Happy Valentine's Day
14 February 2010 | Cochin
Valentine Sunday here, our last visiting day. What a place! First of all, Kochi is a port. Port's are not known for cleanliness & India's are no exception. Being up the river delta isn't helping. It is super muddy with about enough litter to scare even us. So far... we have not sucked in any plastic wrecking either motor, or fouled our anchor (like WindBird) or wrapped our props (like WindBird). What we had to do though was dive on the props to remove the barnacles in order to get out of the harbor to leave on Tues. Luckily for me, Dave did it. I'm hoping he can stay well after that big dose of crud! I did take him for a surprise Valentine late lunch & early dinner though ~ to help him fight off the effects (2 large beers might help...)
The entire boat is filthy. Since there isn't a marina here, no power or water for us. In fact, we can't make water in this bay either. Freebird REALLY needed a bath badly after our 9 day bashing, salt water everywhere & no water for a scrub. Added to that, is all the soot from the cooking fires & pollution here making Miss FB a DirtyBird instead. Dave lugged 10 jerry cans of water yesterday so we could do our 5 loads of laundry & rinse FB after her preliminary salf water scrub. We are limited to the SeaMan's shower. Get wet, scrub, rinse, get out. The water line almost doesn't come clean. We are really feeling the pinch. Washing the awnings & cockpit has helped some. Then, there is the racket. First of all, Kochi is a destination for the entire rest of Indian country, not to mention the other Middle Eastern & Asian countries & throw in a few Westerners to boot. That means ~ from Sun-up long past sundown, WE are the attraction here in the bay. EVERY kind of tour boat out here aims right at us, they come from all directions blaring music, whistling, yelling ,screaming & throwing a wake..... looking at the Aliens ~ US. Team that up with ~ Call to Prayer over the Loud Speaker's day & night, a Prayer Convention right across the bay from us. There must be a 1,000,000 people attending with speeches, music, singing & "prayer" most of the night & all day! We woke up to all of the above this morning at dawn. Did i mention that Indians too love their fireworks. There is some every night ~ somewhere. Tonight, it's across from us on Bolgotty Island. It has gone till 4AM before.
Besides that, Dave has not been happy with the new battery array so first thing this morning (before 7) he investigated the whole system shutting everything down. I took myself into the cockpit to work out & be out of the way. I put down the awning on the sunrise side of the boat & was going at it when a tour boat surprised me right on the other side with guys whistling, yelling, hollering. Down i went.
Tomorrow is the check-out hustle, provisioning & stowing day. We leave Tues AM on about another 10 day passage. This time we won't be giving our position report as we are now on pirate evasion tactics. We'll try and send daily blogs without the Lat/Long Position report. We will check our sailmail account every day & get weather. Drop us a line but please don't send forwards, downloads or photos & erase our original message if you are replying. Hope everyone has a special Valentine Day too. We can't wait to get to sea. LOL, judy & Dave
Day 6 The Backwater
12 February 2010 | Cochin
Dave and Judy
This is our final night. We have boarded a "houseboat". We are the only guests aboard. We have three crew to take care of us. (captain, engineer and cook). These boats are converted to luxury cruising palaces from a lowly rice barge. We have our own private room with bathroom and air conditioning. The interior is all built in beautiful hardwoods. The superstructure is constructed from bamboo and thatch. Interesting combination. We drift/putt down the canal to a spot along the rice fields where we tie up for lunch. Our crew serves us a tasty "Indian" lunch which proved to be a little spicy for us (starving still). We do the "beached whale" thing for a few hours....reading and napping. Then we're down the river again. So relaxing after all the traffic and horns.... A few games of cribbage and some bird spotting and we are again tied up for the sunset.
We watch that same ole orange ball drop into the smoky horizon. Then..... mosquitoes! Poor Judy... They attack her with a vengence.... not to worry... we brought our handy dandy mosquito racket. Our captain spends the evening scoring points on the little buggers......snap! spark! pisst! He's having a ball. We're cracking up watching the show. Finally we retire to our AC bug free chamber. We drift into a deep unconscious state immersed in the night sounds of the backwaters of Kerala, India...
