Saturday, 13 August 2011

African Queen - only Indian!

So we loaded our gear and clambered onto our houseboat on Friday mid-morning and were introduced to our boatmen-chef and driver. They toured us around the ensuite bedroom, living area and served us a cool refreshing lemon drink at our comfy seats behind the captain!

Off we went at about, oh five knots I'd say. Great views of backwater life- people washing cooking pots, clothes, themselves, fishing, cooking etc. Great wildlife too with billions of shags, paddy birds, egrets: "cattle", "little" and "great". Kingfishers? Only about four varieties!

Stopped for a sumptuous Kerala classic of fish fry, cabbage and coconut, veg curry, coconut curry, rice, naans, beetroot curry- really lovely. Then back on with the tour until about 6pm when we pulled up on a quiet backwater with paddy fields alongside and a great evening watching the light on the still water as sun set. Saw a night heron and were served a delicious supper whilst we sipped G&T (bought at the gvmnt booze shop in town before we left) Great night and then bed. Hot hot hot- the temperature I mean not Mr sexy pants spreadeagled and snoring!

In the morning we had another hour and half cruise before returning to our starting point and bidding farewell to our new chums!

Discussed options of bus or train and plumped for cab back to Varkala. Hell ride as per usual with death defying driving interspersed with heavy gut sickening braking.

Talk about the prodigal return! Wow we were welcomed back by every shop keeper, newspaper man and waiter. People were shouting out as we passed "you came back? Alleppey no good?"

The only person not surprised was lovely Rani who claimed she knew we would return to her homestay.

Tomorrow Rani has asked me to nip into town for her and buy her a new sari for the Independance Day parade on Monday. She won't give me any clue what colour, material or anything she just says "your choice will be great" what a responsibility! Told her she can go to London for me and buy my next party dress!

Tomorrow we are going to see some Kathakali dancing again as it was great fun.

Anyway that's us for now see all soon we hope

Friday, 12 August 2011

Strange goings-on in the Backwaters

Ain't half hot mum!

Left Varkala with a last hurrah and many a fond farewell from all our regular pals here in the various beach cafes and bars. Our lovely Rani saying "Maybe you come back again one more time?" but we smiled sadly - alas no this time we leave for good and all.
Arrived at station in time to witness an elephant being led along the road through the traffic which was cool.
Two aircon seats and three hours of gazing over the back water dwellings and all life happening along the track and we were in Alleppey. So looking forward to this our final week in the most expensive accommodation (16 quid per night) with aircon and apparently lovely and genial hosts. What we got was a real bummer of an experience. The town is dirty smelly busy noisy and generally uninspiring shambolic mess of bazaar selling gold, silver and plastic. It was raining and miserable too.
Then lo and behold turned out the guesthouse was on a main drag with speeding motorbikes and honking rickshaws zooming past- not a good start. The place was a building site and we weren't sure who the builders were and who the owners may be. No one was particularly chatty or welcoming. We were shown a room off reception where we had to leap over the building work. The room was windowless and dark (only one light out of 6 working) The bed was high up and hard and more like a table really. Three people stood outside the door and as soon as we re-opened it they started to try and flog us their Backwater trip for the next day. Far from the reviews of helpful and accommodating hosts these guys argued amongst themselves and hardly spoke English. I said it was fine for the trip but we didn;t wish to pay for the room whilst out on the boat. They weren’t accepting this and kept saying you pay half price for the room. This is ludicrous as we wouldn’t need to leave anything in it so they could rent it out again if they needed to. We were really hacked off with them.
Long story short we were truly miserable and down and couldn;t get dinner anywhere so went to bed hungry and miz. They were re-tiling the floor outside our door until gone 10.30pm (hammering and sawing etc) Terrible. We got up early threw the money on the table and walked!! Unfortunately we couldn’t then get a place because of boat race. Managed to find a really lovely place which gave us a room for half the prrice of the last one which was cool, large, big clean bathroom, terrace in the garden etc lovely. They could only let us stay one night though but we booked on to their Backwater Boat for the following night (also cheaper than the orignal guesthouse quote)
We had determind that we would have to cut our losses as far as watching the Nehru Trophy Snake boat race was concerned and head back to Varkala after we finished on the house boat on Friday morning (all in all though this set of circumstances we worked out would save us 10,000 rupees – about 150quid- which we could have thrown away on the stupid original guesthouse. Suddenly though our luck changed as the snake boat teams were having their trials and practice that very afternoon so we ended up getting to see some of the madness anyway.

