We found a few little tourist things in Fort Cochin (not an actual fort just a suburb) and some bars and restaurants. The Chinese fishing nets were interesting and there were a series of churches etc. It is still hot here and we were hiking in the heat of the day towards the basilica. Now having grown up with private schools I have been to my fair share of religious institutions and know that in terms of rankings they go: chapel, church, cathedral, basilica. Having climbed St Peters basilica in Rome, I had an idea of what to expect…oh was I wrong.
Clearly the rankings do not count here in India. After hiking like idiots in the heat we arrived at the basilica which was smaller than and about as impressive as a local scout hall in a small country town. Needless to say I had an opinion, as sweat poured down my beleaguered brow standing outside the footy dressing shed that was the basilica. While walking away we passed about 6 more churches…all of which were significantly better than the basilica.
The choice for lunch was written up in the lonely planet as the pick and was called the Dal Roti. It’s good write up was well earned and well deserved. We were introduced to a new thing which was the “Kati Roll”. This was in essence a kebab (the type that you drunkenly order at 3am on your way home) made with buttery Indian bread rather than the normal burrito/lavash style bread…and it was magnificent. I had the chicken, Jill had the curried prawns and we shared. A table of yank girls, at the next table, were expertly guided through the menu by the very personable and helpful owner and all the food that appeared looked sensational and seemed to be fully appreciated.
The main reason for heading down here was the fact that Jill had booked a houseboat to cruise the Kerala backwaters for three days before heading for the southernmost tip of India (Kanyakumari) via Thiruvananthapuram. The houseboat was a thing we saw while watching the pilots guide to India and we thought it was a must do. It involves the two of us and three staff with all the food and drink (non alcoholic) that you can handle. It also involved stops through the day to buy essentials like beer and fresh seafood.
You jump off the boat with chef in tow and select live prawns and crabs while asking him what he could do with that…if he suggested something good you bought it…if not you made him either come up with a better option or walked away from the prawns etc.. We walked away from the first one as they were asking more for their prawns (per kilo) than you would pay for top Aussie tiger prawns. As we were about to leave the captain said we could get beer here too…so I ordered the 3 cold ones that they had (Bavarian beer) only to find that they were non alcoholic beer. Upon noticing this we returned them quickly and drove the boat away.
Kerala is clearly the rice bowl of India with each side of the River spilling out into mammoth rice paddies for hectare after hectare. The land level is lower than the River and at the appropriate times they open gates and flood the fields. All transport around the region is by water, with the exception of a 4 foot wide gravel path along the bank. This has seen the accumulation of many new photos for addition to Jill’s planes, trains section of the blog. Particularly as brick barge, construction canoe, de-weeding dredge, farmer’s flock, fishing fleet, grocer’s galleon, holidayer’s houseboats, kelp ketch, laundry launch, and school sloop (see what I did there with the alliteration…it is in alphabetic order too… And some of you think I just spew forth random garbage…a lot of work goes into these ramblings) all compete for the same stretch of water. (Now be honest…how many of you went back to check if my alphabetising was correct).
Possibly the greatest thing that we saw in our three days of lazing was the trip past the duck farm. A solitary man in a dug out canoe was herding a flock of baby ducks as they swam up the River. We were heading in the opposite direction as we ploughed towards this mass of organised quackery. To give perspective to this, the flock was swimming about 20 ducks abreast to form a 2-4 meter wide strip. This was repeated row after row forming a ribbon of ducklings that stretched over 70 meters long and 3 meters wide and meandered its way upstream. All of this controlled by alone man in a canoe at the back, slapping his paddle on the water. I have no idea of how many ducklings there were, but it was many thousands.