April 26 – 29, 2013
We had a great room in a little inn with reliable wifi, so while we formulated a plan for the next few weeks, I spent time trying to catch the blog up to speed. Obviously, I’m still not there. Our original idea was to go on a safari to try and see some lions or tigers, but we unsure if we would be able to handle the heat or the expense both in terms of money and time. After two days of wandering around town, drinking lots of chai tea, seeing a few local attractions and dragging our feet on making a decision we came up with a plan. Train tickets are a little tricky to get, but we were able to secure a pair to Mangalore with plans to take a bus to Madikeri.
Once we had a good idea of what we were doing, we booked a backwater tour, which this region is famous for. A bus picked us up early and took us to the river. We were joined by 7 other tourists, a guide and the canoe driver. It got a little awkward when a French couple insisted I seat in between them so they could have the seats along the side of the narrow canoe. They spent the entire ride speaking loudly to each other so that those of us near them could not hear the tour guide talking. At one point they said (in French) that we must be Americans, otherwise if we were Canadian we could understand that they were talking about us. Too bad they didn’t know I took French in high school and college and could understand them. Ha. Other than them, the morning was nice. We went up a small tributary of the main river, shaded by large trees and saw lots of pretty flowers, birds and snakes.
We stopped at the home of a woman making coconut fiber rope, called coir. The husks of coconuts are soaked in water for 6 months until they come apart easily and the fibers are twisted into individual strands, which can then be combined to make strong ropes. The coir is the primary component of certain geotextile mats used to protect slopes from erosion and to provide a stable place for plant seeds to germinate on freshly cut earth slopes. We also noticed that the ropes had been used to stitch the boards of our canoe together. In the middle of the canoe ride we were led on a tour of their land which included many spice plants. Our guide had us smell, taste and guess what were the various spices. It was interesting to see these common spices as plants not all dried out, ground up and in jars!
After the canoe trip came lunch on a small island in the middle of the river. We were served thali on a traditional banana leaf. The meal included rice, different dals, a chutney and a papadum. The best part is that thali is vegetarian! The meal ended with a vermicelli noodle pudding, which was delicious. In the afternoon we took another boat ride from the island down the river to meet back up with our bus. The river was quiet and peaceful and with full bellies, most people fell asleep, including Chandler and I.
The next day, we decided to do a little bit more sightseeing. We visited the Dutch Palace and Jew town, which is a neighborhood home to the oldest synagogue of the British Commonwealth. Unfortunately, no photographs were allowed in either building and Chandler and I are too chicken to break the rules. The Palace displayed a history of the local Maharajahs and family, a number of formal royal costumes and ornately decorated weapons. The synagogue had a brief history of the building and how Jewish people came to India escaping persecution.
We had a train to catch at midnight and weren’t sure when the last ferry left Fort Cochin, so we went back to Ernakulam in the early evening. We had a number of hours to kill and didn’t know what would be open late, so we headed to the movies. We were able to see Iron Man 3 in 3D for $2 each. We could not get over the price. The movie was fun and worth seeing. The crowd hollered, clapped and booed loudly throughout the entire show. We were also surprised there was an intermission, so we could get more snacks or go to the toilet without missing a thing.
It was dark when the movie let out and we still had 3 hours to kill. We went to a bakery to get dessert, but it closed the moment Chandler sat down and took out the computer. We thought we might go to a bar, but on the way there, a man tried to grab my crotch. Luckily, I noticed what he was doing and was able to block him, but this is not the first time this kind of incident has happened. At this point, I have had my rear grabbed by two or three by men in India. By the time you realize what has occurred, the attacker has already mixed in with the crowd. It is really infuriating that this kind of behavior occurs and really pissed Chandler and myself off. We decided to just go to the train station and just wait there for our train.