A days rest has done wonders for me and I awake with an appetite today so glad that one day off has done the trick. Can’t say the same for Joanne and Pauline who continue to suffer. On our return Joanne does the smart thing and gets some medicine from the ships doctor that a goodnight sleep and a sea day tomorrow should help.
We are in the state of Kerala they call ‘God’s own country’ and the town of Cochin or Kochi as the locals call it today. Kerala is a small state comparably accounting for only 2% of Indian’s land mass and primarily along the narrow strip of coastline to the Arabian seas. Its major city is Kochi 60% Hindi, and politically communist.
Like much of this part of the world it was controlled by the Portuguese from the 1500’s. In fact the famous explorer Vasco da Gama came multiple times ultimately dying here is 1524. Our first stop with our guide Dominique is to the St Francis church where he was buried.
The church was one of the first European churches in India and one of only two not destroyed by the Dutch when they took over. The Dutch converted all the churches to protestant during this time. Like the Portuguese the Dutch looked to influence the future generations by marrying the India women and today their descendants are considered Anglo-Indians.
The Dutch lost controlled ultimately to the Brits who remained until 1947 in Kerala or coconut land. Today they enjoy high literacy at 91% and considerable wealth. Some 2.5 m of its citizens live abroad in places like Dubai sending back $16B to the economy annually, ensuring education which is compulsory and food for all. Despite the Dutch changes today most schools and hospitals are funded by catholic organizations.
All the people speak 3 languages. Malayalam the local dialect, Hindi the language of India and English. Apparently it is also the only state where women outnumber men and they are offered the same privileges.
After the church we go into Bastion Bungalow a round building that was once part of the Dutch fort. From here we have a great view of the mouth of the Arabian Sea. Here the fresh lake water of Vembanad Lake meets the salty sea water. This is the entry we took this morning and our ship is actually moored on Willington Island, which was man made by Viceroy Willington.
We stroll along the beachfront getting harassed as usual by the vendors trying to sell trinkets and trash. Now we are amongst the fisherman. They are doing single net casting and the large Chinese Fishing Nets. The Chinese nets brought by the Portuguese from Macao. They work by a series of pulleys and it is a balancing act for sure. I pay a few bucks to join in a demonstration. It is hard work and we don’t actually put the net in the water as the current is too strong today and will destroy the nets. There are 6 men working one net chanting as they push it in the water and then pull it back out.
We head back to bus for our almost 2 hour trek to the Backwaters of Alappuzha. Kerala is a series of canals and 44 rivers and it would take 6 days to navigate them all. We are questioning the decision now but once in Alleppey and on the houseboat it is all worthwhile.
Here amongst the water hyacinth filled canals it is incredibly peaceful. This is the rice bowl of India as behind the shores of the river there are massive rice patties all below sea level. The people here fish and duck farm part time and work the rice patties the rest. The government buys all the rice and gives 1/3rd to the farmer. Here fishing is done the more traditional way either single cast or out of a cano or their version of a canoe.
The shores are dotted with tiny restaurants and resorts. Here they serve an alcohol made from the sap of the coconut flowers. Collected in bottles suspended from the top of the trees.
A beautiful lunch of Kerala specialities is served on board. Whole fish, ginger chicken, rice, cabbage and coconut followed by fresh pineapple and fried bananas. A great meal and a wonderful afternoon.
We ask to leave an hour early concerned with the traffic and knowing that if not back on board by 5:30 they will leave without us. The traffic is much better on the way back and we reach the boat just after 4:30. Time for a little shopping in the market stalls on the peers. I find a pair of loose cotton pants which will be useful for putting over the bathing suit.
Turns out 3 ship tour buses are late and we do not sail away till 6:30. Yes they will wait if it their organized tours!
A latter dinner tonight and no show. Tomorrow is sea day so early gym day and grabbing the right pool chairs before progressive trivia. I have now been officially added to Team Canada.