Alleppey, Kerala, India

We took ourselves down to Alleppey (or Alappuzha) with a view to spending a couple of nights on a rice boat in the back waters. Little did we realise that it was a national holiday in India and the place would be heaving. After elbowing our way through the other tourists along the quayside where the houseboats were moored and speaking to a couple of captains, we agreed that it may not be quite the unique, romantic, enlightening experience the guide books would have us believe and therefore, opted out.

The host at our homestay had said he could organise a day with a backwater village guide and so we arranged that instead. And, what a pleasurable experience it was. My only regret is to not have spent more evening and morning time on the water when the villagers are going about their daily chores on the rivers.

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Taking his human for a walk
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Lucky goat
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Going about their business
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Local
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Converted canoes for the tourists
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Waiting to be hired.
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Houseboats converted from traditional rice boats – Kettuvallams
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Choose your houseboat.
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The pollution from boat motors is a little disquieting.
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Footpaths and waterways through the villages – away from the tourist trails
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So many butterflies but mostly too quick for me.
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Our guide and his canoe
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Traditional Keralean banana leaf meal at the home of our guide.
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The grandchildren of our backwaters village host and his wife.
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The grandson having his lunch
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canoes in all shapes and sizes
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Bathroom accessories
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Sheltering from the midday sun.
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Family of water buffalo
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Local wildlife – kingfisher
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All life happens here – quietly.
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Serene and calm
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Local transport
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Washing up.
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But I feel they are playing.
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Should be bathing…
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Daily chores at the riverside for villagers
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Bathing for all
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Loads of river traffic on this national holiday.
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Traditional house boats in a queue.
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A big responsibility for a small boy.
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Late afternoon on the canal in town.
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Boats to service the tourist trade
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In town, the bustle is intense.
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Retro cast advertising figurines.
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Recycled rice bags.
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Retro shop mannequins.
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The electricity system frightening.
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Fort Kochi, Kerala, India

Fort Kochi, Kochi or otherwise Cochin; a lot of the towns we visited had two names such as Alleppey and/or Alappuzha but I never did find out why. So, to differentiate, I choose to use Kochi for the fort area and Cochin for the district.

Kerala, like many places in the world, is a melting pot of genes and mores left behind by invading societies and no where is this more evident than in and around Fort Kochi where the Arabs left Islam, the Chinese left their nets, the Portuguese left Catholicism, the Dutch left a cemetery, the Jews left trade and the British left Willingdon Island and everyone took boat loads of wonderful spices away.

It feels cosmopolitan; not like London or New York might feel cosmopolitan with their stylish business people and modern architecture but in a gritty, pragmatic, impoverished way, Fort Kochi with its varieties of peoples engaged in varieties of activities feels bustling and cosmopolitan but without the first world sparkles.

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Not your usual backpacker.
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Street vendor
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Loving that camera
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Pretty with pink
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In the town centre
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Lifestyles juxtaposed
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More lifestyles juxtaposed
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Which is the way forward?
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Man-child, what are you thinking?
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A country that now has a ‘lower-middle income economy’ – for some.
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Bringing home the day’s catch.
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King fish were the catch of the day.
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Fish auction on the quayside
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Some ice might help – for a while
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Similar to our ‘boys ashore’ who get a cut of the catch.
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Litter of feral dogs harbouring under fishing boat.
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Day of strike following electoral murders – play on.
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Schools shut for strike – on to the serious business of cricket
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Football on the other side of town.
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Street shot.
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It sure does.
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Bazaar Road for spices and rices.
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Varieties of rice
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Grain merchant
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Building on Bazaar Road
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A visit to the Dhobi Khan
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Community laundry
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Not so used nowadays and under threat of extinction
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How do they get those whites so white?
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In one of the many antique and salvage shops in Jew Town
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The spice market – also with a variety of ingredients for ayurvedic medicines
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The Dutch cemetery – not that you can get in here
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Thought I’d left him behind in Cuba… The Socialist Party headquarters.
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Huummmmmmm?
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When it rains, it rains.
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Lovely to watch.

 

 

 

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Week 46 of this never-ending 366 challenge

I know I shall be sorry when the challenge is over but for the moment….

Anyway, this week, back home, from India into the cold climate of the British autumn. I hope you might forgive that I haven’t been hanging around outside much for photos this week but, on the positive side, it is pushing me to think about some indoor still lifes… Which it would seem I do need some practise with. Here goes:

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He’s been with us a long time.
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Glass ceilings in Eastbourne cafes
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Lined up, practising to be sausages
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It’s 11pm, WHAT picture can I make?
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I’d quite like a real one.
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Yet again this picture of my cute little Jack Russell because. not only did she win club dpi of the year at our local club but she has now won a bronze medal at the Sussex Photographic Federation this month.
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WHY did I come back from town with more Christmas decorations? Save me from Christmas in November.

 

 

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Fickle Autumn in Rye

We left the house under a glorious autumnal sun and by the time we’d got to the harbour in the Cinque Ports town of Rye (20 mins up the coast) already the clouds had started gathering.

