A Travellerspoint blog

Kochi to Goa - Thursday,13 February 2014

Alarm went off at 5.00am, continental breakfast arrived at 5.15am and we were in the foyer at 5.55am for our transfer to the airport.

Diane and Lorraine are travelling to Goa with us and Fiona and Malcolm are staying in Mumbai for two nights.  As there are no direct flights to Goa, we had to go via Mumbai.  Checking in took quite a while because only 15 kgs per bag is allowed for domestic flights, so Scenic is picking up the tab.  But they wouldn't pay for Malcolm and Fiona because their trip has now ended.  The flight took one hour forty minutes.

Sailed through security and boarded the flight and it took off on time and landed in Mumbai a bit early.  We found the gate for the flight to Mumbai but we had to go through security again and this time it was a bit tedious.  The female line took ages as there was a very zealous female officer checking lots of bags.  Diane and Lorraine were picked up for having a bottle of water, but I was allowed to go through!   Crazy! 

The flight took 40 minutes and we were all commenting on what a smooth trip it had been AND THEN WE ARRIVED IN THE GOA BAGGAGE COLLECTION AREA!  What a joke!   I have never seen so many people squeezed into one area at the same time.  About five flights had all landed at the same time and it was absolute chaos.  I stood to the side and minded the carryon luggage while the others went into battle for their bags.  After absolutely ages, the crush had cleared a bit and to our great relief all our bags were located.

We hooked up with the Scenic man in Goa, John and drove to our accommodation, the Hyatt Hotel in Bambolin Bay, north Goa.  It took about 45 minutes but the roads seem quite good and the drivers seem to obey the traffic rules, whatever they are!

The hotel is a huge complex.  We changed rooms to get a view of the Arabian Sea and the girls were given a double bed but they swapped for two single beds.  We have had a very relaxing couple of hours with no timetable to worry about and have just ordered room service and will then have an early night and start exploring Goa and our hotel tomorrow.


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Posted by gaddingabout 06:34 Archived in India Comments (0)

Kochi - Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Today we have two Scenic Free Choices to choose from.  The first is shopping at the markets with Eugine's sisters for spices, vegetables, meat and fish and then going back to their home and watching them prepare the meal and then eating it with them.  The other choice is a traditional ayurveda massage.  Phil has opted for the massage but I have decided to do the cooking class.  It has also been suggested that if we don't want another early start, then we can skip the markets and Eugine will come back for us at 10.45am and we can watch the preparation of the meal.

I, along with a few others decided just to attend the cooking demonstration so at 10.45am Eugine came back for us and we walked for about 15 minutes to his sister's house.  It is so humid here!  The house is only a couple of years old and has two stories and a roof section which is where we watched the cooking demo and ate our lunch.


The first thing that happened was the male residents of the house started to erect a canopy over some bamboo poles to stop the sun beating down on us.  They weren't very tall so our six foot plus Aussies, plus Elizabeth, did the job for them. Then Charlotte and Blessy started to cook and Harry and John noticed that when they turned on the tap, the water dripped onto a power board with a loose wire!  John fiddled around and moved the power board out of harms way.


Eventually lunch was served.  There were prawns, crab and a fish curry, rice, bread and an okra dish and deep fried chicken and a special very spicy dish for the Gillbanks.  It was really nice. 


Eugine's nephew Joshua sang for us.  He has a lovely voice and is a very good looking 10 year old.


We also had some lovely ginger wine and the ladies said it wasn't alcoholic but it was!  It had been fermenting since November. 


Walked back to the hotel.  


Phil had enjoyed his massage.  I was booked in for a Sirodhara Massage.  During the treatment, medicated oil is poured as a stream over the forehead, from a perforated earthen pot suspended above.  It is supposed to diminish the effects of ageing, plus is also effective for improving the memory,  relaxation,  migrane, general anixety and insomnia. When I arrived at the Massage Hut, it was strip off to nothing and she put a pair of paper pants on me. Then she rubbed oil all over my body and hair and gave me a general head and body massage.  Then I lay on the bed and for what seemed about 30 minutes, she dripped the warm oil onto my forehead. It was so relaxing, I think I went to sleep. At the end, I had a shower and washed my hair and she gave me some herb paste to scrub into my body to get rid of the oil.  It was so nice.  I floated out of there and back to our room.

Earlier this morning, an Australian Navy ship sailed up the harbour past our hotel.  We didn't know which ship it was so I put a photo of it on Facebook, with amazing results.  One of my Facebook friends, Mat McDonald, an ex colleague from Government House days, is actually on that ship.  It is HMAS Darwin and Mat sent me a message to see if we could meet up for a coffee in Cochin.  Unfortunately no, as we are flying to Goa early tomorrow morning.  It's a very small world!


