I am now in a little coastal village called Gokarn in the region of Karnataka. It is a bit of a hippy area and complete with long-term resident hippies with the usual dreadlocks, yin and yang tatoos and smoking lots of weed.
There are quite a few beaches here and we have stayed in a guest house in Gokarn village, as well as in little beach huts on Ketlee Beach, Paradise Beach and Om Beach (named after its shape representing the Om symbol). You have to hike about half an hour over the headland to get to each of the beaches and due to the lack of clear path, most people (including us) seem to get completely lost and end up having to climb up sheer rock faces or scramble down banks full of bushes for about an hour. Fortunately, we had left our big rucksacks in the village so were still able to walk at the end of our hikes. Alternatively, you can take fishing boats out to the beaches and I did this on the way back from the furthest one as could not face getting lost again.
Tomorow we are heading up to Goa, so it will be interesting to see what it is like up there.
Since my last entry from Munar where we spent a few days inland in the cooler tea plantation area seeing the beautiful green scenery with lots of lakes, trees, coffee plants, cardomom plants etc., we finally returned again to the sunny coast.
We headed for a town called Cochin, which is a fishing area and where the fishermen have huge Chinese fishing nets that are basically wooden triangular structures with a net that they lower into the sea and then lever up scooping up the fish. Each morning it was interesting to sit and watch them whilst sitting in a little open air cafe drinking fresh orange juice.
The main town is quite a busy area, but you catch the local ferry's to Fort Cochin, which is twenty minutes away and just off the mainland. This is the historical part of the town and has lots of old buildings, great restaurants and cafes and some nice shops too.
By chance, whilst we were staying here there was a ten day festival taking place in the main temple. The opening ceremony was a parade including seven brightly decorated elephants with gold headresses and huge parasols on their heads. There were many drummers and men blowing circular horns who created a deafening sound inside the temple and played furiously for about four hours in the blazing sun. The festival also included dance performances with women doing the traditional indian dancing, tabla and other types of music in a nightly concert and another Kathakali performance that went on for the entire night (although we only stayed until after midnight).
After leaving Cochin, we took a train to Cannanore and then on to a little village in the north of Kerala to stay at a Keralan government owned hotel called Costa Malabari. Our reason for going there was to hopefully see another one of the Keralan traditions which is called Theyam. Theyam is where particular individuals become possessed by different gods and takes place in villages in north Kerala during the spring months. Luckily for us, there was one taking place the very night we arrived and was within walking distance of our hotel (albeit a slightly tricky walk through narrow and steep paths between houses and through the forest until led by the sound of the drums you arrive at where the ceremony is taking place).
The Theyam takes place over and evening and then keeps going into the next day and in our case it even went on into the following evening (I think one of the men did not really want to return to his normal mortal life and just kept going in spite of the tired drummers trying to speed things along).
At our Theyam, three men were transformed into gods wearing the most incredible make up and costumes. One was covered in white chalk, with a grass skirt, a cartoonish mask and a huge palm leaf ladder structure attached to his back. Another was painted red and wore a grass covered barrel shaped costume that forced his arms to point into the air for the two days. The third (and reluctant to return to human form) was painted orange with a tiger looking face with huge white whiskers covering his lips, gold coins covering his eyes and leopard type spots over his body.
The three men span around, shouted, screamed, ran into the crowds and waved sticks, branches and other implements about. They later calmed down and gave blessings to the locals who must have gone up at least twenty times each judging by the neverending queues for them. I have no idea what the tiger man was saying to them but there was raised voices, finger pointing and thumping of fists with the meek devotee wobbling their head in submissive agreement.
After Cannanore, we travelled up to Gokarna for the beaches, before taking another trip inland to Hampi. Hampi is a historical town with loads of old palaces, temples and ruins that you can explore by foot and bike. We spent the first day walking along the river path visiting the various sights there and also some time in the temples near the main bazaar in the town. The main town temple has a resident elephant Lakshmi, who will bless you if you give her two rupees. I held out the coin not knowing what to expect and she took it with her trunk, passed it to her owner nearby, swumg her trunk back around and bent it so the tip of it touched the top of my head whilst the curved part rested against my forehead. I flinched and then laughed when I realised what she was doing.
Hampi is set in really interesting scenery with huge mounds of boulders forming hills, a winding river and palm trees. Its hill are a good place to see the sunset and rise and we managed to do both, which involved hiking up or down in the dark.
We hired a moped to visit some of the sights which were further away (something Sam has been wanting to do since we arrived) and spent the day on the bike. We both had a go at driving it and would differ in view as to who was the best. All I can say is, even if I did take us through a rubbish tip and scraped the bike to reach a particularly hard to find temple, at least I did not accelerate full throttle into a crowd of scattering school children before swerving to miss a lamp post!
Anyway, that is enough for now and will update more from Goa.