22.01.2010 - 25.01.2010
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.
The festival celebrating the anniversary of the local cultural centre:
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.
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.
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.