This is a photo of me with our friend Lars who we met during our stay at Auroville. Lars is from Northern Germany. We had a lovely last evening with Lars at the Solar Kitchen and Cafe and we look forward to meeting-up with him again in the future. Just after this photo was taken a strange thing happened. A gheko fell from the ceiling and landed in Lars' empty plate. After a second or two it came round and scuried off..
Our travels from Auroville to Chennai and then from Chennai to Alleppey were remarkably straight forward. We treated ourselves to an air conditioned bus ride from Pondicherry to Chennai which took three and a half hours. It was lovely sitting looking at the scenery around us. The bus had a very loud air horn which was great for the cars, auto rickshaws, motorbikes, scooters, bicycles, cows and goats and humans as they knew the bus was coming giving themselves plenty of time to get out of the way. If for some reason they did not get out the way then happily the bus had very good brakes.
When we arrived in Chennai we had to get an auto rickshaw (tooc tooc) to the station. This was a great experience as the tooc toocs in chennai are much more powerful than the ones we were used to. This is important as the traffic is of the same density as London but instead of cars consists of scooters and motorbikes and TVS'. Oh, yep, and there are also cows and goats here and there too. The serentity with which people drive around amidst the chaos is amazing. Actually its more than this, it is awesome. Rae made the saliant comment that all London cabbies should come to India to learn the art of serenity whilst driving in stressfull and adverse circumstances. We still have not seen any road rage or any anger of any sort. Wonderful!
We arrived at Chennai station which was also extremely busy. We had a while to wait, well several hours actually but this was fine as it was a wonderful experience being at the station. Happily there are no KFC or McDonald's outlets just fresh cooked fast food Indian style, dosa, various dahls, currys and chappatis etc... delicious and cheap. Also there was a chap selling water from a container so you could just re-use your water bottle. The cost of the water Rs3 (less than a penny)!!!
As you can see each of the carriages has a passenger list stuck on it which states your name and your age. This is in case of a crash so that rescuers know who is in each carriage. Top idea!
The train we were on was so long! The photo of it was taken near our carriage which was over half way along its length and still you could not see the front!! The train journey was wonderful and we met some very interesting people. Our carriage was air conditioned and the train was full of all sorts of people, business people, families etc... Rae was amazed at how everyone just got on and sorted out the beds and then slept all in the same carriage. Vendors came round selling food and coffee etc... it was great. We woke in the morning to a beautiful dawn and at each stop more and more people left the train until all who left in our carriage were us and chap called Cherian who was off to visit his family in Alleppey. Cherian had worked all over the world as an IT consultant and we chatted about which countries were his favourites.
We saw these guys loading this barge and were surprised at how low the vessel sat in the water. Apparently this is normal practise here to fill the boat litterally to the brim. All fine as long as there are no waves and no wash from the houseboats or ferries. One wave and I think this boat would be gone in under a couple of minutes!
A house boat. These are tourist boats and were originally rice barges. Now they have bamboo superstructures which are airconditioned with blooming satalite dishes and we saw one with an extremly large plasma screen. Umh, whatever floats your boat I guess!
The sleek and very fast Snake boat. This is a racing thoroughbred, 130 ft long and a crew of 120.
Our skipper and guide. Lovely chap, but not much English so we could not chat much.
The vast expanse of rice fields can be seen behind the palm tree. Coconuts drying in the sun in order to extract coconut oil.
Unloading a barge.It was great to see these boats working as they have done for centuries.
It must have been wash day yesterday beacuse every where we went women were washing clothes. Slapping of wet clothes on wash stones could be heard everywhere.
Workers off to their lunch break, we think.
We stopped for lunch at a resturant which like so many places on the backwaters are only accessable by boat. This was our lunch, my oh my it was so delicious!! The guys that run the place where we ate spoke good English and were like all people round here into boats. One of the guys sails an Enterprise dinghy and the other chap is a well known Snake boat helmsman and owns the yard where the boat below is being repaired. I will write about the Kerala boat building on my blog for boat building geeks like me when I get back to the UK.
Yep, this is an eagle and it is indigenous to this area. Today at the beach we saw lots of Eagles.
Water snake which was swallowing a fish when Rae took this pic.
We are staying in the same guest house as Becca and Carys stayed when they were here. We have met their friend Sachu. Sachu is a lovely guy and he just could not beleive that Rae is Becca's mum. He was so pleased to meet us and told us about what a great time he had had when Becca and Carys were here.
Yesterday we went on a back waters canoe trip. It is true the backwaters of Kerala are stunningly beautiful and unspoilt. People live here as they have done for centuries and it was a real privialge to be able to travel these waters. The back waters are enormous so we did not even scratch the surface even after our five hour trip! The boats are lovely too and are stitched together using coir (rope made from coconut husks). This is a very simple but extremely effective way of fastening planks together. Today we saw guys actually doing this and I was seriously impressed, It is a totally environmentally friendly way to build, makes repair work dead easy.
The thing that struck us most yesterday was the peace of the backwaters. apart from the odd boat diesel engine it was tranquil. No sounds of cars, just people chatting, children learning in their schools which we paddled by. Also it was so much cooler. In Alleppey it is very hot and humid, and so to be on the cooling water was a real treat for us.
Rae and Marc