On 30th December we traveled back to Kochi City from Mararikulam:-
For the 2 hour car, train, ferry and tuk-tuk journey it cost…
- Free car ride to Mararikulam station from the kind manager of our homestay
- 20 Rupees each for the 1 hour train ride to Ernakulum Junction
- A free, but very hot and sweaty walk with our backpacks from the station to the ferry terminal
- 6 Rupees each on the ferry
- A massive 100 Rupees in Tuk-Tuk to our hotel
Total 152 Rupees – or around £1.65.
Other guests we talked to at our homestay paid for a taxi from Mararikulam to Kochi at a cost of around 2,500 rupees or about £28. So public transport was a real bargain!!
Kochi City is one of India’s largest ports built around a vast area of islands and sandy spits of land formed at the mouth of the Periyar River. It is a city of opposites as Ernakulm, on the mainland, is modern and home to a sparkling new Metro, offices and shopping malls, and by contrast Fort Kochi was founded by the Portuguese in 1503 so has many ancient and historic buildings. Many islands form a barrier between the sea and the famous Keralan backwaters; some of these house naval installations, huge container docks and storage areas, and a giant LPG terminal. Interspersed with this on the islands and along the sea front are glamourous resort hotels and swanky new apartment blocks, as well as many small fishing vessels and the traditional Chinese nets which local fishermen have been using for centuries to fish in the harbour.
The normally sleepy old town of Fort Kochi is famous as the place to be in India at New Year. Over the holiday the quiet streets are filled with tourists and locals people who flood in for the festivities. In the build up to midnight we wandered along the seafront and around the many stalls. The hotels and private houses decorate their gardens with lots of colourful, sparkly lights giving the whole area a party atmosphere. There was also a big free music concert with a number of Indian bands who mainly played a mixture of rock and Bollywood type Indian music. We actually thought some of them were pretty good.
The 50 foot effigy above is called Pappanji (Portuguese for “Grandfather”) and the local tradition is to burn him on the stroke of midnight to welcome in the New Year. Originally we though he was Father Christmas which would have been weird! It turns out burning him is a metaphor for letting go of the old year and welcoming in the new. The burning took place on the concert ground after the gig in front of about 20,000 people. It was crazy crowded and afterwards everyone headed for the only 2 exits from the ground which led to some serious congestion and grid lock. There were no stewards or barriers and for about 40 minutes we were going nowhere, in a complete crush with thousands of jostling people. Ali found it quite scary, and we were both very relieved to finally emerge from the crowd. That night it took us over an hour to make the 20 minute walk back to our homestay.
The following day was all about street carnival
On our final couple of days in Fort Kochi we had some time to explore the old city.
So, farewell to India – it’s been an intense experience!
Paul wrote down some of his thoughts about our time here:-
Overall India feels more friendly now than the quite scary unknown quantity it was 3 months ago at the start of the trip. You learn (slowly) how to get along, how things work, the speed at which things get done and the slightly half baked way everything seems to be finished, but what has shone through has been the kindness and helpfulness of the people we’ve met.
There are things that are hard to accept – the poverty, the dreadful inequalities the rubbish everywhere and the smell in some places. After a short while you start to be able to ignore these things a bit as locals do, but from an outsiders perspective they will always be challenging to deal with. I will be sorry to leave India, but perhaps it is time to move on – a change from curry everyday will be welcome!