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Elephants, Waterfalls and Seafood – at last!

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Our guest house owners were extremely helpful in offering places that we should visit whilst in Kochi. As we didn’t have long here, the best way to see the most things was with organised tours. We’d never really went for these kind of trips before as our budget didn’t stretch that far, but with the end of our adventure in sight, we loosened the purse strings a bit – much to Dunc’s horror!

Our final day trip was a 3-stop tour in a private hire car, complete with driver. We were picked up from our homestay around 7am and whisked off to watch elephants from the nearby Kodanad Training Camp taking their morning bath in the river. What an experience! I’d never seen so many elephants this close before, and the way they just sat patiently while their trainers scrubbed their skin clean with coconut shells was really quite amazing!

Elephants from the training camp taking a bath

Elephants from the training camp taking a bath

After the elephant bathing, we went on to a Hindu temple that looked like a tower from a fairy tale! From top to bottom, it depicted the story of many of the Hindu gods with elaborate paintings and sculptures.

The next stop was a  rubber plantation, and then a trek to Athirappilly Waterfalls – not an easy task in flip flops! From the bottom, we got drenched with the spray from the waterfall, but from the top we could enjoy the view (and catch our breath from the trek!).

Rubber plantation

Rubber plantation

Athirappilly waterfalls

Athirappilly waterfalls

It was really great to have our own driver for a trip like this. Although his English wasn’t great, he pointed out where his family lived and even took us to a favourite restaurant where we enjoyed a super-spicy thali, and then on to a tea shop for a cuppa before heading home.

For me, a huge appeal of Kerala was the seafood! Until this point in the trip, I had never dared eat seafood since we were always so far away from the coast. But here, we were on an island lined with hand-made fishmonger stalls selling the catch of the day! Each stall was tied into a restaurant in town, so you’d pick out your red snapper, or hammerhead, or lobster, or tiger prawns… then take them to the restaurant to have it cooked to your liking. Yum!

Fresh fish! We catch them, you buy them!

Fresh fish! We catch them, you buy them!

Whilst wandering around Fort Kochi, we stumbled upon an arts and crafts shop with an animal charity stall set up outside. Tempted by the puppies and kittens, we went over to see what it was all about. The owner of the charity, Mad Dogs Trust, is a vet from England who had moved to Fort Kochi in 2007. Her team of vets re-home stray dogs where possible, but more realistically, introduce birth control methods reduce the street animal population. We offered to help on the merchandise stall for an hour or so before catching our bus to Goa, and got chatting to lots of other volunteers and tourists who were keen to help or offer donations.

Mad Dogs Trust Fundraising

Mad Dogs Trust Fundraising

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First Impressions of Kochi

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Leaving Mysore was a bit of a challenge! We first had to get the bus from Mysore to Hundsur, then figure out the bus station ‘system’, then get an overnight bus to Kochi (or Cochin) – which would actually get us in at 4am! – and then wait on a ferry to take us over to the island of Fort Kochi. As with many things in India, even the worst scenarios actually work themselves out for the best! On this occassion, arriving at 4am worked to our advantage as we were invited onto a movie set of an all-action flick, were given a nice cup of chai, and then wandered down to the jetty just in time to catch the first boat 🙂

The film set we stumbled upon at 6am!

The film set we stumbled upon at 6am!

After being bombarded by keen Guest House owners as we stumbled around the island at 7am, we picked a lovely family-run place in a quieter area of town. The Honolulu Home Stay was fresh, clean, cool, and we even had our own balcony – perfect! Shattered after the long bus ride but keen to make the most of our 4 days in Kochi, we showered and napped then went in search of breakfast!

Before long, we caught the attention of a rickshaw driver who would give us a “good price” for an island tour of the lesser known sights, and of course, visits to the customary arts and crafts shops so he could get share of the commission. We didn’t actually mind this time as the driver was so friendly – it had actually become a bit of a novelty to feign interest in yet another tapestry we had zero interest in buying! Our driver stuck to his word and did take us to lots of places we’d never have found otherwise – like a traditional outdoor laundry that still services lots of the local hotels, and an indoor spice market.

Traditional laundry in Fort Kochi

Traditional laundry in Fort Kochi

A selection of wares at the spice market

A selection of wares at the spice market

The climate in Kerala seemed a lot milder in the evenings, but that was possibly down to the fresh sea air blowing over the island. In the evenings, we’d often take a walk up to the north-most point to admire Fort Kochi’s infamous Chinese fishing nets, or just to enjoy an ice cream as we watched the sunset. There are quite a lot of tourists here so the locals are accustomed to seeing us white folk, which meant that for a change, we got the chance to just sit and relax.

Chinese fishing nets in the north of Fort Kochi

Chinese fishing nets in the north of Fort Kochi