Snake boats are huge long canoes with 104 guys on them rowing or drumming or steering. The atmosphere even at the practice was awesome, really exciting. Pleased to see a ladies team with the women from local villages (all ages) wearing red sari blouses and white saris rowing like crazy.
At the end the local team all disembarked near where we were standing and they all proceeded to shake our hands and chat to Simon about what was going on and what their chances are. It was great to see, shame that we will miss the Saturday trophy race but given how crazy thestands were just at the practice the actual day will be mad.
After an extremely hot and sweaty night despite the hard working fan we were up early and preparing to embark on our Backwaters cruise. This may have to go in another post as I have an extremely loud and annoying Kiwi lady rabbiting loudly on skype to her daughter and I can’t concentrate (coz I’m listening to her stories ... it was her daughters birthday yesterday and she has just re-married- Graham (he’s English) and they’;re on this amazing honeymoon in Malaysia, India etc- maybe a cruise but she hasn’t said!! (I may have to ask!!) Anyway they are driving me nuts so I’m signing out!!

Monday, 8 August 2011

So farewell.... Varkala

Well we spent first ten days here at the beautiful cliff edge dwelling of Varkala and then returned and have enjoyed another 8 days here amidst sun, surf, fine food and great people! It'sbeen amazing but time tove on onelasttime!

Tomorrow we take train to Alleppey for final week amongst the backwaters. Trivandrum on Monday 15 then 3.30am flight to Dubai on 16th and eventually home around nighttime on 16th UK time.

Will try and update again but no idea re: Internet connection at Alleppey.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Happy birthday Mr President and me!

Never realised Barak et moi shared a birthday(also Gerry Garcia and of course dad- I'll call them the Grateful Dead-that's a poor joke only old hippies will get!)

Planned to spend yesterday seeing the elephants at a special camp where the festival tuskers relax in the off season. What the guide book described as a great day seeing over 30 elys, washing them, feeding them etc actually turned out to be a back yard with four sad looking tuskers and one non speaking magpie in a plastic chair looking vaguely confused when two White folks showed up with some cameras and a half hearted bunch of bananas!

Beautiful beasts however and quite different from those in Thailand. One super old chap had something in his look-possibly wise but humourfilled eyes and large ears and brow shape that left me fondly remembering my granddad Mac all day! I even found a tear coming to my eye as I watched dolphin pod cruising along the bay whilst repeatedly listening to Nessum Dorma!

Today I woke up aware that a small boy was waiting for me to open my tired eyes,which I was too knackered to do! The small boy in question was my beloved husband excitedly waiting to sing happy birthday to me. Eventually when my bladder forced a half hearted stumble bathroomwards with only one eye half open I got the full cheery tune from him! As I was particularly grumpy to be turning42 he regaled me again two hours later when I opened my eyes properly in the day. Permit me a moment of slushiness here when I say I love my Pants to bits n pieces!! He has made every effort to ensure I've had a great day. He even bought me a lovely bedspread with elephants embroider on it.

I've requested that it can remain my birthday until we go home as a girl could get used to so much love and attention. Apparently, however, it ends at midnight!!

Meanwhile it has been great to get FaceTime with mum, pop, elli, debs, John this evening-wonders of technology!!! I got to see them all cheerfully gobbling up huge quantities of what could only have been MY birthday cake!!!!

Love to all xxxxx