Day #64 Facing the monsoon in Fort Kochi
We landed in the international airport of Kochi in the midst of a cyclone. In these Southern regions, monsoon still had to come to an end. We were taken by surprise but we came prepared for such occasion: we swap our Nikes for our boots, put on our rain coats and covered our backpacks with their rain protection. After several months not seeing rain, it kinda felt good. I always embraced change with enthusiasm. However, because of traffic jams and heavy rains, it took us around 4 long boring hours instead of 1 to get the centre of Fort Kochi. Jess and I solved this problem by distracting ourselves with our new addictive game “guess what I am thinking”: only “yes” and “no” answers are allowed. This way, time flew by while the bus drove us to Juliet’s homestay at Fort Kochi.
I am glad to say that Juliet’s Homestay was a pleasant accommodation choice. For the next four days, we were welcomed in a warm family of three generations. Every member seemed so grateful to have us amongst them. The eldest member was the grandmother. She was the sweetest thing on earth. She didn’t speak a word of english but she had a tiny figure, was constantly attentive to our needs and was always trying to communicate with her smiling face and gestures. I felt so happy and comfortable surrounded by this big hearted character. Then, there was the husband and wife. They seemed, in a good way, simple minded people, far away from attracting problems to their lives. They looked healthy and a happy couple. They always made sure we were in good company during our home cooked delicious breakfasts with their pleasant curiosity and conversations. They would help us plan our visits which we greatly enjoyed. Finally, we met their young daughter. I felt this family emanated a great energy but four days weren’t enough to unveil their secret. I couldn’t avoid to notice they all slept in the same room, which could maybe be the reason why they all shared this special bond. For now on, I plan to carry a bit of this energy to my family as well.
Fort Kochi was once a fishing village of no significance which, in 1503 was granted to the Portuguese by the Rajah. Few year before, the sea route to India was discovered by Vasco da Gama in 1498. Vasco Da Gama was appointed Viceroy of India by the Portuguese Kingdom and died of malaria in Kochi on Christmas Eve in 1524. He was first buried in Kochi before being transferred to Mosteiro dos Jerónimos. Curious with this fact, we went visiting his first humble burial place. In 1530, Christianity was introduced by Saint Francis Xavier and his mission. Kochi became a strategic port of trade for Portugal. The history of the trade of spices by sea wasn’t based on peaceful agreements however and costed many local lives, as well as lives at sea. Every nation wanted a piece of the richness found in Kerala. In 1663, Portuguese were overthrown by the Dutch, which in turn gave the city to the English in 1814 via treaty. After almost 500 years of colonisation, Kochi gained its independence joining the Indian Union in 1947.
The most enjoyable experience we had in this small port city was its sea food. Close to the famous Chinese fishing nets, fishmongers sell the catch of the day which, we would then take to a next door street restaurant to grill it. Despite the way they keep the fish, quality and diversity of choice was mind blowing. Tiger prawns and lobsters became my new food obsession. For 10€, we would have 15 tiger prawns grilled with some Jeera rice. One lobster would cost us 5€. I became crazy and knew inside myself that this had been my favourite food experience until now. Sea food will always remain my food of choice. Fort Kochi has also some amazing restaurants to discover such as Fusion Bay. Jess and I were delighted with their delicious sweet and spicy traditional cuisine to which they were able to give an European twist without losing its local roots. I am looking forward to exploring the newly discovered dishes and recipes more in depth.
Another highlight of our stay in Kochi was the Kathakali performances. Kathakali is a one major form of classical Indian dance. The performance is a "story play" genre of art, but distinguished by the elaborately colourful make-up, costumes and face-masks that the traditionally male actor-dancers wear. Accompanied by traditional drumming music, actors act with exorbitant facial expressions and mudras hand movements. It was a unexpected and an intense theatrical experience. Another interesting activity was a morning meditation session with traditional Rajas singing. This was a beautiful hour of peace that Jess and I took for ourselves. After half and hour of relaxation, I felt deeply asleep, which restored my mind and body.
Last but not least, we couldn't miss a stunning particularity of this region: the backwaters. The backwaters are a network of inland water canals full of flourishing wild nature. We decided to do a one day trip to visit these canals. We sailed on a beautiful traditional Kerala boat, made of wood, coconut rope and Palm tree leafs. The canals were a very peaceful place where few motor boats were seen. In the way, we stopped in an uninhabited island to have lunch on an banana leaf. We finished the tour in smaller canals, but this time on canoes. I loved visiting the local villages. We discovered how they make the strong ropes out of coconut fiber and learnt about the different spices grown in this famous area. During our little foraging tour, we identified different spices such as cinnamon, black pepper, cloves, nutmeg and many more. He even managed to spot a huge one-metre long iguana resting under the sun. It was a great day in nature. Next time, we will definitely sleep on one of the backwater boats.
For our next stop let's go surf in Varkala beach!