The day after we arrived at the marina we had to go back and formally check into the country. This was a Tuk Tuk journey across town for a visit to Harbourmaster, customs and immigration. All pretty straightforward so we thought…. but somehow India takes much longer than everywhere else, including a three hour stop at the bank to get a bank cheque for the Harbourmaster. We had the cash but it had to be a bank cheque which involved four different desks and various stamps. With said bank cheque we returned to the Harbourmaster, but were sent to another office and so it went on – for seven hours!
The filing system was ceiling high piles of paper files all spilling out their contents to be blown about by the ceiling fans which was amusing until we found out that they wanted our original boat registration to be retained for the duration of our visit. We tried to convince them that our very good copy was the original but they were not to be fooled and we had to hand over our precious original and hope we see it again. They even asked us if we had any carbon paper they could use for the copies but as we didn’t have any, we resorted to writing out the same info 5 times for each dept. It all got done with smiles all round and much head wobbling and so we then went for our first Indian meal with our driver at a workers canteen round the corner. For under $A2 we had a lovely meal of various pickles, rice and pappadoms – we are really looking forward to tasting more of their cuisine.
The next day we set off to find a doctor for Ian’s ear which was still painful. We were recommended to go and see an ENT specialist at a large hospital about 8 kms away which turned out to be a magnificent private hospital -AsterCity Med. it was like a 5 star hotel and we had no waiting time – were taken straight in to see the specialist. He prescribed Ian some strong antibiotics and some ear drops which we got from the pharmacy in the hospital and booked in for a further check up the following week. Cost: A$12 dr fee and A$13 drugs. There was even a band playing in the foyer! A really good experience and a big tick for the Indian health service.
We were having some jobs done while we were here so the next few days were spent sorting out the logistics of getting quotes etc. It was much harder the we thought as they are not used to foreigners wanting work done – they seem to have much more time on their hands than we do and everything will be done tomorrow. Eventually we got a fabulous company called Green Power to sort out our solar panels. They were a bit surprised we wanted them for a boat and all turned up at the marina to check her out as I don’t think they believed us!! Once they understood what we needed – just more panels to double our power supply in a fixed frame – they were fantastic. They sourced the right panels, delivered them and spent some time with Ian running through everything. We also were having some Carpentry and stainless steel work done which took over 2 weeks to sort out. Meanwhile Bev and Robbie from Sv Mersoleil came back from their Rajasthan trip and while Ian spent time with Robbie fixing stuff, Bev and I spent our time shopping at Lulus – the biggesit shopping mall in India – buying Indian clothes which are the most comfortable clothes ever, and socialising with the other cruisers. Their traditional markets have some of the best vegetables we have seen and the sell eggs in a homemade little egg basket for you! They all seemed thrilled to have a couple of western women buying from them when we bought something they invariably popped a couple more in after they had weighed them. They refused to take payment for the herbs as we bought only enough for one meal and we were treated like royalty.
We spent a few days swimming in the pool, saw some traditional dancing, patronised the bar and just enjoyed being in a marina again, but then we decided to head south and check out the Kerala backwaters. These scenic backwaters are a network of canals and lagoons, rivers and lakes which extend from one end of Kerala to the other. These are unique to Kerala, covering over 900 kms and we wanted to take a lazy boat ride through them. We boarded the train and arrived an hour later in the town of Alleppey. This is a delightful town which caters entirely to the tourists who want to go through the backwaters. Everything seems to evolve around the water here with a gorgeous big beach, many houses fronting the river system and a canal that runs right through the centre of town. Most tourists go through the backwaters staying overnight on the traditional houseboat together with a guide and a cook, but we opted for the other choice which is a day trip on a Shikara. We were very happy with our choice as we got a Shakira all to ourselves, skippered by an experienced captain and as we were smaller we could go down the smaller canals and just watch everyday life go by – most likely unchanged for eons.
We had the best meal so far in India at a restaurant called Dreamers overlooking the beach. They did not have a liquor licence but told us they could give us a beer but it would have to be disguised as tea – so our beer arrived in pink mugs. Just brilliant…
Back in Cochin things were not moving very quickly – in fact not at all! We only had a couple of days before we were flying to Delhi so we managed to organise the solar panels but the other jobs will have to wait until we get back from our trip to Rajasthan. Our friends Mathew and Jill from Rock and Roll Star arrived while we were away but Bev and Robbie had left so we are still only 6 boats in the whole marina. Next stop Delhi, Jaipur and Agra…