We arrived at the guesthouse Kaleeveedu in Kochi around lunchtime and so we quickly walked into town for lunch at Kachi art café, which turned out to be super hip and tasty, with a separate vegan and gluten free menu and no Indian food! I even got a slice of vegan cake just because they had it.
Kochi is an adorable old town with the Portuguese, Dutch and English influence visible everywhere - especially in the many churches around.
At 5 pm we went to a traditional Keralan dance show, which was definitely something else. The first hour we saw them putting on their crazy makeup and before the storytelling started they demonstrated what emotions and actions the different facial expressions, body movements, and finger signs portrayed. I got a head ache from trying to remember all of it throughout the show. We had thankfully gotten a piece of paper with the plot summary on it, so we knew what it was about, over all.
We went for a nice dinner at a seafood restaurant, where Chandra had ordered a cake for John, since he turned 28.
Afterward we all went for a walk down to the beach, but the others soon turned back, while Richard and I kept going, making a big loop back. It was a beautiful walk and we met a very talkative 18-year-old local girl who introduced us to her family in perfect English. We walked back through the town to the hotel, where I quickly fell asleep.
After breakfast at the hotel we met up with Jude, our local guide, who would take us around the Fort Kochi area (which was the one we lived in) and the Mattancherry area of Kochi.
Our first stop was a beautiful Basilica (I’ve forgotten the name) just around the corner.
Then he took us through the old town, pointing to the oldest street (Princess street) and old buildings before stopping at the oldest church in Kochi.
We walked down to the habour, to the Chinese fishing net and the fish market Richard and I had passed the evening prior.
We took tuk-tuks to the Mattancherry area, where we started out in the Dutch palace, Jude taking us all around the beautiful rooms decorated with elaborate murals, while teaching us about Kochi’s history.
I find the religious tolerance in Kochi incredible. You can almost walk past a Hindu temple, a mosque, a church and a synagogue on one street.
We walked through the area for a bit, taking a break at Ginger House for a drink, before going to the Jewish Town. It was an amazing and cozy little part of town which had been given to the Jews (although only three lived there now, and only 27 in the whole of Kerala). We ended our tour in the oldest synagogue in India, which was a beautiful and quirky building inside, with lamps and chandeliers everywhere.
We took tuk-tuks back to the hotel to regroup and Theresa and I decided to explore our neighborhood further, walking down the old streets before settling down for lunch at Farmer’s café for a filling western lunch.
We stayed talking at the café for a while before going back home to rest until dinner.
Everyone was doing their own thing this evening so Theresa and I went out for a girl’s dinner, wanting to try the vegan café Breath. It was closed though, so we ended up at Kachi art café again for a healthy meal. It was actually really lovely to just be two for a change and after a visit to the supermarket we went back to sleep.
We had a quick breakfast at the hotel before piling into a private car for a 5-hour drive to the Periyar area. The drive turned out to be mostly in the mountains with lots of ups and downs and winding roads, and although nauseating it was a beautiful ride. We stopped at a church with a beautiful view of the tea fields (and a very weird chapel) as Chandra taught us about tea.
About an hour later we stopped at a family owned spice farm, where we were taken around the grounds and taught everything there is to know about spices. It was a surprisingly interesting tour around the farm where everything grew randomly and in between each other.
We finally stopped in the little town of Thekkady at El-Paradiso hotel. We went to a huge lunch at a nice restaurant and in the evening to a mindblowing traditional martial arts show with sword fights, fire rings, acrobatics and a cute little boy who was getting trained as well.
It was very entertaining and we went for a small dinner afterward, still full from the late lunch. Unfortunately, my knee had had a rubbish day, but I did what I could to make it better in the evening and went to bed.
The next morning we were ready at the gate of the national park at 7 am. My knee wasn't much better, but I really wanted to go on the walk. Our guide took us on a nature walk for three hours through stunning scenery: over plains and through forested areas. And although we didn’t see too much wildlife apart from monkeys, birds, Indian cows, and deers it was still a really nice walk.
My knee was absolutely finished afterwards though, and I was starving. We went for breakfast, where I could unfortunately only eat fruit. It did take most of the hunger though.
Soon after Theresa, John, Analyn and I were off to the park again buying a bus ticked to the lake inside. By the lake we got boat tickets and sat down to wait for the boat, entertained by monkeys jumping around and stealing food and bottles from the tourists.
The boat ride itself wasn't exactly memorable: the majority of the passengers were families with very loud children, the seats were uncomfortable (so my knee hurt throughout the whole trip) and there weren't much to see, even though the lake was very scenic.
Theresa and I took the bus back after the 1.5 hours on the boat, and Richard had told me that he had found a shop in town with loads of avocados (which I had been craving for a long time). So Theresa and I decided to just walk into town quickly, get the avocados and walk the short distance back to the hotel. It ended up being a really horrible walk though, as we ended up walking way more than anticipated because we couldn't find the avocados anywhere. It was late, I was hungry and tired, my knee hurt, we got really lost and it started pouring down. After walking down a random street (since neither I nor Theresa have any sense of direction) in the pouring rain with no avocados we found a tuk-tuk that knew where El Paradiso Hotel was (we had both been idiots and forgotten our cards with the address on it) and drove us home. We were pretty miserable when we came back and we vowed never to tell Chandra anything about it.
I luckily had some cup noodles that I enjoyed for a late lunch on the terrace while talking to the hotel owner and Theresa. We almost had to shout over the heavy rain and thunder, but it was cozy and I quickly felt much better.
Soon after Richard came to my room with a massive avocado for me and saved my day. I quickly ate it with some bread I had bought and skipped out on dinner to rest my leg, still full from the avocado. The electricity came and went at random because of the storm, but now that I was inside it didn't matter much, and so the day hadn't ended too badly as I fell asleep before 8 pm.
The next morning we took tuk-tuks to the bus station and jumped on a local bus (open no AC or luggage storage) to Madurai. The first part of the drive winded down through the mountains and was pretty terrifying - I was writing the newspaper article about the coming bus accident in my head the while way down -, but as soon as we were back on flat ground the 4-hour drive went by smoothly. By now I was getting used to the crazy bus rides in India, seeing as the busses drives the fastest to get to the stops on time and have first priority on the road.
In Madurai we checked into our hotel ’the Nook’.