An Indian Adventure Part 3 Kanyakumari and Kollam
Kanyakumari – The edge of India
We arrived in the early evening after a 22 hour train journey and a few hours of standing at open train doors taking in the breath-taking scenery of lush paddie fields, streams, enormous lakes and dense forests. We needed to find somewhere to stay and although Kanyakumari is a really small seaside town, it’s really popular with pilgrims, so there are a fair few hotels. We found a cheap hotel, dropped off our stuff and went to find some food. The sleepy town was even more sleepy at night but we found somewhere to eat and then had an early night.
We woke up early the next morning so we could get down to the ocean so Ash could get some pictures. As we walked down towards the sea we saw lots of beautifully coloured houses and fishermen bringing their really bright and vibrant boats in. The view was unbelievable. There was a lively fish market taking place in the small harbour too and in the ocean a short distance from the shore there was a giant statue of the hindu goddess Kanyakumari and a temple. Already, lots of pilgrims were taking the ferry to visit the shrine. Ash got some really good pictures here which do a better job of demonstrating the beauty of that morning than I can.
We grabbed a tasty breakfast of thali with buttery roti bread and then headed to Baywatch, a water park which also boasted to being India’s first waxwork museum. We arrived, paid at the ticket booth and were led through a door into a small building and found ourselves in the museum. In three tiny rooms there were various waxworks which one could be forgiven for not recognizing. There were of course some famous Indian stars but also Charlie Chaplin and a scary looking Michael Jackson amongst others. We were led around by an old guy who would stop us in front of each waxwork and tell us their name, it was really entertaining.
Next we went in to the swimming park. Obviously as we were in India I had to go in to the pools totally dressed. The wave pool had a rope cordoning off male and female and it felt really strange not being allowed to stand near Ash! Some little girls came in on my side and were staring at me as they gradually paddled closer. All of a sudden they all started splashing loads of water at me haha. Little madams! We spent a couple more hours on the water slides and watching a group of boys dancing Bollywood style in some fountains, until I felt my alabaster skin could take no more of the intense midday sun.
We walked around the main centre, did some gift shopping and took some more pictures. At sunset lots of people, including colourfully dressed women went down to the shore and paddled in the water. A group of boys sat on rocks and got repeatedly pounded by waves whilst screaming and laughing and a woman walked through the crowd with her very beautiful little shaved headed girl sat on a ceremonial pony. They were all great sights to see in this great place. Kanyakumari is the place where the Arabian sea and the Bay of Bengal meet the Indian Octhree seas meet and was a really special place to visit. It felt quite off the beaten western traveller trail.
We boarded a train the next day for a four hour trip north to Kollam in Kerala. I never tired of these train journeys as they gave us a glimpse of the fertile Keralan countryside, its culture and its people.
One night of luxury in Kollam
We arrived in to Kollam about midday. We’d spent most of our time up until then sleeping on trains (or platforms), or budget (but nice) accommodation. However, in Kollam we planned to rent a houseboat for one night and live the high life. After wandering around for ages with our big heavy backpacks we found the boat area and Ash bartered with some agents to get us a deal. With a deal struck we were led to our boat. It had a balcony, a lovely bedroom, and an open sided living room/ dining area. There was also a chef and a driver. Usually we wouldn’t do something like this as I don’t like the thought of servants but we felt this was different. These were all small local companies who made a living and who would have been out of pocket had we not booked a boat that day.
We sailed out into the peaceful Kerala backwaters and watched expert river fishermen using nets and swimming in the water, families going about their daily business on the river banks and lots of beautiful birds. As the sun went down that night we sat on our porch/dining room and listened to the sound of the backwaters whilst eating the most amazing dinner. We couldn’t stay up too late that night due to having to turn the lights off a ten and were so full of food we put our heads down early.
I woke next morning to a very poorly Ash. He had started feeling a little bit rough the night before but we both presumed it would pass. He had barely slept and I felt partly responsible for his condition. You are warned not to drink the water in India but we had totally forgotten that the street stall fruit juices were made with ice cubes which could be bad for us. Before we got on the boat we’d both ordered a fruit juice but in the end Ash drank both of them. I think this might have tipped him over the edge – sorry Ash!
I tried to tell the cook that he wouldn’t want breakfast but when we went to the dining room there was a gigantic meal laid out. Ash, who is usually a human bin couldn’t touch it and although I stuffed myself silly I barely made a dent.
In the morning the backwaters really came alive. There were people bathing their cows, more fishermen and little children running alongside the river. As part of the boat trip we were going to be taken out on a tiny row boat by a local fisherman on a trip through the small canals to see more of what life is like there. We passed lots of tiny houses, someone climbed up a tree and sold us a freshly picked coconut each and our guide pulled a water lily up from the river as a gift to me.
When we got back they had prepared lunch. Although it was only for me (they realised Ash was sick and gave him tea) it was still too much. They dropped us back in Kollam and we caught a train to Ernakeuleum a little further up the coast and arrived exhausted in the early evening.
That night we planned the next leg of our journey. Because we weren’t doing any more sleeper trains we could book more easily with less advanced notice.
We had come to Ernakeulum for a specific reason, to visit Fort Cochin…