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Gibbet’s Marsh Windmill
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Why are white picket fences so compelling?
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Glorious autumnal weather
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Rye Quayside
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Salty old sea dog – cute ears.
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And, just look at that weather the tide brought in.

 

 

 

Lakshadweep Islands, Indian Territories

WARNING – LONG POST!!!

For the second main stage of our travels to India, we found ourselves heading out into the Arabian Sea with a boat load of middle-aged, middle-class domestic tourists. And I make this distinction because I feel it impacted greatly on the impressions we were left with – still the same kindness and friendliness yet totally different to the fishing community at Cherai Beach.

Leaving from Willingdon Island near Fort Kocki in Kerala, we were embarking on a five night adventure which would include a day visit to 3 of the 39 islands of this archipelago located to the north of, and a geographical extension of the Maldives. The ship that would take us out was, primarily, the ferry and service boat for the locals of the island. And, to help finance the running costs, 200 berths have been made available to tourists. The islanders, generally, are not wealthy people and many of their young depend on jobs on the mainland. Using tourism to help finance this facility that keeps the islands in touch with the mainland seems good business.

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Luckily, there were only 200 tourist class passengers
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Many of the initiatives are still a work in progress.
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Please do not spit here & on to the lifeboat – wonderful curly, friendly font of the characters in the Malayalam alphabet
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Off into the night in the rain.
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The Kavaratti ship seen from Kalpeni Island

On this trip, our first stop was Kalpeni Island – I believe the itinerary may change depending on weather, tides and the needs of the islanders. Here, I had a very brief conversation with a man about how more tourism could help improve the lives of these people. I was quite surprised, from a gender perspective, to be approached; it seems still a very patriarchal society where men talk to men. I’m not sure of the motivations of the SPORT people and their promotion of tourism on the islands; it was quite complicated to make this booking  and spaces are limited; it would seem that, rightfully so, access to the islands is being kept in check.

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Local fishing boats were used for transfers from ship to island.
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All tourists were required to wear life jackets… The locals fended for themselves.
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Just because I liked the colours.
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Morning water activities.
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Beautiful corals and sea life
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Snorkelling was very easy in these shallow waters.
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Off to experience scuba diving
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Barely above sea level
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Pre-dinner activities – hermit crab racing.
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Chickens on the beach
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Goats on nests
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Local folk dance
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Not so different from our Morris Men
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The coconut industry
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There is no shortage.
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Disused textiles factory – no longer viable
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Tourists checking out the textiles for sale

After a comfortable nights sleep in our bunks on the ship, we awoke on the second day to find the ship had already moored off Minicoy island. After a basic but nutritious breakfast, we were again loaded into the local fishing boats and ferried ashore.

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A visit to one of the many lighthouses left behind by the British – Hari and Christine were the only other Europeans that had found their way to this trip.

 

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A handsome devil
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Salt water lover.
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Entertainment laid on.
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We preferred to spend our morning snorkelling – there was so much to see.
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I cannot do the vibrancy justice.
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Shy.
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Magnificent corals
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Nature’s washing line.
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Traditional racing boat.
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The very little exclusive tourist accommodation that was on the islands was way beyond our budget.
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Cliches are cliches for a reason – someone said that to me recently.
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The locals on the top deck.
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Getting the land-lubber tourists aboard – there was a bit of a swell this evening which meant the leap had to be well timed.
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Watching the loading process. Love how their boats are shaped like fish.

The final island we had the good fortune to visit, Karavatti like the name of the ship, is the capital of the Lakshadweep Islands and therefore a little more populated, but not visibly any wealthier. I should have liked to talk more with the locals but they seemed quite shy, keeping away from the hoards of tourists. And, I was surprised the Indian tourists didn’t try to engage with them – again it made me think about the class system in this country and wonder how things work.

We did get a little insight into the psyche of our upwardly mobile travelling companions on this day. Having had a drink in a paper cup, my other half wandered towards the rubbish bin, on his way collecting a few cups, as you do, that had been dropped on the beach and, having placed them all in the bin, thought no more of it…. until. After lunch, a woman came up and said how she had noticed him collecting some of the litter and explained how it ‘almost’ made her consider doing the same. Later that evening, on the boat, after dinner, a couple of the men came over and there ensued a huge discussion on why they could never be seen to be picking up litter. And it was that conversation that, for us, clarified a little the class system in the country and how closely linked it is to the huge litter problem they have.

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The population of Kavaratti swells for a few hours.
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Firstly, a swim to look at the sea life.
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Just as great a selection here as on the other two islands.
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An option for non-swimmers – lazy us.
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Cows on the beach.
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Lakshadweep
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Goats and boats
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Washed away.
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Dried fish industry
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Luckily, they don’t have the seagulls we do.
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Older local lads making their own amusement on the beach
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I’m of more interest than the lesson
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School children
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The same the world over.
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Smart phones and shark tanks
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A very good display of preserved sea creatures – not supposed to take photos
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Selling it by the chunk
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Beach combing at low tide.
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A quick selfie whilst waiting for something to happen – Bollywood style.
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Locals leaving the island
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To make sure we go or make sure they stay?
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Alone on the dock
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The farewell committee
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Another lighthouse
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Locals on the top deck – again, mostly male.