At 5.30 pm, we all met at the wharf and went on a harbour cruise.  There was quite a bit of "pitch and roll" but I stood up the front of the boat and was okay.  It was a pleasant one hour cruise and then raced up to our rooms to get dressed for pre dinner drinks in the bar, followed by our farewell dinner.


We were supposed to be eating on the terrace and the man with the fog machine was demosquitoing it when we came back from our cruise. However, the hotel staff advised us it would probably be better to eat in the main dining room as the mossies are quite bad, so we did. 


It was a very pleasant evening, with quite nice food.  All seafood but Paula had shown me the menu a couple of days ago and I told her I was okay with it and not to make me anything special.  At the end of the meal, Phil stood up and made a little speech to thank Paula and Eugine and then recited Rupert McColl's "Green and Gold Malaria".  It brought a tear to more than one eye!


Back to our room and final packing as we are among the first group to leave early tomorrow morning at 5.55 am.

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Posted by gaddingabout 06:20 Archived in India Comments (0)

Kerala Backwaters to Kochi - Tuesday, 11 February 2014

sunny 35 °C

Woke up just before sunrise and went for a walk onshore to take some photos. It was cool and peaceful though the air air was heavy with humidity. Sunrise isn't until about 7am because we are in the dry season at the moment - their Winter.


Back on board for breakfast of freshly squeezed pineapple juice, omelette, pancakes with rice vegetables and of course, marsala tea. Can't live without my marsala tea!

Then we started sailing back to the mooring dock. Us and our luggage were transferred "mid stream" onto the large taxi boat that took us all back to the shore and our bus, for the two hour journey to Kochi and the end of our tour.


It is extremely hot and humid here!

The trip took about two hours of easy driving but Lorraine was still sick. I suspect she has a tummy upset and not motion sickness at all.

We arrived at the Brunton Boathouse and went straight into lunch while they completed cleaning our rooms. The Brunton Boathouse is about 12 years old and is designed in heritage style. It is only two stories high and reminds us a lot of Raffles. Our room is huge, with a balcony overlooking the harbour. The bed is so high you need a stool to get into it!



This is Eugine's home town (our Indian guide), so he was very pleased to be able to take us on a walking tour. First we visited the local fishermen, manipulating the old Chinese nets that were erected in the 14th century. DID I MENTION HOW HOT AND HUMID IT IS!! They chant to stay in time when pulling up the net. Some of us had a go and my group even caught something. Wouldn't be allowed in Australia. Would have to throw them back.



Our catch!

We visited the Dutch Palace and wandered through the rooms that have now been turned into a museum. There are some lovely frescos on the walls but unfortunately we were not allowed to photograph them.


We then visited St Francis church where Vasco da Gama was originally buried.


We also visited Jew Town and went into a synagogue but weren't allowed to take photos in there either.


It is so hot and humid, we are dying!

At 6.00 pm, we met in the foyer of the hotel and walked down the road to observe the complex transformation process and rituals as performers prepare for their Kathakali performance which is a highly evolved classical form of dance, drama, mime and music that is more than 400 years old. We watched the main performer put on his make up for 40 minutes. It was a bit like watching paint dry, boom! boom! But we then went into the theatre and had front row seats for the hour long performance. The female who was actually a male dressed up as a female, demomstrated all the different mime actions and then the show began. Basically, it was, girl meets demon, girl falls in love with demon, demon kills girl! And all done with mime.


After the show we were going to eat in a restaurant somewhere but decided to have room service instead which was a good decision. We both had a lovely pasta dish, caught up with my blogging, had a luxurious bath in the biggest bath tub I have ever seen and snuggled into a lovely bed after a very full day.
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Periyar Tiger Reserve to Kerala Backwaters - Mon 10 Feb 2014

sunny 35 °C

Left Thekedy for a two and a half hour drive down the mountain to join our houseboat for a night on the Kerala Backwaters. It was very windy and the driver was screeching around the corners and not long into the trip I decided to take a motion sickness tablet and thank goodness I did, because it only got worse. One of the Sydney girls up the front of the bus kept getting sick and we kept stopping so she could get out and be sick.

We stopped for morning tea and I asked tne driver to open the bus for me so I could get my spare set of motion sickness bands out of my bag to give to her. I also gave her a neck pillow to keep her head still but she didn't use it which was silly because I think it would have helped her. Anyway, you can only do so much!

Kerala is certainly God's own country, as they say. It is so green and fertile and now we are driving through the mountains, we are seeing acres and acres of tea bushes. It is really beautiful.


We stopped at this church along the way for a photo opportunity.


We arrived at the dock just before lunch time. It is extremely hot and humid. We all boarded one boat that took us to one of our house boats.


We had four house boats between us, but we all squeezed onto one for lunch. We all thought the plan was for us to be on our own boats all afternoon and that we would join up for dinner. However, the plan was that we would all remain squashed on one boat until after dinner and then be transferred to our respective boats. The general opinion was that we wanted to get on our boats as soon as possible and enjoy the afternoon cruising the backwaters.


