Namaste from India
My Indian trip started in disorganised chaos as normal. I had organised a transfer through my homestay as I was arriving late but upon arrival in Kochi, Jerin had taken it upon himself to come and get me from the airport and sacked off the booked driver!
So jump in with Jerin, who was getting a royal telling off from a security guard for dumping his car outside the terminal unattended!
Jerin then proceeded to drive me part way back, stopped so I could use the ATM and then Ubered me a cab to take me the rest of the way from there to the homestay! Why I couldn’t have just got the ordered cab in the first place is beyond me!
The cab ride was uneventful until we arrived in Fort Cochin, whereby I tried to pay the Uber man with a new 2000 rupee note but he had no change! We then drove around Fort Cochin at midnight (which was empty) trying to locate someone, anyone to change money with.
I was so tired and past caring that I suggested we head to the homestay and ask them. So we pulled up outside my homestay for the next few days, no change! So he gave me all the change he had and I parted with 2000 rupees (£20) think I paid about 3 times the actual price but was too tired to care and had only actually parted with about £12 for an hours taxi ride.
The family at the homestay had waited up for me and showed me to my room, huge room with 3 single beds in it! Picked one and crashed out.
The next morning I popped downstairs at 8.30am and had homemade breakfast with the family, roti and potato.
I spent the day looking for work, networking, emailing and ringing people and planning my forthcoming greek travels.
I also got some well needed washing done and hung on the rooftop to dry.
It was a relatively peaceful day apart from karaoke next door at 9am, loads of Indian 10-year-old girls singing to Barbie Girl at 9am is not fun! The dogs all around started barking and howling, either desperately wanting to partake in karaoke or despising the racket.
That night Hari and Jerin came and got me and we headed out to a waterfront restaurant called Sea Gull. We sat eating chicken 65 along with other meat dishes. Chicken 65 is one of my favourites…little bits of chicken cooked in 65 spices then fried!
The heavens opened so we moved inside and chatted for an hour or so whilst we waited for their designated driver to turn up and drive us all home!
Next day and homemade brekkie again with my family, this time my favourite…dosas, uppam and chutney.
After breakfast I went for an hour and a half walk around Fort Kochi for old times sake, wandered the streets getting hassled by a tuktuk driver who thought it made good business sense to drive around for 90 minutes behind me, every so often asking if I wanted a tuktuk! You would have thought he would have got the hint but no…his loss…90 minutes of fuel wasted there buddy!
Lunchtime I grabbed an Uber over to Hari’s house for lunch with his family. Hari was out with his dad and his daughter, collecting her new school books for the coming year and his wife was at work. So I was welcomed by his mum and baby son!
Hari arrived not long after and then I sat going through the english school books with his daughter until lunch was ready.
After lunch we chilled out for a few hours before Hari, his wife, his daughter and I jumped in the car and took a drive back to Fort Cochin. We had a drink in restaurant before heading to my favourite place for food in Fort Cochin…the Tibetan Chef Restaurant…many a night I have eaten here in years gone by. When I was first backpacking round India to when I revisited Kochi recently. The momos are the best!
We ordered 2 plates of momos between the four of us but secretly I could have eaten a whole plate myself! Yum!
Then Hari dropped me back to the homestay and they drive the hour back home.
The next day was Friday and start of our Indian Roadtrip. I left the homestay at 11.30 in an Uber and headed over to the hospital where Jerin works to meet him once he had finished his unofficial half day!
I got dropped off out the front of the hospital and headed in to find a seat in the waiting area with the masses. I had literally just sat down when a nice lady came over from the information desk and asked if she could help me. I explained I was waiting for my friend Doctor Jerin, to which she replied ‘come with me’. She led me to a nice quiet posh seating area at the front of the hospital…apparently reserved for privileged white people who pay more! Lol
Jerin came strolling down after his meeting and we jumped in the car and headed off on the road!
The plan was to drive 5-6 hours north into the Nilgiri Hills and visit a biosphere/national park called Silent Valley! That was about the extent of the plan, as it was organised by Jerin!!!
So we started our journey north, grabbed some food on route. Good old drive thru McDonalds, which was the slowest fast food I have ever encountered. The drive thru was empty, the restaurant was empty but upon ordering our food (which was painful in itself) we sat in the car well over 10 minutes waiting for food. I supposed at least we knew it was freshly cooked!!
We stopped at Palakkad to pick up a chinese couchsurfing friend of Jerin’s, Zhenxia and then we were 3 and we headed up into the mountains on a windy, night-time drive into the unknown! I had booked a couple of rooms on route at the only hotel on my app in the vague vicinity of Silent Valley!
