We made it!

We made it!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Day 3 – Cochin to Kozhikode

Not a bad sleep. Gus awoke at 3am with his now quite common ‘travellers cough’. He has a habit of getting a cough when travelling on planes and into the air conditioning of cars and hotels. He is such a sweaty boy and the hot and cold usually produces one of these colds. So at 3am we had the coughing fit, waking up, a trip to the toilet, lights on of course which means lights on for everyone. Fortunately only 20-30 minutes later Gus is back to sleep. We all awake again at 6.30am almost like clockwork. I wake to Maggie and Gus playing “wiggle, wiggle, wiggle yeh” on my bottom, at least they thought it was funny, definitely a sign I am not yet in walk shape.

A cruise ship goes by with a loud horn sounding. Gus lets out an “oh sh..” to which Indy questions did you mean “oh ship,” “No” Gus replies, Maggie suggest to Gus he should say “oh shivers” or “jeepers creepers” to which Gus says “No I say sh..” Not sure where he gets this from?

Another beautiful sunrise as we dress for breakfast. Ibis, eagles and crows fly under our room between our window and the ocean, quite a view. The Ibis find their feet and land on the reeds floating along in the water. Gus has now moved on to medical games using my pen as a needle. He goes to great length to explain to me it won’t hurt because it is a small needle. Maggie sits on the bed reading ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ and Indy is writing in her journal. Bec is on ‘cup tea’ duty, although takes a moment to give Gus a plastic syringe to his great delight.

Today we meet our driver and head to Kozhikode (Colicut), the longest car trip of our journey. We head north up the coast to get to a spot where we are then to head west and a little north towards Mysore.

Maggie is getting dressed and both Bec and I are providing suggestions of what we believe would be culturally appropriate. You see fashion is very important to Maggie with her favourites being short shorts and off the shoulder t-shirts. “Oh My God Mum”, “Oh My God Dad”, shortly followed by a more detailed complaint to Bec that “Dad wants to dress me in a snow suit”. This ofcourse is followed by a lecture on culture and appropriateness of dress, to which Maggie zones out during, this one we may need to share many times on this trip with Maggie.

Indy is better prepared today after being quite disorganised yesterday. Not quite ready for army inspection but a good effort all around, great job in support from Bec. While we are all getting dressed Gus is sitting on the couch without clothes on experimenting with his needle and parts of his body that his needle should probably not meet. Shortly after he is into the toilet for a ‘number 2’, then Bec is chasing him around our very cramped room trying to wipe him up, something Gus is yet to master himself. At least everything seems to be working down below. Indy is doing Maggie’s hair and everyone looks great in their “coast to coast” gear. Just another day getting ready on the road. I will give the girls an 8 out of 10 today, maybe Gus gets a 6.

We head down to breakfast, this time a beautiful masala Dosa, vada and south Indian coffee. The kids make the most of the breakfast buffet and fill up for the day. As we sit there enjoying our breakfast the band ‘Slade’ Christmas Carol ‘Happy Christmas’ is playing, the girls have about 20 olives on their plate (girls we are in India remember – you just can’t take the Italy out of the girls). We are informed our driver arrived at 4am and is ready for us.

I quickly take advantage of the internet access and do a quick search on google maps to make sure that I have our route planned in detail from Colicut to Kunnamangalam. I have this recurring nightmare that we start our walk with 50 childfund people following us and we walk out of the gates and don’t know where to go!

We are also advised by Rachel from ChildFund Australia that in partnership with ChildFund India they have secured a professional film crew to capture important parts of our journey – we are all very excited because this is likely to increase the likelihood of our journey being shared with many more people.

We have packed our bags and head down to the lobby to check out. The hotel provides a warm send off with about 20 staff giving the kids gifts, food and water for the trip and incredible hospitality to welcome us on our first few days in India. As we stand out the front of our hotel we await the arrival of our car, a little nervously given this will be an important part of our trip over the next 6 weeks. The Tempo Traveller arrives, kind of a cross between a troop carrier and a 1980’s panel van, very flash and well beyond our expectations. The air conditioner is very good and the seats very comfortable with seat belts fitted for all. Our driver Raju joins us and he is very friendly and safety conscious as he puts on the kids seat belts. We are very relieved and excited about our vehicle.

