A Travellerspoint blog

Kerala - Cochin and the Backwaters

We had a plan to leave Goa and go to Mysore then Mangalore and, in a moment of rare forward planning and to avoid more overnight buses, we booked an overnight train from Mangalore down to Kerala. In the end, the travel to Mysore was all too difficult so we decided to spend a couple of days in Mangalore to take advantage of the train. Bad decision - we should have stayed at the lovely beach in Goa for a few more days.

The first train from Goa to Mangalore, leaving at 12.50am, was an hour and a half late so a bad start. Two days in Mangalore was probably like two days in Basingstoke - not unpleasant but nothing to do - the highlights were seeing a mongoose and finding a good ice-cream place. The train from Mangalore, due to leave at 12.35am had come from Delhi 30 hours earlier and was running late due to fog in Delhi. We knew about the fog, checked the train and knew it was three hours late - feeling quite organised we got to the station about two hours late, just in case it had made up time (unlikely we know). But no, by this time it was six hours late and finally arrived seven hours late so we spent the night at the station - Colin sleeping for a couple of hours curled up on the backpacks (definitely going native). The train finally turned up at 7.30am and we then had a very dull 10 hour journey defeating the whole point of the overnight train. Still hopefully this is the end of long journeys as Kerala is relatively small.

Our first stop in Kerala was Fort Cochin, a historical town with Dutch and Portuguese influences. It was very pleasant just wandering round the old streets seeing the Chinese fishing nets, spice markets, rice merchants and traditional buildings. We did some of the sights including the Dutch Palace and old synagogue. We also had a day tour of the Kerala backwaters - very scenic with lots of birdlife.

Fort Cochin - Chinese Fishing Nets

Fort Cochin - Chinese Fishing Nets


Backwaters

Backwaters

Freshwater mussel fisherman

Freshwater mussel fisherman

Punter on the backwaters

Punter on the backwaters

The festival celebrating the anniversary of the local cultural centre:

Elephant waiting for the procession to start

Elephant waiting for the procession to start

Kathakali dancers

Kathakali dancers

We went to a display of Kalaripayattu - apparently the mother of all martial arts, dating back more than 2000 years and said to be the forerunner of Chinese martial arts, as the Buddhist monk Bodhidharma took the knowledge from India to China and founded the Shaolin Temple. We were the only spectators and had a personal commentary. It was quite amazing, especially the whirling metal rods (one of the ancient masters could twirl fast enough to stop rain falling on his head) and the sword belt - lot of scope for chopping off your own legs. At the end Colin was invited into the arena to try his hand at the initial greeting rituals and sword and shield work. Fortunately no twirling or sharp things were involved.

Kalaripayattu

Kalaripayattu

We then met up with Malcolm and Linda again which was really good and organised an overnight trip on a houseboat - just us on a nice boat with a skipper, cook and another guy (not sure what he did). Very relaxing sitting on the upper deck watching the world go by.

Backwaters

Backwaters

P1270067.jpgP1270075.jpgOur houseboat

Our houseboat

We had a walk in the evening and came across a flotilla of ducks on a small canal being herded by a man in a canoe back to their overnight pens. There was a huge number of ducks, reminiscent of the annual Boxing Day Duck Race in Bibury.
P1270088.jpg

Posted by armrig 05:32 Archived in India Comments (2)

Goa

sunny 33 °C

Nightmare overnight bus journey from Hampi - should have taken 14 hours but took 20! The bus set off an hour late at 7pm and came to a standstill at 3.30am. The road goes past some docks where they load iron ore - but they only open at 7am so the lorries start queuing up from the night before. In the typical Indian fashion, it seems that not all the drivers are prepared to queue and some drive up the outside and then double park - blocking the road for any other traffic. So we were stationary for 4 hours - which admittedly meant we could get some sleep, which is difficult when the bus is moving. The same thing happens at level crossings with rickshaws in particular queuing up on the wrong side of the road on both sides of the crossing and it takes ages for the traffic to get going again - meanwhile you're stuck on the tracks hoping there isn't another train.

Still we recovered at the beach. We stayed at two separate places in southern Goa - both really nice and quiet with miles of sand and warm sea. First stop was Camilson's resort in Benaulim, recommended by a German couple in Hampi just before we left. It had a restaurant right on the beach, sun loungers in the shady garden and rooms behind.

Camilson's resort

Camilson's resort

Mending the nets

Mending the nets

We met an English couple from Oldham who taught us a new card game - Wigan Rummy. Sue triumphed on the first evening. They had spent 5 weeks at Camilson's and done no sightseeing whatsoever - we managed a day trip to Panaji and Old Goa to see old churches. Panaji was good for cashew nuts and this peculiar statue of a local hero, allegedly the world's first hypnotist.

Abbe Faria

Abbe Faria

Abbe Faria

Abbe Faria

St Augustine Monastery in Old Goa

St Augustine Monastery in Old Goa

Se Cathedral in Old Goa

Se Cathedral in Old Goa

Next we moved on to Agonda, a tiny resort with just beach huts and restaurants. We stayed in a hut on the beach and spent the whole time relaxing, swimming and playing with a new toy - an inflatable ring which was remarkably effective as a bodyboard. There were lots of dogs on the beach each loosely attached to a restaurant or set of huts, although you could entice them to befriend you for the day with a few scraps. They particularly liked sleeping under occupied sunbeds - often 4 or 5 would cram under one even though there were other empty ones nearby. Our dog, which slept by our hut seemed to like cashew nuts (mind you they were delicious) but he wasn't too keen on learning to jump through the ring!

Agonda beachfront hut

Agonda beachfront hut

Bodyboarding on the inflatable ring

Bodyboarding on the inflatable ring

Alternative bodyboarding by Sue

Alternative bodyboarding by Sue

Can't teach an old dog ....

Can't teach an old dog ....

Guarding our stuff

Guarding our stuff

There are lots of fishermen on the beach - some with boats and some with small nets who fish in the mouth of the river.

Is he really helping or just resting?

Is he really helping or just resting?

A bit more effort

A bit more effort

Fishing in the river

Fishing in the river

Left Goa for Mangalore - not sure why we bothered as there's nothing to see here and we're missing the beach. Catching a train at midnight to Kerala.

Posted by armrig 11:39 Archived in India Comments (1)

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