I directed us around the windy mountain roads in the dark, thankfully managing to avoid hitting a wild elephant…known to roam about the area!
Eventually we found the mysterious hotel…which was up a mountain, in the middle of nowhere, you wouldn’t know it was there, you would never drive past it on route to anywhere either so we were trying to work out how it gets visitors and business!
We arrived late at night, had a plate of what was left of the buffet dinner and then headed in the dark down to our rooms, which were like little bungalows. If they were maintained properly they would have been quite nice. The thought was there they just hadn’t followed through with it. Huge rooms with decent beds, scant furniture as normal in indian hotels, reasonable bathroom as well. Just such a bizarre setting! What made it weirder was there was a money attraction workshop on, we passed a room with loads of Indian men sitting around trying to attract money at 11.30pm!
There was no wifi, no drinks and a swimming pool that has long be devoid of any water! I can’t imagine this place having a heyday!
We headed out to a horror film set children’s playground complete with squeaky swing and sat stargazing for a few hours before crashing out.
Early start the following morning as we had to be at Silent Valley for 8am and it was still a good 45 minute drive away.
Upon arrival at the initial tourist office at Silent Valley we were told to go get breakfast as there wouldn’t be anything to eat in the forest and we would be gone for 5 hours! So we hit a local food shack and had dosa and chutney washed down with some very sweet chai!
We then headed back, got allocated a driver and a ropey old jeep and headed into the forest. The forest is well looked after, no plastic is allowed at all…all plastic needs to be removed from the park. There is no litter or rubbish, our driver saw the smallest speck of plastic wrapping, stopped the jeep got out and picked it up.
The drive into the forest is a very bumpy 2 hours, during which time you see the outer forest, stop to look at fruits, plants, birds and animals. We saw a few monkeys, thankfully up in the trees! We were on the lookout for elephants which roam wild about the forest. Our driver, a young lad, told us he had only be doing the job 4 months but been chased by elephants 3 times already! Very comforting…I have been chased by elephants in india before on a safari in Mudumalai at night and that was not fun! Then the jeep driver casually rolled the jeep forward as this male elephant is stampeding towards us (me at the back of the jeep being eyeballed by the angry elephant), he is waving his ears and making a racket! I had to tell the driver to speed up…errr elephant….errr elephant! Yes yes says the Indian driver! Jesus!
Anyway, we bumped our way through the forest to the heavily protected interior forest…I had visions of some kind of Fern Gully forest or some kind of sacred tree like in Avatar but alas no, just sandy rocky tracks and loads of trees!
We jumped out of the jeep for an hours walk through the inner forest down to a river and back. Started off by climbing an old watchtower for a panoramic view of the forest before wandering down with our jeep driver to the river. We didn’t see any animals on route although he was keen to point out there were leeches all over the forest floor so to watch our feet! Delightful! I doused my feet and shoes in an overly citrus scented oil I bought in Lombok, no leechy bastard was getting to my feet! It would choke trying!
So happily wandering through the forest when our driver/guide casually throws in that the corner we were just navigating was the scene of a gruesome murder 2 years back! A tiger killed an elephant and then spent 7 weeks eating it! WTF! Why are we merrily wandering around here then! So now we have leeches, monkey, angry stampeding elephants and the possibility of getting mauled by a tiger! Adventurous kinda day here!
Eventually we made it down to the river and sat for a while taking it all in before making the uphill trip back amongst the forest, leeches, monkeys, elephants and tigers.
We then got back in the jeep for the 2 hour rally back to the car park. All very bizarre but interesting day!
We headed back to Manakkad for lunch, paneer butter masala…thats more like it…proper Indian food! I am such a north Indian girl…as much as I love south Indian food….give me a proper curry with thick ghee based sauce any day! Lol
We met one of Jerin’s friends, Midhun, who lived locally and he showed us to a nice lodge hotel in a secluded spot overlooking a dam!
Again, the place was literally in the middle of nowhere…don’t think I even had mobile phone signal. The hotel was empty but had a load of lovely looking bungalows down the side of the mountain all with stunning views of the dam. No wifi and no real amenities either.
We took the lowest room and all 3 of us bundled in one room, Jerin on a mattress on the floor!
We sat outside in a raised lounge area and played cards for a fair few hours. Outside the weather was foul…torrential sheet rain, thunder, lightning! Epic stuff! At one point, a decidedly loud rumble which reverberated through the corrugated roof, made a gecko fall from the roof and land with a slap on the glass table in the middle of our card game! That was the evening highlight!