We head off in our vehicle as the many staff stand by the doors waving us off for our journey. We pull out of the hotel and within minutes are into the Indian traffic. I could not in this blog do justice to the sights, sounds and smells of just 100 metres of a traffic experience in India. There are shops of every possible description, beautifully coloured houses and ofcourse people everywhere. We drive past the old airport, the train lines and the girls are very excited about our new bus. The trees and vegetation are quite beautiful and very tropical. There is of course Rubbish everywhere which only partly spoils the beauty of the Indian countryside. We drive past the Navy Base and over a massive bridge, which is always a very tight squeeze. No matter how wide the bridge the traffic always manages to squeeze together to make it a tight fit. The sun is glistening on the water and I glance out to see the large power wires and a man working on them very high off the ground, of course no safety ropes, but at least he has a plastic helmet on his head. Everywhere you look there is the mixing of old and modern India.

The girls are sitting up the front of the bus, Nanna and Poppa in the next row and then Bec Gus and I in the third. Each row has a single seat on one side and a double seat on the other. The girls are up front singing their rendition of the ‘eye of the tiger’. Gus having spent a while taking in the scenery decides he has had enough and falls asleep for several hours. The drive all up will take us about 6-7 hours in total but in the main is very comfortable and Raju is driving very well. After a few hours Gus wakes slowly. He wakes with “Dammit – I forgot to raise my money for goats!” Where does this come from? Obviously the importance of his money for goats has resonated with our little man. We assure Gus that he has raised his money and the goats will be bought and shared with the families in India. Both Bec and I are amazed at this comment from our 3 year old little manny.

The kids are all doing well. The girls have completed their 99 bottles on the wall song, to which we were all very relieved when it ended. The rest of us just loving the experience of driving through India. The sights, smells and noises are just amazing. We drive past a small van / ute with an elephant on the back. Just another site where you rub your eyes to make sure you are not dreaming. No, there was an elephant on the back of that small van.

Unfortunately 5 hours in the car is getting a bit much for Gus, who is still battling his cough and after a coughing fit we had some follow through and a small chuck which I did my best to catch in the paper bread basket. I really didn’t do a great job as it leaked all over the place as I handed it to Bec as I tried to get Gus out of the bus to complete any further efforts outside. As chance would have it we stopped out the front of a school and the kids came from everywhere to say hello.

Bec gets out her camera for a shot and each time she lifts her camera the girls drop down behind the wall. Then they pop up again. This dance continues for a while before the girls give in and Bec gets her photo. Indy, Maggie and Gus are saying their hellos and the kids are all very friendly and both groups really enjoying the interaction. This is a great taste for Maggie to remind her of what lies ahead as she asks “When will we get to see the kids?”

We are back in the car and finish our journey through Kozhikode and out the other side to our accommodation at Kappad Beach Hotel. This was one of our bookings that we made over the internet, always a bit risky. We are about 45 minutes drive out of town and venture through a labyrinth of small roads and back streets as we head down to the beach. I didn’t realise we were so far out of town but was pleasantly surprised when we popped out down by a beautiful quiet beach.

We arrive at our hotel, check in to our rooms and take a quick walk down on the beach. The sun is still very hot, even though it is getting late in the day. The girls enjoy a packet of chips and a pepsi and we all enjoy a cup of Indian tea from one of the small tea stalls adjoining the beach. The tea stall is made up of 3 bits of galvanised iron tied together, a small fire and a saucepan for tea and coffee. The tea is beautiful, like a milky sweet chai, a taste we remember well from previous visits.

We have a short rest in our rooms and then head down for dinner. It turns out that aside from us there is only one other couple staying here. The hotel is doing renovations to their restaurant so we eat on a concrete like circular stage some 20 metres wide which overlooks the beach under a near full moon. Despite still being quite tired the ceremony of the occasion is not lost on us. The girls start up a game of Indian Scopa, a kind of tradition of ours now and Gus runs around the copious gardens which surround our dining stage. After Bec and I take turns in following Gus for some time one of the waiters senses the need for support and starts tracking Gus through the gardens on the hunt for bugs and lizards. Dinner is a beautiful selection of Indian Veg curries (Aloo Ghobi, Palak paneer, Veg curry) and a selection of Indian breads including a Keralan Paratha which was delicious. The girls try the spaghetti napoletana. Gus just wanders around. Sure enough before the end of our meal Gus pipes up with a baby lizard (skink) in hand and puts him on the stage with the torch shining brightly on his catch. Very proud, the budding Steve Irwin surveys his catch. After some time we convince Gus to let his prey return home and we are off to bed quite relaxed about the journey so far.

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