And so it’s the last day in India and we’ve spent it in style.
For 2000 INR per night (about £20), we are settled in a lovely and comfortable room on a quieter end of Fort Kochi at Raintree Lodge, an old Portuguese house. After many “dodgy” and cheap hotels, this is definitely a nice treat.
Tonight was time for the “last India supper” at “Krishna Cafe”, a vibrant local restaurant far away from the tourist trails. No cutlery or fancy napkins here! You wash your hands upon arrival and also when you leave, and of course you eat with your hands à l’indienne! The total bill for 3 vegetarian meals, an appetiser and 2 drinks: 148 INR… That, I will miss of India!
We left Varkala on Monday, but not before enjoying some more of what it has to offer: Gorgeous food, stunning sunsets and (if you look for them) quiet spots for resting.
The sweetest memory of my time there, were the mornings. At about 5 am, a gentle traditional song would slowly wake the neighbourhood up. Always the same distant melodies as the sun was beginning to peek through the curtains. It was the best way to start the day.
Soon after though, the temple next door to where we were staying would start blaring an odd combo of shehnai (Indian wind instrument) and a drum which resonated their devotional rhythms for a good couple of hours.
When it was time to travel to the northern tip of Kerala, we debated on which mode of transport would be best.
After the quite unpleasant 3 day train journey from Dharamsala to Kerala, we had crossed that mode of transport off our list. But seeing that there were few better options to get us back up the coast to Kochi, we finally booked the 4 hour train journey and were pleasantly surprised. It was smooth, relaxed and overall very pleasant. With a few chais and fried bananas, time flew by.
Fort Kochi (also known as Cochin) has by far been the most pleasant place we’ve visited in India. Sure, it lacks the accessibility to the sand beaches of other Keralan cities, but it compensates with its vast array of backwaters and canals, which can be explored in small boats.
Although the weather has been steadily becoming hotter and more humid with the approach of the monsoon, this has been a great end to an incredible two months. There is a certain calm around here which is quite different from the overall hustle and bustle of India. Pretty much everyone we met and interacted with has been kind and offered us advice or at least a generous smile.
The Christian influence left over from the region’s European-influenced past is felt at each corner. Pictures of Jesus adorn are quite ubiquitous and churches can be seen at every few corners. Little Virgin Marys adorn rickshaw dashboards instead of the Hindu gods or little Buddhist safeguards that we mostly see.
One of the highlights here has been to simply walk around the shore of Fort Kochi, which is located to the West of the city. Indian families gather near the beach, taking walks and enjoying the lingering sun. Vendors offer their sweet and savoury delights. The most impressive sight though must be the Chinese fishing nets, which dominate the shore skyline.
Whilst here, we attended a shortened version of the 2000 year old traditional theatre performance of Kerala, Koodiyattam. The interesting part is that one can come 2 hours early to witness the actors putting on their makeup. No words are exchanged during the play, so music and especially body language are a huge part of it. I was mesmerised.
But the absolute best way to end the trip has been to spend a day and a night on a houseboat. They meander through the backwaters and canals of the region, at a slow and relaxing pace of a one-man punting effort.
With all meals included and nothing to do but to simply be, it is hard to beat in terms of relaxation. Every single villager or fisherman we passed smiled or said hello. The children wanted either a pen (which apparently are hard to obtain) or to know our names. They would scream their little requests from a distance and giggle at our responses. We had quite a few pens with us, so we made a few children quite happy.
All meals were included on our little wooden boat and they were simply impeccable. All local and traditional cuisine, prepared on a gas stove at the back of the boat. The only downside was that somehow mosquitoes managed to sneak their way into our net at night and kept us awake until dawn. How can such a tiny little creature cause such havoc, I do not know. But we cursed the little bastards all night long…
I guess there is no such thing as a perfect paradise, but despite the sleepless night, this backwater adventure truly came quite close.
And it’s on that note that I will end the last post of this Indian adventure. Two months of incredible contrasts, of inebriating highs and of shocking lows, of discoveries, learning, resting and reflecting, producing and creating and ultimately just absorbing it all with as much of an open mind as possible.
As always, thank you for reading and I hope you’ve enjoyed it.
Next stop: back to London to finalise a few projects before setting off again. Destination: …will let you know very soon 😉