Sleep didn’t come easy as my bed seemed to attract every single insect outside…even though the door and windows were closed and the room very clean!….ants, beetles, a cockroach, spiders…you name it, it found its way up onto my bed! Fun nights sleep that was..what made it worse was that there was a huge flying thing bumbling around the room crashing into stuff all night and a power cut which meant no air con or fan all night!
It was no surprise I was up early and out of bed and the insect filled room, I sat in the peace and quiet watching the world come to life! There were cranes and birds of prey flying around the dam area and locals herding cows.
The next morning we had a spectacular breakfast before Jerin and Zhenxia went on a walk down into the dam area whilst I chilled out playing mahjongg. The young guy at the lodge came and joined me and want some photos of me and him, he then rang his friend who turned up for more photos with me. (Like I said in the middle of nowhere and definitely not on the tourist trail so you are like a celebrity!)
The young guy then invited me to his house down the road and his sisters engagement party, I politely declined and left him to it.
Once Jerin and Zhenxia returned we jumped in the car and headed back to Kochi. We stopped on route at a popular biryani place, where Jerin had pre-ordered us biryani…2kg of mutton and 1/2kg of rice! Well we had 2 huge foil bags of food, that weighed well over 5kg!!!
Then we swung by the hospital to pick up Hari.
Our destination was one of their friends houses, Roshan, again in the middle of nowhere for a party!
So Jerin stops to buy some more food to take to the party…2 tubs of ice cream, chocolate bars, bags of crisps, bottles of drink and some paper plates so we could eat the biryani in the car on route!
Well I don’t know if you have ever tried eating biryani in the car, whilst an Indian is driving, in India but I would advise against it! I have a huge, greasy foil bag that weighs about 2.5kg on my lap, its contents at boiling point…trying to balance the bag, balance the plate, plunge you hand into the vat of 100 degree rice which has cooked in the mutton fat (so it’s all greasy) and try to spoon it out onto the plate without spilling any. You then go in again for some mutton only to find mixed in amongst the rice is a whole leg of mutton! You try to pull some meat off and give up, settling for mutton flavour rice for now!
I think it must have been the weirdest sight any of the locals in the village have ever seen! 2 Indian guys, a Chinese girl and an English girl driving about the rural localities of Kerala eating biryani off paper plates whilst driving!
It took us a while to find Roshan’s house…its a very old farm-house at the end of a single track driveway, through some very ornate gates and through a pineapple plantation. Again, no mobile phone reception. Right out in the sticks!
We spent the evening eating all the food Jerin has bought, plus a whole watermelon Roshan had, the guys were drinking the most revolting toddy I have ever tried! It was like a mix of ethanol and white wine vinegar and we sat around playing cards for hours.
The following morning was an early one. Up at 6am as all the guys had work, Monday morning, and it took at least an hour to get back to civilisation from Roshan’s.
We dropped Hari off at his hospital first, then we dropped Zhenxia at a friends of Jerin’s whom she was staying with for a few days. We had breakfast together before Jerin dropped me off, again on the side of the road somewhere random! He ubered me a taxi to the hotel and he headed off to work.
For my last couple of days I decided to go upmarket and book myself into the Marriott next to the airport…I got a good deal and a free night so why not! Checked in amongst Etihad cabin crew and pilots before sitting down on my queensize bed and chilling out.
Had a quiet, relaxing night of TV and films, the next day was also quiet and relaxing. Jerin swung by on his way home from work to say goodbye and then 2am I headed to the airport for my flight to Athens via Bahrain.
Flew Gulf Air for a change, nice planes and good flights. Landing in Bahrain was pretty cool, came in right over the town…long, straight, tree-lined boulevards and sandy coloured cube houses! So pretty.
Had a couple of hours in Bahrain, where I did some duty-free shopping…my perfume I have been chasing around the world’s duty free shops had sold out the day before! Arse!
So bought a small bottle of one I have had before, got a free gift of a huge beach bag! Just what I need when I have no room in my bag!
So, that concludes my bizarre week in India…part chilled out, part road trip with lunatics!
Still it was great to see my friends and have a road trip to a part of India I have not been before.
Onwards to Greece for some major culture and chill out.
Can’t be arsed to work out rice consumption and steps! Rice was definitely once maybe twice..steps not a huge amount as either chilling or road tripping.
Will do better in Greece! (No more rice though…I am majorly riced out!)