Wednesday 16th December.
We started today with an early morning yoga class in the pavilion overlooking the lake. Very peaceful.
Feeling suitably tranquil, we swam in our pool and spotted several drongos, a flameback woodpecker and a pair of flycatchers in the palm trees above us, savouring this peace and quiet.
We packed our bags yet again - we were becoming quite slick at this now.
The phone rang and it turned out to be restaurant staff concerned that we had overslept and might miss breakfast! We did our best to reduce the constantly replenished supplies of breakfast for all nations but eventually admitted defeat.
Our driver was waiting as arranged to convey us back to the Old Harbour Hotel in Kochi.
Lake Vembanad looked very serene and beautiful in the morning light as we drove along its shores and then through small villages where we could glimpse narrow channels of water stretching down to the lake, full of water hyacinths with their purple flowers and overhung by lush vegetation, glowing light green with the sunshine beyond.
We spent the journey marvelling at the surrounding activity, as well as the usual mad traffic of tuk-tuks, mopeds, lorries and buses conveying the locals about their daily business, there were schoolchildren making their way to school. They were all smartly dressed in uniform, primary-coloured shirts and kameezes with white trousers. Not cream or beige - white! Many were walking along the edge of the dusty road, some rode bicycles with small siblings on the back, some girls were sitting side saddle on their father's bicycle, smaller children travelled in front and behind their mother on her moped. Larger groups were crammed into tuk-tuks. They all looked happy, energetic and enthusiastic, and there was not an obese child to be seen.
There were roadside stalls selling New Year decorations of gaudy paper stars up to 3ft across, piles of fresh fish, trays of eggs, mounds of coir drying in the sun, huge rice packing plants and numerous IT outlets as well as engineering 'shops' repairing or dismantling all the vehicles that didn't quite make it through that gap! There were even twenty 50 ft sections of old metal bridge stacked up by the road slowly decaying where they lay.
We arrived safely back at the Old Harbour Hotel in Fort Cochin and decided that the most significant problem of the day, once again, was how to magic 50kg of luggage into two 15kg bags for the Air India flight before our cookery class at 4pm. We set about sorting, discarding, drying and pruning everything we could think of.
Encouraged by the progress made we then went for a wander around the local streets and found the shops and people here as pleasant and undemanding as they had been before. Of course, we purchased yet more items to fill some of the space we had created!
Our strategy was to comply with the 15kg rule for hold baggage and to then either wear the rest or carry in our hand luggage. We also put all our souvenirs in shopping bags to look as if purchased recently.
On line check is always a bit of a pain when abroad and today was no exception. The internet worked intermittently and the process was slow, exceedingly frustrating and only partially successful - but good enough.
All done we treated ourselves to a cooling swim in the garden pool.
Today's main event was a cookery class held at one of the local 'Homestays' where you can live and eat with a local family.
Our host Leelu was most entertaining and keen to share her knowledge of local Keralan cuisine. We shared the class of 6 with two other couples - one couple from England, in the process of emigrating to Australia, the other from South America - Argentinian and Brazilian vegetarians educated in London and residing in Portugal!
When asked, we had expressly requested dishes for pork and beef as we felt these would be most likely to be the ingredients available at home. Somehow the hotel reception had translated this to spicy prawn curry at the last moment - and as prawns were in short supply and there were two vegetarians in the group we had to settle instead for Green Pea curry and Chicken Vindaloo! We also cooked Thoran - a cabbage and coconut combination, and Pachadi - spicy beetroot in yoghurt along with fresh chapatis, all to be prepared and served in 2 hours!
Leelu took us step by step through the recipes which had an emphasis on coconut and the fantastic local spices. The fresh ingredients meant that only small amounts of spices (and at least ten cloves of garlic!) were needed to create a wonderful flavour. We sat around her kitchen work top making notes whilst she chopped and blended and chatted, or stood around the gas hob as she sautéed and stirred and explained. The final result was both eye catching and fantastically tasty without being eye watering. We all had to cook our own chapattis and didn't disgrace ourselves too much!
The dishes were cleared and we settled up - 700 rupees ( £7) each for a 3 hour class that included a meal!
We had one last wander through the shops and sold some books to the local bookshop to lighten our load.
Then back to the hotel to slip into the pool for a last cooling swim, while two Indian musicians entertained us with sitar and drums under the tree lights, and the moon lay on its back overhead.
We couldn't leave without one last beer, a pudding and masala chai in the hotel garden. The evening lights and fans in the garden were lovely but eventually the midges won and we returned indoors. This was the perfect time for a good catch up on facetime with the birthday boy back in Gloucestershire, before retiring to pack the last pieces into our bags.
A memorable last day to end our incredible adventure - and now all we have to do is get back home…