold water) then sauntered over to the communal area to utilise the wifi! Met a lovely young couple from The Netherlands who had been volunteering in a school for a month. We all went for lunch to a small concrete box of a restaurant serving veggie thali for 50p. The thali was served out a large bucket which kind of just got passed around between tables! Managed to eat with my hand without smearing my face and clothes in neon yellow curry sauce! Never a good look!!
The afternoon consisted of reading and chilling and putting the world to rights with a 55-year-old Australian Hippy called Jeff .
Tuesday night saw the old jet lag kick in and I spent all night lying awake thinking about my trip and what I had learnt so far……which was that:-
a) BBC iplayer and 4oD don’t work outside of the UK…..bugger!
b) it was bloody humid…..not a surprise
c) it is possible to sweat from many places I never realised…..was a surprise
d) I don’t really like camping…..not really relevant right now but a thought that crossed my mind
e) in a dark room a black kaftan hanging up to dry by being blown around by a ceiling fan looks awfully like a Dementor from the Harry Potter films!…..was clearly over tired!
Anyway after about 45 minutes of sleep the alarm went off telling me it was time to get up and attend a morning yoga session with a local yogi! He was quick to tell me I looked stressed and his challenge was to make me relax during the 2 hour class! (Of course I looked stressed….there’s a Dementor in my room and I can’t watch any more episodes of the Muskateers until I am back in the UK!) Upon asking my name, to which I obviously replied ‘Claire’, he decided he had heard ‘Clam’ and then called me that for the whole 2 hours!
He then proceeded to bend and contort me into all sorts of unnatural positions, one of which involved him sitting on my back and another involved my face being far too near his crotch! Still after 2 hours I must admit I felt very supple and bendy and was tempted to go down the stairs like a slinky!
Ozzie Jeff and I then had a bite to eat for lunch in another concrete box restaurant…this one serving fried rabbit and bulls eyes?! No idea! I opted for a Paneer Butter Masala which when eaten with your hands gives you the most wicked neon yellow cuticles! A free fashion tip for you all!!
Returned to the homestay to find a 40-year-old Irish lady called Shirley had arrived from a week volunteering at the Mother Theresa home in Calcutta. We then sat chatting for a few hours with another 55-year-old hippy known as Canadian Paul.
Thursday saw Shirley and I embark on a day long Heritage tour around Kochi. We met our guide Romi at 9am and took a tuktuk down to the harbour. We then jumped on a car ferry as foot passengers which involves squeezing in between the cars and having motorbikes squeeze on next to you! 3 minutes later we are on the mainland and jump in the car. We then spent the day visiting the chinese fishing nets, the oldest mosque in India, a museum containing 2 fragments of the oldest mosque in India and then cabinets full of stamps and bank notes from around the world! No idea of the relevance of those, the oldest synagogue in India, the oldest Catholic Church in India and a Hindi Temple (not the oldest in India). We then had lunch in a yoga retreat on the backwaters where mosquitos dined on Shirley’s feet and my left arm!
The afternoon saw us visit a hand weaving workshop, a pottery workshop, a lurid green and orange house all topped off by watching the sunset on Cherai Beach.
For those of you interested in the flora and fauna in Kochi….I can tell you there are lots of coconut trees, some laburnums, nutmeg and banana trees. Romi also had a secret to tell us about nutmeg….a secret you say…yes I know I was rather excited expecting a secret along the lines of it having anti-ageing properties, healing properties or even just excellent for making your hair shiny, but no. In true indian fashion Romi imparted his secret of nutmeg.
If you open the nutmeg seed, take the flesh, grate it, put it in boiling water and then drink it you will be stoned for 2 day. Brilliant….not really what I was after but it may be useful for others!
Fauna-wise so far its been numerous goats, countless chickens, a handful of cows, 2 dead dogs, a kingfisher and an elephant in a garden!
So there you have it…..my lazy week in Kochi so far…..tomorrow will see me heading to the Jewish Quarter and the Dutch Palace at Mattancharry before going to a Katakhali dance show with Shirley.