 

 

 

 

Vypin Island, Kerala, India

And I am so terribly behind with posting. Not that I’m complaining after having spent a month in India for which I feel privileged, dumbfounded, enlightened, heartbroken, joyous, humbled, confused, enriched…. I defy anyone to come away from India and feel they have an understanding of how they feel about that place and its people.

Our trip was restricted to Kerala and a little of Tamil Nadu as we didn’t want to spend our month traveling long distances (although I do regret missing the experience of the trains) and we planned a gentle introduction to the country, its people, its food (no global fast food chains here) and the climate by spending several days at Cherai Beach on Vypin Island.

I guess, unless you travel with one of the big tour operators where tourists may be somewhat shielded from the raw everydayness of Indian life, there is no gentle introduction to this enigmatic land. The first obstacle we encountered was how to eat – we were traveling cheaply (lots of homestays and small, independent hotels) and food wasn’t part of the accommodation – mainly vegetarian meals and curried vegetables for breakfast didn’t take too much getting used to and at least, near the beach, there was a wonderful range of seafood.

The seafood leads me onto the second dilemma we encountered very early on during our stay: the Indian’s relationship with the sea. We are avid swimmers and love to get in the sea (yes, even the English Channel) but were unnerved to learn, on the day of our arrival, that a lad had gone missing in the water. Then, after a couple of days watching the domestic tourist buses turn up late afternoon, we realised that the Indians just don’t swim. Some male youths may get in the water properly but as soon as they get beyond chest depth, the ‘lifeguard’ blows his whistle and they come back to shallower water. And, to be honest, although there are miles of beautiful golden sand, the litter and other pollution (yes, it is true, there is still some human defecation in places of extreme beauty) are not particularly inviting. As mesmerised as we were to watch the romantic scenes of the cast net fishermen every morning, it was also dumbfounding to watch them return to the sea the plastics and other refuse they had just dragged ashore in their nets – probably to then drag it all back ashore the following day.

But the landscape was beautiful and the people, whether on the street, from the accommodation or working in the eating places were friendly and helpful and pleased to share insights into their culture.

This is our photo journey of Vypin Island:

Domestic tourists would arrive by the bus load towards the end of the afternoon and then disappear again after sunset:

 

Very few Indians got into the water when they came to the beach and often, if they did, they would be fully dressed:

It was fascinating to watch the cast net fishermen each morning:

A sight highly recommended by the tourists books, these static nets that are raised and lowered by a series of boulders working as counter-balances and purportedly introduced by the Chinese, are best seen on the north tip of Vypin Island.

As well as the lone cast net fishermen and the small crews that work the canoes, Kerala has a considerable fleet of deeper water fishing boats:

It was on Vypin Island that we first met some of India’s animals – domestic and wild:

And started to become aware of the spiritual diversity of the country. Christians, Hindus and Muslims live their daily lives, side by side, in seeming peace and understanding of one another.

And finally, a few photos for no other reason than to celebrate how wonderful the light is in this part of the world:

 

 

Week 45 of 366 challenge

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Wonderful aromas of flavoursome spices bought back from Kerala
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Spot the Jack Russell
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Sunday breakfast with a view of Bodium Castle.
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Struggling to find a photo
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Ton, at camera club, was the poor victim for my practising with flash gun
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Victorian mock roman baths hidden in local wood
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Inspiration from looking at some old photos

Week 44 of 366(-2) challenge

The week we came home:

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Drive by tea plantations in the hills towards Munnar
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Mattupetty reservoir in the Munnar Hills
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Plenty of produce for a hugely vegetarian population.
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Our last curry breakfast in the jungle on the way to the airport
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Sunrise over London
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Awww, but don’t think she missed us much.
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A rose and some frost – welcome home.

Week 43 of 366-2 challenge

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133 feet above sea level, Thiruvalluvar stands off the tip of the peninsular at the southern most point of India.
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Not difficult to take people pictures here.
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Spiritual bathing at sunrise – cannot get over that they do not see the volume of litter everywhere.
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Drive by rice pickers posteriors travelling through Tamil Nadu
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Beautiful vines in Kumilly
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The ethical dilema – ultimately, I’m happy to help finance a good quality of care for these vulnerable creatures.
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The jack fruit – new to me.

Week 42 of 366-2

Spent mostly in the middle of the Arabian sea on a little archipelago of islands which extend northwards from the Maldives and are an Indian territory known as the Lakshadweep Islands

(If it was week 42, there could only have been 10 weeks left of this year….? Noooo!!!!! And I’m posting this 3 weeks retrospectively so….. 7 weeks? Noo, noo, nooooooo!!! )

Anyway, the Lakshadweep Islands and then back to Fort Kochi:

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Loading the baggage
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Local fishing boats to transfer to islands
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Throwing off the constraints of ‘civilised’ society
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Economy: dried fish (and coconuts)
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Back to Fort Kochi and more organised tourist commodities.
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The laundry – dhobi khana – which kind of made me think of the Harry Potter house elf – Dobby.
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Why does India have such lovely soft light? Hope it’s not the smog from the richshaws…. sad.