09 February 2010 | Cochin
Dave and Judy
Harilal, our baby sitter picked us up at 0700. We're off to the bird sanctuary. We buy our ticket and start down the trail. Twenty minutes later we come to a check point. They want to see our tickets. We're cleared to continue on. You never know, somebody might be in here stealing the birds. The sounds are amazing. Hundreds of birds, each greeting the day with a unique sound. We're not bird watchers but we spot a few that we have never seen before. We stop and listen and watch the show. We arrive at a small water inlet. A man in a canoe offers to take us on a trip through the backwaters. He poles us along quietly. As we drift along we spot many birds. The scenery is stunning. The canal is sparsely populated with people that are starting their day with a bath in the river. Women are beating laundry on the rocks. Children are headed off to school along the river trail. Eventually we arrive back at the point where Hari is waiting for us. A place. where time forgot....
On the Road Day 4
08 February 2010 | Cochin
Believe it or not, this part of India can be cold. It's 0530. We're in an open jeep bouncing wildly through the country side. The sun has yet to even show a small hope of arriving. We are freezing. After all these years in the tropics it never occurred to us that we should bring warm clothing. Dave's hands are numb.. Our guide ~ Sajeeve ~ has mercy and stops for coffee. Uhmmm...warm coffee.... and chai for the Judy, along with some warm fluffy naan bread to go with it. Back in the jeep now with the top down and the cold wind making our eyes water... Fun! At daybreak we arrive at the Periyar wildlife sanctuary. We are actually praying that the sun will hurry and come up to warm our cold bones. Sajeeve takes on a whole different personality. The vehicle slows . We drift through the jungle watching for wildlife. Soon a family of Black Monkeys is spotted. Then some antelope...large black squirrels. with extra long wide tails....Then as we sit quietly listening to the sounds of the birds awaking ...Whoosh! Three Great Indian Hornbills flap awkwardly directly overhead (whoop, whoop, whoop!!!). Even Sajeeve is excited. We continue on with more bird and animal encounters. We are still hoping for an elephant or a tiger sighting...We arrive at the forest station where breakfast is prepared for us. The sun has made an appearance and we are starting to thaw. After the meal we are assigned a new guide ~ Eeee ah. He loads us into a boat and we row across the lake and we disappear into the jungle. We see many fresh "signs" of elephants. We even step in some. Judy thought we were really onto some close encounters after we passed by a steaming pile & Eeeah started tip toeing & handed her a stick! Quietly we are led deeper into the dense jungle. The sounds of the birds is a symphony. Just like in the old Tarzan movies. Guess what? Now were HOT! It took about 20 minutes to go from freezing to toasting. We shed some clothing and soon were moving comfortably along the hot steamy trail. We wonder what Eeeah is thinking as he moves gracefully along in his flipflops followed by two big crashing clumsy white people. The trek was beautiful but we didn't spot much wild life. Mostly monkeys, squirrels. Not even a snake.... We stopped for a rest on top of a high hill. You could see the green dense jungle for miles around...stunning. We arrived back at the center in time for a delicious vegetarian lunch. (Dave's starving to death here) The afternoon was spent trying to emulate beached whales on the shady grass. Sajeeve, our jeep guide picked us back up for the return trip to our hotel. This time the trip through the jungle was much warmer. We were able to stand up in the back and watch the panorama of this place unfold. Our guide would turn off the motor and coast for down hill runs. Silently, we would float along watching for wildlife. We were loosing all hope for a sighting when the vehicle stops. Sajeeve looks up and says ELEPHANTS!.....Our blood stream full of adrenalin we look where he is pointing.....Nothing! You're on drugs man, we see no elephants. He hands us the binoculars.....sure enough, ELEPHANTS! A family of 3 are moving across the grassy hillside in front of us. A second jeep pulls in behind us and for the next hour we have an elephant party. We were the last ones out of the park at 5:58 PM just before closing time (6:00 PM) By 7:00 PM we were back at the hotel and hungry. The hotel restaurant was white table cloths and night birds for background music. Oh yeh, and some sort of food too. (starving here) . Finally back in our room we snuggled under our nice clean sheets and drifted off to sleep with visions of elephants dancing in our heads.....
