Right, I'm typing this quickly as we have no internet. Will upload it when I can.
So, the last few days. Ah India, it's welcomed us with open arms and then slapped us in the face to make sure we're paying attention. Last time I was with you, I was in Varkala, relaxing as the ocean breeze ruffled my hair. We proceeded onwards to the fabled backwaters of Kerala, The tourist cruise was pleasant, if long, and we sat back and watched the lives of many flash past us as we trundled along.
The small villages weren't on the big canals we used (so we're told by the book) but we still saw village life. As we passed houses and schoolbuildings, hands would spring from the windows and wave furiously at the passing boat, like the building was trying to take flight. We did our best to wave back, and of course take many pictures.
The fishermen and the other boatspeople were fantastic. Small canoes, spreading their nets across the water. Some of them were carrying sand somewhere. I tried not to take too many pictures, I don't think I would have been too comfortable being objectified in that manner, so I didn't do it to them.
We arrived in Alleppey content, finding many nice people on board, including an Indian PHD student who had a long and interesting debate with a Welsh writer and I regarding censorship. He helped call our hotel, and after a very short wait, we were picked up. Good thing we were, if we had walked we would never have found the place from the abysmal map on the back of their calling card.
We stayed in a little place called the Paradise Inn. Colouful and clean, it was a deal at 600 rupees, with the inside looking larger than it actually was. Free internet thrown in too. Downside was a distinct lack of organization and a guy who wasn't sure what he was doing helping us in. The actual owner we met a little later, who seemed a bit surly. Still, a special mention to the rickshaw driver who picked us up, he seems to work for the hotel, and was both friendly and helpful, pointing out some good restaurants nearby for us to try (we later found his recommendation was in Lonely Planet).
So, off we went to the local place, called Thaff. Veeeery popular, we perched opposite a french couple we had met on the boat, and had a fantastic and informative chat over dinner. The female of the pair had now been to india 16 times. Yes, sixteen. So her tidbits of info were amazing. She gave us a good idea of how much things could cost, and revealed they had both lived in a little village in the east and had spent $110 each for the entire month. Crazy! One of her top tips was to spend no more than 350 rupees a night, as we could find rooms just as good for that price as for a thousand. We bid them farewell and gave them contact addresses then headed back.
And then came the bus journey. Oh wow. The bus was a ramshackled old Leyland, built maybe 40 years ago, weighing 12 tonnes I reckon, and driven like a Nissan Micra. We boarded a little anxiously, after being helped by an old one legged man who was helping all of the tourists in the area get onto the right buses (for free), and found no seats. Debating waiting for the next one, I tried to turn, found the door slammed behind me, and off he bus went, careening into the traffic.
Oh my lord. The bus will just drive. If you are in the same lane and are going slower you are expected to move over onto the left so the bus can get by. If you are on the opposite side you do the same, then the bus screams down the middle, dodging mopeds, rickshaws and bicycles. The only time the driver would hit the brake is if another bus was coming at him. Everything else was missed by a good few millimetres.
Aya found a seat after the first stop, and I just stood there with my bag on the floor at my feet, riding this rollercoaster from hell. At least a dozen times I cringed as I was sure we were about to commit homicide and pancake an old man on his bicycle, but miraculously we arrived in Ernakulam with no casualties. By the time a seat was available for me I was enjoying standing so much I remained so.
And then we arrived in Cochin. Busy, noisy, a good training city for Mumbai I think. So far we've enjoyed it, finding a room for 340 rupees a night which is just as good as the last one we were in, bringing our daily cost down to $8 per day. Good thing too, as we just spent $20 on a train ride to Goa tomorrow. Wow, you know things are cheap when you complain about $20. Heh.
Right, off to Fort Cochi now for food and some sights. Will post this when Internet allows.