We strolled across the lawns of Coconut Lagoon resort to our Rainbow Cruise houseboat, manned by Captain Shilby and his crew Videsh and Benedict, who greeted us with coconut mojitos made with fresh coconut water. This was followed an hour later by a lunch of lake fish – Perfil Sopt – with spicy vegetables, including a strange looking one called Butta chaat, and rice.
After a post prandial snooze, our Captain asked if we would like some wine with our dinner. We agreed eagerly, only to find that this involved a walk along the river edge to find a rickshaw to ride to an ATM to take out money to pay for it.
En route we passed a Christian church where a saint’s festival was being celebrated with drums and singing, and a procession under parasols.
Once back on board we chugged across Lake Vembanad towards the far bank, where we stopped to buy prawns for dinner: 5 huge langoustines for 1500R, about 23 euro.
At 07.00 we were wide awake and ready for our delicious breakfast of coconut and banana pancakes made with cumin, cardamom and sugar, mixed with ghee.
We passed miniature ghats (steps leading into the water) for washing clothes, tins, and people!
Keeping ducks is a popular activity here; I didn’t want to know if they were pets or a food supply.
Early morning rituals began: people sat lazily on long narrow wooden canoes, cleaning their teeth in the river water.
The cruise along narrower channels, filled with boats, was fascinating, but by 0900 it was time to depart for Cochin by car. We felt sad that our cruise was over, and a bit disappointed that the ‘two days’ were really only an afternoon and short morning.
The car journey to Cochin was interesting but by now, on Day 13 of our India holiday, we’d had enough of bumpy road journeys. We arrived at 10.30am, too early to check in, so I asked our driver to take us to a spice shop, where I intended to have a look only. Needless to say I emerged an hour later some 70 euro lighter.
The modern Eighth Bastion hotel was a pleasant surprise; we had a lovely room overlooking the pool. We relaxed for two hours then our guide collected us for a car ride into Cochin. We paddled on the beach of the Arabian Sea, strolled around the Old Fort area, and watched in fascination as fishermen hauled in their catch using Chinese fishing nets
Our walk took us past the Dutch church, and through the fish and crafts markets. After a brief look around the Dutch Palace and the Synagogue, we peeked inside a store room where an 100 foot long wooden snake boat with seats for 100 people was undergoing its annual maintenance. It is rubbed with a mixture of eggs, coconut shell ash, and fish oil, to make it slide through the water easily.
The Kathakali dance is known as the ‘stately dance’ of Kerala.
More like a play than a dance, it tells a story, whose moral is ‘under any circumstances, evil should be punished’
Briefly, the story tells of a young man sitting in heaven’s garden when he is duped by a beautiful woman who claims to come from heaven. But she is too eager for sex and this makes him suspicious. She grabs him and only then does he see that she is a demoness in disguise. He takes his sword and disfigures her, and she is sent away from heaven.
The make up the dancers put on takes two to three hours.
Both dancers are male, and they transform themselves into mythical beings, especially when they put on their colourful headgear. It is certainly an unusual performance, and not to be missed.
After the dance, we headed around the corner to Cochin Fort restaurant for our last dinner in India: cashew naan, mushroom rice, spinach with potatoes, and a bottle of crisp Sauvignon Blanc.