On the Road Day 3
07 February 2010 | Cochin
Harilal our trusty driver picked us up at 0930. We drove all day to Periyar National Park. The roads were windy and of the mountain variety. We passed through many small towns and villages stopping occasionally to take in the feel of the real India. To the westerner it's a place of chaos but as we immerse ourselves we began to appreciate the contrasts between our two cultures. India is possibly the farthest from our western culture that we have experienced in the last 8 years of world cruising.
We entered the wildlife reserve in time to catch a "Boat Safari" on the lake. It was a little limited because last year they had a boat roll over when an elephant appeared on the starboard side.. All the passengers rushed to that side rolling the boat, killing 45 people. Now they require everybody to wear giant life jackets. You can hardly see over the top of them. During the two hour trip we saw an otter, bison, sambal deer, wild boar, and lots of bird life. After that Dave was ready for a sundowner ....Time to relax away from people and car horns. But not to be..... We arrived at a small theater where Hari had set us up to see the "Kathakali" dance performance.. As we took our front row reserved seats Dave was bummed and tired. An hour later the performance turned out to be one of Dave's favorite things in all of India. It was truly exotic. A key part of the performance was the ability to control the eye balls. The two performers could control their eye balls in a mind boggling way. Fast oscillations .. right and left... then up and down..complete circles....You have to see it to believe it. We finally made it to our hotel in time for dinner and bed. Tomorrow we are being picked up at 0530 for and all day Indian safari.
India Day 2
06 February 2010 | Cochin
Dave is sure he is going to starve to death here in India. He had dreams of pizza last night. Judy is fairing somewhat better. After a nice non breakfast Harilal picks us up. Off we go in to the peaceful country side with the horn blasting away. The Tea plantations are truly beautiful. They look like green jigsaw puzzles on the steep hillsides. There are scattered trees to break up the scene. In the background are the mountains shrouded in mist. You expect to see elephants and tigers around every corner....(except the horn honking would scare them away!). We pass a couple of lakes and finally arrive at the Pampadum wild life sanctuary. As required, we employ a "guide" Santhosh, to take us on a walk for a couple of hours. Our hope of seeing elephants or tigers soon fades as our guide has a running dialogue with our driver while we trek. The walk is a nice relief from listening to the horn in the Maytag. Judy interrupts our "guides" conversation long enough to show him a few monkeys in the trees above his head. . "Wow"! he says....Hmmmmm
When we get back to the road to start back, they tell us it's only two and a half kilometers to the car. No problem we say. Off we go. Gee, we keep going. Oh, it's all up hill. About an hour later we are back. HUNGRY
The restaurant we were going to is 'finished". So we head over to the local greasy spoon. That means curry. Not my favorite ~ any more. So we try "Bred Omlet". Those are friend onions & bread with egg over the top. Not bad really.
We ended the outing with a tour of a tea factory. Judy acquired a nice selection of different teas. We enjoyed talking to the workers. They all seemed to be happy in their work. Later we found out that the employees own over 60% of the company. Nice bunch of folks..
Long Road Day
06 February 2010 | Cochin
Dave and Judy
We got a late start today. After a little shopping we hit the dusty road. Passing many small villages we spiraled down out of the high country. The mercury started to climb and the day was broken up with a lunch stop. Food has been..... well...interesting. You never know what is coming after you put in your order. It's always a surprise and usually very spicy. Western food is not really a possibility. Even if the item is on the menu....it comes out...... well...Indian. One restaurant had big pictures of hamburgers and pizza behind the counter. Dave's mouth started to salivate. "I'll take one of those" pointing at the glossy picture of the big juicy hamburger. A smile and a head shake was the response. "just a picture... no have" . Heartbreak!!!
Back on the road. It's pretty exciting on the road. Mister Toad's Wild Ride at Disneyland comes to mind. Small motor driven 3 wheel rickshaws are everywhere. As you dodge them & the motorcycles going both directions, you also have to miss the goats and cows that seem to use the road just like cars. Dave suggested that they install tail lights on the cows. The humor was lost in the translation. (Hari gives a head shake and a smile). We arrive at the hotel just in time for the complementary sunset boat trip on the lake. Along with 12 other guests we were treated to a ride on a beautiful old lake boat. She purred along and we couldn't resist sitting up with the captain. He was a really friendly guy and proudly showed us his engine. Dave took the helm for a while then Judy took a turn. Fun! Back in our room we figured out that we could get something to eat from room service. ( Again interesting). Tonight we sat on the porch and listened to the frogs and night birds. ....Beautiful!!
