India’s Almost Done… (Sadly)

While we thoroughly enjoyed the relaxation of Kovalam and the houseboats in Alleppey, it was time to move on to a more “robust” itinerary again. We had found a little guest house in Fort Cochin a little further North. Instead of messing around with train tickets and schedules, we arranged a car to meet us at the houseboats. This turned out to be the same price (within $5 I think it was) as buying four train tickets and getting a car to drive us and our luggage to the train station. The difference was that we were not in AC, it was a little more cramped than train seating, and we didn’t have to wait around for about five hours for the next scheduled train. That’s two minor bad points versus one huge positive!

Our place in Fort Cochin was actually a families home this time, (as compared to thousands of other small places in India that call themselves guest homes, but are actually small12-20 room Inns). I had great plans for getting out and around to actually see the place over the few days we were there, but those got scuppered in the end. We started off by finding a tuk tuk driver that gave us a price of $1.35/hr. This was a great price and the only store he mentioned was the spice markets, which we’d read about and wanted to see anyways. The way that most of these guys make money is buy commission from bringing tourists to stores. In fact, just bringing tourists by will often get them a little bit of gas money even. I started off by asking this guy about a specific bank’s ATM, and he said it was very close by. We started off at the Indian Naval museum, adjacent to their large base. An American guy was coming out as we were heading in and told us that it wasn’t worthwhile at all. I quickly calculated the admission, and for three adults and one child it was all of $2.50. Alex and I had both forgotten our cameras though, which was a bit of a shame, even though still and video camera prices were $4 and $7.50 respectively. Yikes!

There was an abundance of artwork and long descriptions of the situations depicted. Naturally the West cost of India has a very long history, and many of these historical stages were described. There was also many little artifacts like old (and newer from the 30’s) ship’s wheels, uniforms and all kinds of hand weaponry. Larger, modern weapons were displayed outside in the courtyard as well. Stingers, torpedoes and sea sparrows along with Russian made radar arrays and anti-missile ships defense systems were all carefully laid out and described. The dark hour came when myself, and then Luke both had to go to the washroom. (Incidentally, they’re NOT called that here. In fact, no one has a clue on what a washroom is! Tourists simply have to ask where the toilette’s are.) I was in urgent need and didn’t have time to stop and think about asking Claudette for the TP she keeps in her purse. Too late I realized this after I had sat down. Normally I would have considered using a couple of 10 rupee bills (about 28 cents), but this “incident” required something far more substantial, like perhaps half a full roll of the super fluffy from back home. Luke was by this time waiting for me to finish for his turn. I exclaimed that there was no way he could get in here without first getting me some wrap from Mom. I started having nightmares of having to use my underwear and rinsing them in the sink, and then repeating the process several times as required. Luckily, Claudette, Alex and the Tuk Tuk driver went to a store almost 15 minutes away (and just around the corner from our guesthouse we later discovered) to buy a couple of rolls. Thus was I rescued from certain death of possibly being trapped in that bathroom forever!

After this bit of fun time, I wasn’t in much of a great mood to continue touring, but thought I’d try. That’s when the driver lost his marbles. He was driving by a really nice old building and told us it was a former Palace. Then he pulled in to the parking lot, came through the covered round-a-bout and stopped. It turns out that it was now a store, and a very exclusive expensive one at that. I calmly suggested that we weren’t interested. He replied (about eight times) that we should just have a look, no pressure. We refused to get out of the tuk tuk and after a few minutes of a stalemate, he started it up and continued on. We had travelled a fair ways from the hotel by this point and I asked him again about that specific bank ATM. He replied that it was close by, and we would get to it about 4-5 stops later. I then pointedly asked him how much further to get directly to the bank and he admitted that it was about a half hour to three quarters of an hour away. I was visibly angry at these shenanigans now and told him to return us to the hotel immediately. He stopped at two other ATM’s (and one store) on the return trip and insisted I try our bank card. We already knew that it didn’t work at these branches, but I humored him. He dropped us off around the corner from our guest house (I didn’t want him to know EXACTLY where we were staying!) and he begged me to go into one more store across the street. He insisted that I wouldn’t have to buy anything, but that if I even only just went inside they would pay him gas money. I blatantly refused and explained why, (his deceiving us about the bank, and taking us to the other expensive “Palace” store). He agreed that he was bad, but still continued to beg for either of us to just go inside and look at the store. I felt badly for him, and simply shook my head as I walked away.

There were a couple of internet cafe’s close by and we spent a bit of time there catching up and making a bunch of skype calls. Luke and I got to chat with (and see video of) Lacie, Riley and Emile which was pretty cool. I also arranged with my brother for the kids to chat with Maddie the next morning (evening for them). Sadly, I never made it back the next morning. By late afternoon I was becoming quite feverish, and my stomach was churning up a storm! I then laid down and informed Claudette that there was no way in “H”, “E” double hockey sticks that I was going to be able to make supper with the family that night. I then proceeded to lay there burning up like the shuttle on re-entry, and unable to sleep from the aches & pains, and hallucinations. The next morning Claudette took the kids to the net cafe and made the appointment with Maddie. While there she met and talked with another family from Canada who were also traveling the world for a year, and were also just over the half way point. They were a great family (even though they were from Ottawa) and they set up a dinner date that evening for our two families.

I was feeling a bit better later on, and after catching up on a bit of sleep, I joined everyone for some fine Italian food. It was great meeting up and we swapped ideas stories and hints throughout the evening. One thing they had which we’d never considered was a travel smoke detector. They didn’t always use it, especially since most buildings are brick & mortar it seems. But, when on occasion they stayed in a place that did not inspire much confidence (and we have also stayed in some doozies, believe me!) they could use it as a safeguard. For picture backups they were couriering 2GB thumbdrives home every few weeks as they filled up. We are both planning on being in Egypt about the same time and hope to try and meet up with them. They are scheduled on a “Trek Adventures” tour for a week in there though, so we’re not quite sure what our joint timings will be like.

They next morning we booked a car for the 90 minute drive to the airport for our super cheap web-purchased flight to Mumbai. Of all things funny, we discovered that our scheduled flight was actually for the previous day and we’d missed it. This was rather devastating news considering that I had gotten such a good price, and plastered all over the website and tickets was a big “NO REFUNDS OR CHANGES FOR THESE SUPER SPECIAL PRICED TICKETS!” Ooooops! Being Jet Airways (a great Indian airline to deal with) he rescheduled us for that days flight with only a $25/person change fee. Whew! in the biggest way imaginable….

Missing our plane also proved to be a bit fortuitous in that we wouldn’t have met up with the McAdams family if we had caught our flight the previous day.

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