12.12.2016 - 20.12.2016 36 °C
It's been a whirlwind of a year. We've moved from London to Bristol, quit jobs that we loved, bought our very own house (which we feel very lucky to have) and boarded a plane to India to escape the rat race for three months.
We stepped out of Cochin airport at 8am to crowds of loved ones held back behind railings and flailing their arms shouting. We walked through the gangway between the two crowds I couldn't help but just laugh. It was scorching hot and the airport pick up we'd arranged was nowhere to be seen. We called the hotel, they said 'ah yes he won't be coming'.
We spent two days exploring Fort Cochin and acclimatising to the heat, hoardes of people and honking horns. Drivers in Kerala seem to beep their horns every time they see a person, goat, bike, moto, tuk tuk, car and so on. Fort Kochin was chaotic and quite dirty to English standards which no longer apply, but we found a quiet market street full of antique vendors, artisans and spice stalls. We were far to concerned about getting a bad tummy so we paid over the odds in restaurants for a veg burger and Aloo Saag (My Nan's fave). We would get braver....
We were lucky enough to pass through a Hindu festival late one evening. The grounds of the temple were neatly organised with hundreds of lines of incense dishes. As an old man pounded a drum, children, women in their finest saris and men kicked off their shoes and rushed forward to set fire to their wooden torch and start lighting the little tea lights, we were invited to get involved.
We heaved our rucksacks down into town to catch the 8am air conditioned bus from Fort Kochin to Varkala. I cackled at a girl that missed the bus as she ran back to get her hat from her homestay, who would miss a bus for a hat? As the bus swerved around the bend I though oh shit. 'STOP THE BUS!' I'd left my passport under the mattress at our 'Dream Catcher homestay' (which I'd recommend by the way) . #Kerrifail1
Five local buses later (which were titan monsters, see below photo from Google), we arrive at Varkala - it's stunning and I've promised to buy Lewy dinner to apologise for my blunder. He says he liked the adventure anyway. The first two nights we stayed in a £4 room, which smelled so bad of damp we had to douse the bed with peppermint oil (thank you Jess!). We then moved to Skyline Tourist Paradise for £8 a night.
We've been in Varkala for five days, it's a peaceful place away from the beeping horns. A giant beach with good waves, overlooked by a small cliff top path of restaurant and street vendors all covered in fairy lights. You can visit a few different beaches and if you wake up early enough you can watch the fishermen dragging in their boats and sharing out the money made from he nights fishing trip.
We've seriously feasted since arriving in Varkala. Our whole day evolves around the beach and what to eat. Oranges for breakfast and Masala Dosa for lunch, curry or fish for dinner. Never going over our total daily budget of £30 between us. There are some odd customs here, the restaurants are leased out and change hand every season and because of Kerala's old-fangled licensing laws, which involve huge amounts of tax, a lot of cafes choose to serve beer discreetly in ceramic jugs, this is not a place to come and binge drink Brits.
We've sampled the local fish - caught by the local fisherman who don't get paid enough for their back breaking work through the night, catching fish by using lights which attract them to the surface (poor buggers). On the pleasant side, from the cliff top the ocean looks like it's lit up with fireflies at night. We shared a £8 red snapper, doused in lemon, garlic, chilli and ginger - and there was a lot more on offer.
We've discovered the best vegetarian curries are served a small walk away in the small eateries outside the temples, where the locals feast in late evening. Masala dosas are our new found favourite. Originally from Kerala - a seriously large crisp dosa folded in half with a surprise package inside of boiled potatoes seasoned in mustard seeds, grated coconut, coriander, and lemon juice, all served on a banana leaf. The dish is accompanied with two types of spicy masala and a dish of sweet coconut - all to be eaten with your fingers which have been doused in sanitiser for extra flavour.
So far no tummy or derrière troubles to report - only Lewy trying to decide whether or not to try out the local custom of using the mini-water shower to clean his bum instead of toilet paper. What do you think?