On the road in India
05 February 2010 | Cochin
We left "Freebird" swinging on the hook. She's being watched by our friends from the yacht "Windbird" anchored nearby. Hopefully she will behave while we are gone. We are on a 7 night 8 day road trip. Harilal, our driver, picked us up at the dock yesterday morning. We worked our way out of the noisy,dusty city of Cochin into the country. The city is an overload on the senses....mostly the sense of hearing. All drivers of all vehicles are required to sound their horn a least 75% of the time the vehicle is in motion. Hari is no exception. The horn is an important device for the protection of the vehicle occupants... we are extremely well protected. Soon we are negotiating the tight curves of the mountain roads. We need protection at every corner. Often we are met by a large bus coming head on. The horn saves us as we cling to the edge of the road ...... a sheer drop off just inches from the tires.
Our first stop is at the old Royal Palace which has been converted into a museum. We step up to the counter and purchase our tickets. As we enter we are told to remove our shoes. We do so even though the floor is covered with dust and no cleaner than the walkway outside. With shoes in hand we explore the exhibits. There were some very nice thirteenth to nineteenth century artifacts. We were just starting to enjoy our visit when a guard approaches us and warns us not to take any photos. We assure her that we will leave the camera in my pocket. We continue deeper into the building along with about ten thousand school kids. It seems like we were the featured "exhibit". We could feel the inquisitive stares.... who are these strange aliens? It was all fun and we enjoyed the interaction. Finally we found ourselves in a quiet corner where we could enjoy the nice display of very old jewelry. We were then approached by a second guard. He informed us that we couldn't even carry our camera, shoes or mobile phone in the building..... Hmmmm......I took the shoes and camera out to the front entrance and set the shoes on the front stairs where a man now is yelling at me that I can't put them there. He points at a shoe cabinet behind about 100 screaming kids...... I go to put them in the cabinet ...... "No! he screams, You must pay rupies to use this cabinet!" .....Ok, I say and look in my wallet. Hmmm..... No small bills........I hand him a 500 Rp note.... He shakes his head...... No change...Okay! Now what? I see Judy coming out the entrance and grab the shoes and we make a fast exit. She had apparently had a run in with the guard over some other "infraction" We better leave before we are arrested! We place our now dirty feet in our clean shoes and head down the road. Felt like my old High School days.
Three more hours after a lunch stop finds us up in the beautiful tea plantations. We are at about seven thousand foot elevation. The air is clear and cool. It's refreshing. Next stop: an Auyurvedic massage. This is where you get beat up with a lot of smelly hot oil pored over your almost naked body. It's really quite humbling laying there in your diaper while some guy smacks you around. I will say that you feel quite rejuvenated when it's all done.....Maybe just because it's over....hmmmm..
We really didn't know what to expect for accommodations. We passed by several places that we were glad we were passing by. Then we headed up a windy driveway to the Tea County Resort. It was a nice surprise. The rooms are nicely appointed and the grounds are beautiful. The staff is welcoming . We are settling in for a nice QUIET evening..
