Steve's World Tour 2006 - 2008 travel blog

Down at the beach

You wouldn't find this grafitti in the UK!

I found out that unlike SE Asia there are no tourist/backpacker buses that run from city to city here - you must take the normal public transport. After taking a rickshaw a bit out to town to connect with a direct bus and after the driver showing me which bus to take (the destinations are all written in Sanskrit or another local alphabet) I quickly jumped on the bus and we were off.

It was definitely an experience. The bus barely stopped for long enough for the last person to get on and certainly was moving before the conductor closed the door. This appears to be normal in India - sometimes people get on and off the bus without it properly stopping at all. Then once in motion it blazes a trail down the narrow main road that is filled with motorbikes, cars, lorries and pedestrians; expecting everyone to get out of the way by using a rather loud horn. Constantly. The only times the bus stops are to avoid actually killing someone and for lorries, which are bigger. It also seemed to be able to sqeeze itself into impossibly small spaces. At speed.

Luckily I was at the back of the bus and so could not see out of the front window and soon was wedged into a corner with most of my stuff at the back of one of the aisles. It only cost 31 rupees (about 45p) to go the 60km to Alleppey which amounted to an hour and a half of mayhem. Thankfully the Indian businessman beside me (I was the only western person on the bus for the entire trip) started chatting away and let me know when my stop was coming up because otherwise there could have been some issues, as the bus was still incredibly crowded with many people standing/lurching as the bus veered from side to side.

Slightly dazed I exited the bus and was immediately set upon by two guys trying to flog their guesthouses to me. I could not be bothered argueing with them so settled for one in town. It was ok.

I was in Alleppey to see the "backwaters." These are a series of waterways, partly tidal, that stretch for hundreds of km along the coast and inland. I was told that a wonderful thing to do in India was to rent a houseboat and drift along the waterways, visting the small local villages that exist along the banks. The reality of the situation however was that to rent a houseboat was very expensive at about 3,000 - 6,000 rupees a day (36-70 quid) so it only really possible when you have a group of people. I was by myself however and while wandering around Alleppey I saw a total of two other Western people. It was definitely low season.

I decided to head down to the beach as maybe there would be more people down there and some nice facilities. I had a vision eating in a beachfront restaurant listening to the waves crashing ashore. Maybe with a beer as well. After a 10 minute rickshaw ride however the beach proved to be really underdevloped but somehow managed to still be rather uncharismatic. There were only a few locals wandering up and down the sands, a derelict pier and no restaurants in sight at all. The road by the sea was not even a road - just a large dirt track and my departing rickshaw left a small cloud of red dust in its wake.

I wandered down the beach for a while and discovered only tiny ice cream places and no-where vaguely touristy. There seemed to be just the occasional ill kept house or flats situated on the beach road. Eventfully I found a restaurant in a resort about 1km down the road. It was totally deserted and the waiters/owners/random Indians who were hanging around looked very surprised when I walked in and asked for some food. It wasnt quite on the beach and there was a high wall seperating me from most of the view and I couldnt see the sea but I was so relieved to find somewhere with food, and amzingly a beer, I didnt care. Annoyingly though when I was just half way through my beer a massive fly managed to drown itself in the bottle. Cest la vie.

I headed back to town center and booked a boat ticket for a standard cruise down to Kollom as clearly I was not destined to meet anyone here and there seemed to be hardly any facilities in the city. Certainly over the evening I saw no other western people and bar the people I saw in Cochin in the early morning I had seen only two western people all day!

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