Our next stop was Kochi in Kerala state. We were going to spend New Year's Eve here. It's a small island with the main town being Ernakulum. The bus drive had been the usual white knuckle ride. Once off the bus we took a rickshaw to the ferry jetty. It's difficult to sum up India but one consistent factor is their strange way of doing any given thing. Today it was buying a ferry ticket. There is one kiosk with one man selling tickets. There are two queues. One for men and one for women. The ticket seller alternates who he sells to. All seemed to be going well. Jill had joined the women's queue as it was shorter. All was going well then for no apparent reason the ticket man got up and left. Fifteen minutes later he came back, sold some more tickets then left again. We didn't know how much the ticket would be so Jill had a 100 rupee note (a bit over a pound). She queued for about thirty minutes and was close to the front. Then it nearly went atomic. A woman came from the back and plonked her kid in front of Jill and two other westerners to jump to the front. Jill was not impressed. Then a couple of adults tried to push in. Good for Jill she put out her arm and blocked them. 'You can't do that' said one. 'Watch me' was the curt response. The other Indian women in the queue thought it was great. Once at the front the fare was 5 rupees each. Jill handed over the 100 note and got a short 'No correct money'. Fortunately a nice young lad gave her 10 rupees and she got the tickets.
Getting on the ferry was the usual scrum. We were soon on the island and at the hotel. Kochi is a small place with a Portuguese history and has many colonial buildings. It is a popular tourist venue and so being New Year hotels were at a premium. At the time of booking ours we had to commit to their New Years Eve gala dinner. The hotel was ok but way over priced. We had a room on the first floor which was just close enough to reception to pick up the wifi signal. This meant we could do some planning and booking in the room rather than in the oven temperature of reception. We soon found a reasonable bar and were relaxing with a cold one.
There isn't really much in Kochi but it is a real change from most Indian towns. There were a couple of goats but no herds of cows. Traffic was fairly light and so it was reasonably quiet. It still had piles of rubbish not least on the beach. It is mostly a spice port with lots of traders. It also has an array of Chinese fishing nets. These are large wooden triangular nets. They are mounted on the beach and lowered into the water using counter weight blocks. The fish swim over them and are gathered up when they lift them from the water. They are then sold straight off the beach. About as fresh as you can get.
I didn't hold out much hope for the gala dinner. This was compounded by it being a 'dry' hotel. They said we could bring our own drink but we should buy it soon as the locals tend to go a bit mad at New Year and buy it all. We hailed a rickshaw and he took us to a local 'hole in the wall' off licence. Wine secured at a third of the price of the local bars. We're getting the hang of this now.
It was New Years Eve and we were getting ready for the gala dinner. I didn't have high hopes. This was reinforced when I heard the band tuning up. It was a din. The time came to go and eat. We walked into the roof top restaurant took one look and one listen and left. The food looked decidedly average and the music was deafening. Fortunately there were plenty of restaurants to choose from. As we walked out to find a restaurant an older guy walked past us and said 'Bloody tourist scum' to us. I didn't get a chance to retort. Maybe he thinks we are coming over here stealing their jobs. Kind of ironic really. The restaurant we chose was busy but we were ushered in by the lady of the house. She went to two young Indian lads who were sat at a table and basically told them to w*** off so we could have the table. It turned out to be an entertaining place. It was busy and they were clearly under pressure. We got served ok but one of the waiters threw a hissy fit and stormed out. Next a table complained their food was too spicy. The owner gave them short shrift and basically told them to go somewhere else if they weren't happy. When we left it was just like any New Year scene. Lots of people wandering around. Lots and lots of police and an expectation that rarely becomes reality. We returned to the hotel to find the tuneless band had now been replaced with a thumping disco. When you consider their clientele is mainly middle aged western tourists it misses the point to play 'house' music at full volume. We enjoyed a bottle of wine in our room watching a Bond movie.
We had a lazy get up on New Year's Day, checked out and took a rickshaw to the ferry jetty. It was a new year but they weren't changing. We agreed a forty rupee fare. As soon as we got in he said 'Is it ok if I take you to a shop on the way?' 'No, take me to the ferry or I'll get out'. At the ferry I gave him a fifty rupee note.' No change' he said. 'No problem' I said and gave him the correct money. His face expression cheered me up.
As we got off the ferry a voice said 'Hello'. It was a couple we had met in Mysore. Small sub-continent.
We were holing up for one night in Ernakulum before flying to Chennai (Madras) in the morning.