ARAGORN ... Not all those who wander are lost (JRR Tolkien)
The fact that Galle harbor in Sri Lanka was severely damaged by the tsunami meant the rally had to redirect to another location. We agreed to sail to Cochin, India, a harbor a bit up the west coast of India, and therefore not damaged by the tsunami.
India is not a place that either of us really had a desire to travel to, but we are really glad we went there. The Indian people are very nice, very gentle and very warm. It is easy to make a personal connection, and once made, the people will try to help you any way you need it. India has many contrasts too. Some of their practices are reminiscent of the 1920's, yet the people use ATMs and cell phones the way we do. This is the country where people eat their food with their fingers, yet they are providing the programmers and call centers for our economy. The contrasts are a mystery to our "Western" eyes, but watching India move into the future is interesting.
While we were in India, we also explored the rural area around Cochin, still in the state of Kerala. That story is on a separate page in our Photo Gallery- "India - Touring".
Hundreds of Indian fishermen were working near our path up toward Cochin. As with many Indians, they dress in traditional clothing, including the cloth around their head. Also typical, they are friendly and wave when you get near.
We followed these two men into the harbor entrance at Cochin. In the background to the left you can see some other rally boats already anchored off the large Port Authority building. The long wooden poles support fishing nets (see below).
The Hotel Taj Malabar, just to the right of the Port Authority, provided a place for us to land our dinghies when going ashore, as well as restaurants and amenities.
Of course you first have to clear in whenever you enter a country. In India, completing the "formalities" takes a bit ... they have one of the most well-developed bureaucracies we have seen.
You first clear in with the Port Authority (one office, but your papers go to another), then to Customs (one visit to the boat, then we visited three offices), then Immigration (one office, papers are inspected by another office too). This shot is of one of the Customs offices, but the Customs building must have had at least twenty rooms that looked like this. All the bureaucracies did their work by pen and paper, sometimes with carbon paper, sometime writing things out four times. The files in this "Bonding" office spilled off the tables and shelves, but we were assured that each piece of paper was for an active case, even if they were over ten years old. We found the workers invariably friendly and pleasant, but also invariably rigidly stuck to their processes and "formalities". We, of course, reminded all our British friends on the rally that the Brits taught the Indians everything they knew about government bureaucracies.
To get to Immigration we rode in our first autorickshaw, or "tuk-tuk", as we called them. This driver, along with two or three others, latched on to us, and sat outside the hotel gates. Every time we walked out on the street, they fought off other drivers for our business. So you can appreciate the economy, an hour's ride in a tuk-tuk cost less than one dollar; we guess that one of these drivers takes home less than five dollars per day on a good day.
That's not to say that luxury was not available (or expensive). This is the pool at the Hotel Taj Malabar. Leslie, Ginny and John swam here often. We also ate at the hotel most nights, as their Indian food (and other cuisines) were merely hot, i.e. toned down considerably for Western palates.
By far one of the most helpful people for us and the other boats in Cochin was Nasar, the boatman. He did anything he could for you: ferrying you ashore, getting diesel fuel, buying fresh produce, doing your laundry, arranging and guiding trips to the elephant ceremonies. Nasar became so friendly with some of us that he invited crews to his two-room home for dinner. We could not attend, but those who did said the people make do well, despite the poverty.
Thank you Nasar.
The city of Cochin/Ernakulam was busy with small shops and lots and lots of industrious people, always going everywhere. (Ginny Hannon shot this photo.)
The time we were in Cochin was a week of Hindu ceremonies that included elephant shows at different temples each night. During the days, the elephants were doted upon by their mahouts (riders/keepers). We watched this elephant doing a bit of his own rinsing during his bath.
As in Thailand, we took a cooking course in India
Nimmy Paul was our wonderful teacher, shown here with her husband and son. In a country full of people with a human touch, Nimmy stood out as one of the kindest and warmest. She went to great lengths to make sure we had everything we needed. Nimmy's husband (Paul) is a retired stock and bond broker, and their brilliant son is likely to be running your Information Technology department in twenty years.
When it came to coconut milk for a curry, we made it the hard way. On the left, Nimmy's kitchen helper shows Dick the fine points of shucking and splitting the coconut with a new tool (while Nimmy looks on and tries not to laugh aloud). Right, Carolyn (NADEMIA) sits on a low bench with the scraper for the coconut meat.
See the page "Photo Gallery/India -Touring" for more of our experiences on the sub-continent.
Copyright Richard W. York 2005