Arrangements were quickly made and we were all transferred to our own boats and off we went. It was peaceful and idyllic. Harry and Merryl from Toowoomba were on our boat, plus Rob and Jill from Bemboka. It was a very pleasant group and it was nice to have the time to get to know them a bit better.


Towards the end of the day we all moored alongside each other on one of the remote backwaters and we were offered a canoe ride through the village backwater at sunset. Paula, Rob and I went in one canoe and Eugine, Tony and Margaret went in the other. It was so nice gliding through the water waving to the families who were bathing in the river, or washing their dishes or just cooling off in the water. The children run out and wave to us and one boy about 10 years old, dropped his lungi and flashed us!


Back on the boat for a G&T before dinner and Phil walked down the passage way to the galley to get a glass for Eugine to join us for a drink. As he came out and not looking where he was going, one of the crew had put a very low chair outside the door and he tripped over it and fell down with a huge bang. His knee swelled up immediately into a huge fluid lump, like fluid on the knee. Merryl went and got an ice pack from the kitchen and Margaret, who is a nurse, came over for a consultation. After some anti inflamatories and no alcohol, it started to go down and there appears to be no major damage. Thank goodness!

We had a very relaxed dinner in our air conditioned dining room and then went to bed. Our shower flooded the whole bathroom, which was pretty dangerous, especially with Phil with one bung knee, and there was no hot water, but a cold shower was quite refreshing. The pillows were like rocks so I kept waking up during the night. But all in all, a very pleasant day.

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Periyar Tiger Reserve - Sunday, 9 February 2014

sunny 33 °C

Set the alarm for 6am and we all met in the restaurant for coffee and croissants prior to leaving at 7ish for a walk in the Periyar Tiger Reserve.



A couple of us wore leech socks as we had some bare leg showing, just in case, but the guides said that there are no leeches at this time of the year.  However, the guide had leech socks on over his trousers!


We crossed the lake on a very rickety bamboo raft and then walked through the reserve for a couple of hours.


We saw a lot of birds, a large porcupine quill, monkeys and a large squirrel but no tigers or elephants. We passed another group and their guides had a double barrel shotgun. It did cross my mind what our guides would do if a tiger jumped out at us but of course it didn't happen.


This poor lady was standing on the edge of the road when a monkey came down from the tree and grabbed her bag and started eating the contents. He was a big savage male so all she could do was stand there and watch! As we walked by he just barred his teeth and growled so we kept going. Don't want a rabies bite from a monkey.


Back to the accommodation for a late breakfast


and then at 11.30 am we all met again and went to Abraham's Spice Farm.  We were guided around the property by Abraham and it was very interesting.  He grows all sorts of spices and fruit and explained all about them to us and gave us little tastes along the way.


This was a lemon that he grew. Check out the size!


I used to have an indoor pot plant with Cat's Paw gowing in it and it died. I can't seem to find another one anywhere but Abraham has it growing in abundance!


Coffee drying on his roof.


We then went into his home for a luncheon off banana leaves, of traditional Kerala food.  It was very nice.


After our visit to the spice farm we came back to the hotel for a free afternoon. I am having trouble with my tablet saying that the memory is full but I'm not sure what to do about it. Phil went down and played some pool with David and Roger and I relaxed in our bungalow, reading and dozing. It was really a wasted afternoon but sometimes it's nice just to do nothing, because the pace of these tours can be quite hectic sometimes.

Just before dinner, we all walked up the road to witness an ancient marshal art form, Kalaripayattu, said to be more than 3,000 years old. The guys were in a pit and we were sitting up above them. They were excellent - so fit and athletic. Fighting with spears and knives which all culminated in jumping through hoops of fire. It was all very exciting.

On the way to the Spice Farm that morning we noticed an Italian Restaurant not far away from our hotel and decided it would be nice to have some Italian food for a change. We walked up the street in the dark, which made me a bit wary, found the restaurant and proceeded up a huge flight of stairs. On entering, our first impressions were that it was pretty tacky, with silver padded seats and no one else in the restaurant. The guy running it was a young Italian guys with dread locks who told us that he had only been open for a couple of months and that business was so bad that he was closing tomorrow. Great! We weren't extremely hungry, which was good, because he probably didn't have much food left. We ordered a plate of anti pasta which was quite nice and filled the spot. During our meal, Fiona and Malcolm and Jill and Rob came in but took one look at the place and left.

After dinner, we walked back to our hotel in the dark and realised that we had broken all the rules of travelling in India by eating cold meats and cheese! Thank goodness there were no side effects.

Just outside our hotel gate, we came across one of the martial arts performers and had a quick chat with him about his art and how much we enjoyed the performance earlier that evening. He has been involved in it since he was 7, and practices for seven hours a day! It shows!

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Posted by gaddingabout 08:05 Archived in India Comments (0)

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