We made it!

We made it!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Day 4 Kappad Beach – Colicut – Kunnamangalam

It is about 5.30am. I am sitting on the balcony of our hotel room at Kappad Beach. The crows are making a ruckus in the distance, the waves lap into the shoreline and the occasional person walks by the path between our room and the beach. The sand is only metres from our room. It is still dark as I await the beautiful red Indian sunrise. Last night the sun set was quite spectacular watching the sun go down into the sea. As I look out over our first floor balcony, the rooms are two on the first floor, two on the ground, I look through a couple of coconut trees laden with fruit, as well as another large and very green tree. Beyond the trees, about thirty metres on is a path that runs along the beach and beyond that is the sand. We can see the gentle waves rolling into the shoreline. The kids are still asleep and I am taking one of those rare moments for quiet contemplation. Today is our first official walk day and there are just so many unknowns that if you stopped and really thought about it, it would do your head in. So my strategy, not sure it is the right one, but is to focus on the things I can prepare for and just ready myself as best I can for all the things I cannot. As I write Maggie comes out and joins me on the balcony, a little weary eyed but happy. She complains to me that she can’t sleep because the mattress is too hard. She climbs into the cane egg chair that is suspended from the ceiling of our balcony and we start to think of names for our vehicle, to initiate it into the family.

It is only day 3 and India has already served up so much for us. There have been moments of absolute beauty and serenity, moments of utter madness and despair and then the obvious moments of moving from the ridiculous to the sublime.

Mum calls out hello from the balcony of the adjoining room, happy to see company having been up for hours. Maggie asks if she can add to the blog so I will play typist as she dictates a few thoughts to me on our trip so far. A boat starts up just out from our room.

Maggie starts – It was so fun yesterday when Gus had to pee in the bottle on the bus. Late last night at about 8pm little master Gus was hunting for squirrels and possums and luckily there was one of the staff looking after Gus while we enjoyed our many spices of our dinner. She comments that she is still not sure about the name for our bus. Maggie often drifts from subject to subject, it pays to try and keep up. She continues, was it yesterday, not it wasn’t yesterday, what was the day before that…. Not yesterday but the day before we went out to town and it was very crowded and busy and everyone looked like they knew what they were doing, crossing the road almost getting hit but tuk tuks taxis and trucks and on the ferry we went on to catch to town there was two or three ladies with their little boy and mum had asked if she could please take a photo with me and the lady was covering her mouth like she was freaked out and the other lady was closing her eyes. Yesterday after Gus had vomited through the car as we stopped we had met a lovely little school with lots of little girls and boys that were very interested in the white skin family that stopped for a clean up.

Meanwhile Gus has joined us informing us that he had the best dream about Possums, dinosaurs and squirrels. Bec follows Gus with the mosquito repellent and Indy slowly strolls out and sits next to me in the cane chair. Bec tells Indy about a little fishing boat chugging by.

Back to Maggie…Mum tried to take a photo and everyone hid like a game of hide and seek. Smartly poppa took a video so he could capture the little heads bobbing up and down behind the brick wall. Last night I brutally injured my toe and I almost utterly breaking my toe for the big walk, humungus, blood was squirting everywhere, on the night before our walk, as nurse ratchet India tried to fix me with the betadine who never stopped after I said stopped so she brutally hurt my poor unfortunate toe. Indy suggested she just scraped off a littler bit of skin, an argument unfolds, anyway back to Maggie…… well yesterday down to the beach I wore my short shorts as all the Indian men and women were staring at me like I was a massive freak having a massive egg hanging out of my head – “Told you” Indy informs Maggie that she had told her to wear something else. Final word from Maggie……Bye dudes who are reading this also if the class of 3B are reading this I am having a great time but I’m not having too gooder fun to make you feel bad. See you dudes maybe next time I write my blog.

Meanwhile a fishing boat drifts by, casts their net and slaps the water to arouse the attention of the fish. Indy, Bec and Gus have headed across to see our neighbours, quickly followed by Maggie. My serenity is restored, only momentarily I assure you. The sun is slowly rising now and it is possible to once again fully see all of the beauty that is our Indian coastline. I should now go and check my notes, make sure that I have the right directions to get us from Colicut where we commence our walk today through to Kannamangalam. Those who want to follow on Google maps we plan to walk along Mavoor road through to the medical college and then past the Indian institute of management on our way to Kannamangalam where we will get picked up by our car to return back to the hotel tonight. Bec drops me off my morning strong tea and I will sign out for now.

After the walkers breakfast of omlette’s and French toast, washed down with South Indian coffee we are into the car with Raju and off to our flag off ceremony at the Gateway hotel in Colicut. As we head out on our journey we cross over a bridge, I observe a fisherman in his small wooden boat, bucket in hand shovelling out the water that has obviously passed through a leak in his boat. The simplicity of life. We pass a butcher, the goat hanging in the window is never a pleasant site, many fish stalls are also there as we run the gauntlet of Indian roads. There are school kids everywhere and people all with a place to go surround our car. The kids are up front sining the Bumbeyada song a lovely song they learned on their last trip here as well as a few Christmas carols. This morning was a bit like the morning of a big game, we were all there getting our tape on, getting our supplies ready and getting dressed for the big walk. Everyone looked great in their green ChildFund T-shirts. Popsy is in the bus rifling through his backpack looking for something. Nanna informs him he is like an old lady with a handbag as he can never seem to find what he is looking for.