1st Day trip
04 February 2010 | Cochin
Indian Greetings! When we first arrived in Cochin by way of the Andaman Islands it took us a couple of days to recover. First,from the 9 day passage & then from the all day check in process. We wanted to get started touring right away but that didn't come together until almost a week later. Besides that, there was the no wifi or internet, so, not too many chances to update the blogs & no way to attach pictures. We spent almost that whole first Saturday & 1/2 of Sunday trying to connect... That first Friday in Cochin (Kochi), 3 of us cruiser gals (Judy from Windbird & Lynn from Constance) & i got dropped off at the main ferry terminal & headed to Fort Cochin. On the way we met a remarkable young woman from Montreal Canada ` Catherine Pinard (www.travelblog.orgbloggers:Cathmandu) She works/lives in the Yukon as a Biologist & races sled dogs. In her off time she travels to India & has started to lead tours. We four walked down to the ancient Chinese fishing nets together. These shoreline contraptions are enormous & takes 5 people to raise & lower them in the water. They came from the Genghis Kahn era & are made from teak & are counter balanced by huge boulders tied with jute. From there we walked the streets looking for bargains & a spot for a quick bite. We found a converted armory along the waterfront that had been turned into the premier tourist resort. Oops, pretty spendy but definitely tasty & picturesque. We barely made it back to terminal in time four our pick-up rendezvous. On the following Sunday we had a very enjoyable late afternoon brunch/lunch to celebrate Rose on Rendezvous Cay's Birthday at the Bolgotty Palace resort. Pretty limited BDay fare, but always interesting to try new things! Dave & I started our first tour day in Cochin. Since we weren't flying in like most of the other touristy types we didn't stay at a hotel & that allowed us to come back to Freebird at the end of the first afternoon. Our new travel company ~ Kerala Tours arranged for us to have a special guide for the day ~ he (Shibu)was great fun. The first place he took us to was ~ of course ~ those Chinese fishing nets. Dave really was intrigued by the craftsmanship involved & maybe one of the pictures i took of him helping to raise & lower it turned out.... Another very special place was the Cranganore/Muzhiris/Shingly Synagogue dating back to the King Solomon's merchant fleet around the 1st century. The state of Kerala where we are visiting is noted for their tolerance, mutual exchange & peaceful loving community. It hasn't always been an easy road for sure, but they have a 2000 year existance here. Proof of this cohabitation was found at the converted Portuguese Palace which is not the Indo-Pirtuguese Museum where the traditional Kerala door lock has a cross, cresant moon, Menorah, bird & Indian snake. We did notice that there is a huge blend of people around this area that seem to be friends & coworkers!!! We headed back to the barn to pack for the next 8 days of land touring. Oh boy, oh boy.
03 February 2010 | Cochin
Ever since i went to Chennai, Eastern India in 2000, i've wanted to go to Cochin. Anytime i met someone from India, that is where they always told me to visit. It is famous for the "backwater" , tea plantations & natural landscape. I forget that it is India too! Chennai was intense. Lots of people, pollution, noise, traffic.... So is Cochin! Dave is on total overload. He doesn't want to leave the boat! Oh, i forgot, he has gotten pulled over TWICE by the harbor police. The first time we were moving Freebird from the Custom's check in area to the anchorage. We even hired our main man ~ Nazar (SEE PICTURE) to pilot FB pulling his skiff behind to make sure we didn't go aground ~ very very shallow.... & here comes the sirens, then the shouting back & forth (thank goodness Nazar was on board!). The second time he had taken the dinghy back over to that area to help Rendezvous Cay move their boat when he was pulled over. This time, he was on his own so they detained him for almost an hour out in the sun till the harbor police captain came. There is something about the shipping lanes/channels. You have to have a special permit to cross the waters. Even if you have one, they still pull you over to check. It hasn't sat very well with Dave's disposition ever since!!! However, when we woke up Sunday morning the Queen Mary was there in the bay looking extremely posh, especially when moored near the 3 masted WindStar ship.
As usual coming into a port after being at sea for any amount of time, we have the usual search for parts, supplies & the ever necessary phone/email connection. It's total sensory overload. That was 2 days out of our lives PLUS the 1 long check in day. It's been 1 wk today & we have finally lined up our travel plans. Luckily for us, Dave found Kerala Tours that stepped right up & we go first thing tomorrow morning for our 8 day tour with our own private driver. We're pretty excited to be getting going. Tomorrow we do a city tour then spend our first night on Freebird. (normally the tour would include accommodations in Cochin, We are more comfortable here on Freebird.) Then Friday morning head for the Hill Stations in the mountains & visit the tea, rubber & coconut plantations. We have an extra night there (2) to compensate for not staying in Cochin. Then were off to the State/National Park/Sanctuary. Home of wild elephants & maybe if we're lucky ~ Tigers. We stay an extra day there too so we can have a chance at spotting something alive. After that it's to the back water for 2 nights & our final night is on a "Luxury" river boat visiting the back water. We'll take this new think pad with us so should be within email range. Our new mobile phone numbers are: We'll keep you posted...............
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