After our exhausting day in Allepey, we decided to spent the next day totally relaxing and getting to know the quaint seaside region of Fort Cochin or Kochi (8/12).
In the morning we browsed the many touristy shops- the only downside to Kochi are the heckling shopkeepers that bug you incessantly to enter their shops. We ate breakfast at the nostalgic Kashi Art Cafe, a slice of Maine beach cafe feel in the middle of India. Starbucks-like music, simple western food, and hot tea made us visit Kashi again for lunch and then dinner the next day. Catherine and I then rented bicylces from the tourist center (at only 5Rs/hour) and ended up nearly exploring all of Fort Cochin by bike! We biked all along the coast- the only sea we saw was from very rocky beaches with a bit of trash everywhere and unfortunately a huge naval base covers the coast as well. However, our bicycle ride was so refreshing as we were greeted by all the locals in the streets and we were able to see the much more rural side of Kochi- dirt roads, fruit stands, and then we shopped a bit in Jew town and their Spice Market. For the afternoon I got an Aryuvedic (India's form of traditional and ancient medicine) Entire-Body Massage which involves a lot of herbal oil and the requirement that you strip down to your underwear! I was relaxed after the one-hour massage and with renewed energy went to the internet cafe and completed my three essays for Northwestern Medical School's secondary app (whew!). Meanwhile, Catherine took a yoga lesson from a very skilled teacher (I'm nowhere as flexible as her!).
We spent the whole day 8AM-5PM on a Backwaters trip in Kerala. Kerala is famous for it's jungle-like rivers and bodies of water and for 4 hours we drifted on a large covered boat in an area called "3-Rivers" where we saw 26 islands! We saw a lot of the daily activities of the local people that live there, many of them fish or dive for small crustaceans and many of them also dig sand basket by basket from the river bottom, exported and used for such things as construction. The palms trees and view were simply spectacular and Catherine and I dangled our feet from the boat side.
Fishing net structures used by the locals, they are currently looking skeletal and bare because not much fishing goes on during monsoon season.
A glimpse at the sand industry.
Then, We visited an island calcium plant (they crush mussel shells to get calcium powder) and tried coconut tonic (supposedly makes you strong/healthy), a juice taken straight from the coconut flower which is white and opaque and very alcoholic, it ferments within 6 days into a pure alcoholic drink! As part of the trip we were fed delicious local food, almost all of which contained coconut- whether it be dried, shredded, or liquid milk. Coconut is a huge part of daily Keralan life- you can use its husk to weave ropeand all its various parts to cook with. We then spent the latter half of the day being pushed in a canoe by bamboo stick through the narrow inland backwaters. Incredibly lush green jungle and coconut trees made this canoe trip seem like we were in the middle of the Amazon!
In the stark white calcium plant located on a remote palm-studDelicious lunch with lots of coconut incorporated in.
On the canoe in the narrow backwatersWe were propelled by guys pushing long poles into the creek bed
We left that night for our 14 hour train back to the northern state of Goa- and this train ride was the most amazing of all that I have taken in India as of yet. The sky was clear when we departed the train station at night and I lay in my bunk just staring at the stars which seems to drip down from the sky. With little light polution and a view from the Southern atmostphere, I couldn't stop looking out my window and fell asleep with my glasses on. I awoke the the startlingly green views of farm valleys/rice fields of Karnataka (state south of Goa). Hills, mountains, valleys whoosed by the train window, all of them abundant with palm trees and green. Views from the train...
In my seat tanning/ reading/ enjoying the open air and scenery.An amusing train of brightly painted trucks ready to be shipped to the north!
Catherine and I arrive at last to the small idyllic village of Palolem, known for its beautiful and picturesque beaches. It's definitely a tiny town and tourists bump into each other often and local folks start to recognize you a few hours into your stay. We went out to the main beach, a huge crescent lush with palms and with a lot of local fishing action going on in a corner of the beach. We played in the water, which was warm and clean! Later, I walked along the beach and took many pictures of the breath-taking views. Tomorrow is our last full day in Kerala before we get ready to head back to America, we plan to go around to Palolem's hidden beaches via scooter.
Fishing boats coming in around sundown on Palolem beach.