01.12.2016 - 01.12.2016
Thursday, December 1
(We apologize for this entry being out of order. We had to wait till we reached land on Dec. 11 where we had access to unlimited wifi in order to add the photos. The editing process has pulled this blog entry out of sequence. This port of call was actually after Mangalore and before Colombo.) We hope you enjoy the pictures!
Our boat pulled into the harbor of Cochin (Kochi), India after sunrise so we could watch the approach past colonial buildings and fishing boats. It’s always interesting to see the industrial activity near the harbor. Each harbor has oil storage tanks. By far the largest number we have seen (hundreds!!) was at Fujeirah, UAE. Cochin had the fewest! As we were approaching the terminal, we saw a dolphin swimming alongside the boat.
Our choice of activities today was to cruise the tranquil backwaters of Kerala state – a highly recommended outing! This required a 1.5 hour bus trip to the community of Alleppey where we boarded double decker boats that navigated a network of canals.
The Kerala backwaters run about 90 km along the coast and cover about 900 sq. km. Lyle’s engineer side was intrigued by the infrastructure involved in creating this canal system: massive stone walls lined the canals and each house along the canal had stone steps down into the canal that were being used by women for washing clothes and by men for accessing their canoes.
It’s hard to describe what we saw. This backwaters area is more water than land and the homes are built along narrow strips of land with a path along one side to allow for pedestrian or motorcycle traffic. Some strips of land had water on both sides. In other places, we could see rice paddies behind the houses. They looked green at this time of year, but at some seasons, they would be flooded.
The most common boats on the canals were thatched roof, wooden houseboats of various sizes which we learned could be rented for about 150 USD per day. Most of these boats seem to have been rented by Indian families, some by young Indian couples, and some by foreigners. There were also a number of working boats transporting bags of rice and bales of rice stalks.
We visited a large Catholic school along the canals and figured that most of the students would have to travel from home by boat each day. We peeked in their classroom windows and heard the students reciting work as a group. We also visited a typical home – surprisingly spacious, with an abundance of fruit trees in the garden. They served us small bananas off the stalk and fresh coconut water.
We stopped for an elegant buffet shore lunch at a resort – just a little different from our shore lunches on our canoe trips!! We have found in India that it is normal when being welcomed to a place to be given a blessing of a dot on your forehead between your eyebrows. Sometimes the dot is red; other times it is beige. Today, the blessing tray had a lovely array of flowers.
As always, there were fascinating sights along the way, including at least 300 people marching in an AIDS awareness march. There were “ice stores” (cold storage buildings the size of houses), saw mill operations chopping up the huge limbs of trees (in this tropical climate, the trees grow like giants!), interesting billboards and street vendors everywhere! One billboard that caught our eyes stated, "Don't be just a good engineer. Be a great one. Nurturing globally competent, socially committed, innovative engineers." (It was promoting Providence College of Engineering.) Apparently the literacy level in this part of India is very high and many folks here speak at least 5 languages.
Our last stop of the day was at a beach where a number of boats with “Chinese fishing nets” were pulled in for the evening. The boats and nets have this name because this system of fishing was introduced to the area by the Chinese many centuries ago.
Our onboard destination guide showed us a map of the Traditional Trade Routes and we realized we are following the Spice Trade Route that has been used for thousands of years. We have also been pleased to learn that many of our excursion destinations have been designated as UNESCO World Heritage sites.
This is our last stop in India. Next port of call: Sri Lanka!