Unfortunately Raju cannot find the venue and we seem to drive around in circles for a long time in our hunt for the hotel where we are to begin our walk. As we drive along the esplanade I admire the set of very clean waves coming in and crashing on the shore. Mum says “oh look at those poor chickens” as she looks out at a truck carrying many cages of very sorry looking birds, “They’re happy” Poppa responds and we head on. Gus yells out from the front seat “Mum do you have any eye shadow?” to which Bec replies “No”. “I thought you had eye shadow” Gus retorts. Peeling tubes of brown water crash on the shore as Bec looks at me and tells me “the waves are cranking”. Another of those somewhat surreal experiences as we try to find or hotel. Raju out of desperation start asking directions and for the next 30 minutes we are heading up and down what seem like the same streets, lots of discussions and lots of head wobbling as we seek to secure directions to our destination. Just when all hope seemed lost, we arrive out of nowhere it seems to find the Gateway hotel.

We all jump out of the bus to a rock star welcome, our good friends Dola, Antony and Naomi are there to greet us and many hugs and kisses and we know we are amongst friends. We see ahead of us there is a crowd of ChildFund staff, volunteers and sponsored children waiting sitting in several rows of chairs with a vacant space at the front for us waiting. There are television cameras and reporters everywhere and it is all a bit much but very exciting. Naomi, Antony and Dola share some inspiring speeches and ask me to say a few words which I happily do. As I sit down Gus decides he wants a turn and ofcourse he gets up is handed the microphone and shares with everyone about is raising money for goats. This then starts a procession of speeches from each of the kids and Bec. After speeches we all stop for a quick morning tea before we are due to commence our walk.

At this point there are camera crews everywhere, as I look around it seems that everyone is doing an interview with someone. Gus is being carried off and photographed with everyone and when I get a sense he is over it I rescue him back and keep hold of him to calm him down. For the man who is used to a lot of attention even this is over the top. India and Maggie have both given interviews with the press and Mum and Nick are enjoying discussions with many of the people who are joining us in the walk today. Bec takes the opportunity to have a quick meeting with Naomi to confirm a couple of details.

It is getting hot and also a little late in the morning so we decide to kick of the flag off ceremony. All of the ChildFund people, about 60 in total are lined up behind three large coast to coast banners and the walk team is in front ready to commence the walk. Media cameras and photographers walking ahead of us, like we were Brad and Angelina! Gus getting a bit over it all retreats to my shoulders where he would stay for the next 3 kilometres as we walked to our first rest stop, the Memorial Baby hospital where Mum, Bec and Gus planned to leave us for the day. As we walked through the streets as a crowd of well over 60 the childfund people started chanting “We are ChildFund, We are for the Children” and we managed to attract a great deal of interest. Gus and I and the girls walked ahead, Mum, Bec and Nick were in a group a little behind us. Maggie pipes up to inform me that nanna has had a fall and is bleeding. We stop the procession to find that Mum has indeed taken a fall on the very cobbly Indian roads. She recounted that she was waving at a few boys and took her eye off the road. Bec (aka Nurse Ratchett) is into full swing as she dives into her medical kit and performs her expert first aid. Mum is as you can imagine a little embarrassed by the attention and disappointed in that she was enjoying this amazing experience. We leave Bec to dress Mum’s bleeding knee and agree to walk up the road to a place where we would stop and wait for Mum and Bec to catch up. Mum was very brave and despite the obvious damage done to her knee was not going to let that stop her from completing this leg of the walk.

We all make it to the first stop and Mum, Bec and a resistant Gus join Raju in the van off to secure some important supplies for our trip. Our little man Gus has quite a meltdown at the prospect of leaving Dad behind but the prospect of 20 km’s with Gus on shoulders is unfortunately not going to work. The walk team consists of me, Indy, Maggie, Poppa, Antony and all the many childfund people most of whom are not dressed for the occasion to walk such a distance. The woman have on their sarees and sandles and many of the men have on their business attire and not a hat in site. We ofcourse are kitted up with our running shoes, special socks, shorts, lycra undershorts, t-shirts, hats and water bladders. I was happy though to see our walking partner Antony had on his walking shoes.

We walk the first day gradually losing members of our support team as we went. The final group to walk into kunnamangalam was Nick, Indy, Maggie, Antony and myself. It was a long walk with many stops as we had such a big crowd to manage along the way and clearly many were not quite ready for what a 20+km walk in the heat of the day would entail. It was though an incredible gesture of support and we were provided with an experience of a lifetime.

I was so proud of the girls, particularly Maggie who walked the whole way and the longest walk by far of her life. It was hard going towards the end but a tracking metaphor of walking through Mt Martha seemed to help pass the journey and we eventually all made it, very tired but also very proud. The site of Raju in Kunnamungalam was a very welcome site indeed. We headed back to the hotel for a quick dinner and into bed.

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