We spend three nights in Mararikulum. The first night, just before going to sleep, I notice a little gecko type thing in our room too. I try to think of it as the equivalent of having a spider in the room at home (which I am getting better at, but on the whole I do like them to be caught and put out). It scuttles merrily around the top of the ceiling and I think about their little sticky tickly feet (and the fact that they’re £60 from the pet shop in England, so maybe if it does make itself a new home in our suitcase there may be a small pay-off).
The decision not to use earplugs was sadly misplaced, and Steve’s ‘there are no birds in Kerala’ prediction also proved incorrect. The two misjudgements came together with unfortunate results at around 5am, with the arrival of a dawn chorus to wake the dead. (Or certainly a light sleeper with no earplugs.)
All in all I had an awful night’s sleep – there were assorted noises which I took to be lizard feet behind the bed, even though I knew full well the little guy in our room was inaudible. (I’d watched his scuttling for some time, trying to judge whether he was a threat, so in a more lucid moment I would be confident his tiny gecko feet wouldn’t make anything like the rustling that is going on behind the headboard. Wouldn’t help though, cos if it isn’t him then what is it?) Several times I sat bolt upright, with a shot of adrenalin, watchful for whatever new dangers came along with the sounds. Each time I saw nothing, but imagined plenty to keep me awake for what felt like most of the night
After a breakfast of pancakes with coconut (I have always very much disliked coconut, as has Jack, but it’s fresh here, which improves matters, and it seems it’s a feature of every meal, regardless of time or day or whether sweet or savoury so we’re going to have to learn to enjoy it), we headed down to the beach. The waves were really quite wavy, but plenty of other people were swimming, so the kids went in to the water and within seconds were completely wiped out by an enormous wave. Steve and I join them, and on the whole the waves were pretty fun.
We ended up swimming under a load of what appear to be eagles (later identified as Brahminy Kites and Pariah Kites), which are following the fishermen’s boats, and occasionally diving down to the sea (them, not us, although Ella also does at regular intervals). Steve is impressed and loving it, especially as there are about 100 of them. I’m not too keen at all on swimming under them, for what I think are obvious reasons.
It’s a pretty exhausting sea to swim in. We swim, rest, eat at a little beach hut that does a ‘3 veg’ and rice combo, very like last night’s tea, and actually fresh and pleasant, and of course coconut-y, (but not really the south Indian gastronomic feast we’d been looking forward to – we got a ‘dosa’ at the airport which was predictably only OK, and not a single one since).
It does feel a nice safe place, and we let the kids head back to our spot, on the condition they don’t get in the water until we’re back (from a detour to get a few mango juices and waters).
When we arrive Jack is buried up to his neck in sand and his face is the colour of the melon juice we’ve been drinking since arriving in Kerala. We suggest they dig him out right away, and spend a bit of time in the shade.
All in all, a pleasant, relaxing day, and completely different in almost all respects to Rajasthan – like a different country and a different holiday. A bit more like a slightly hippy package holiday to Greece, but with worse food, and a backdrop of a strong Christian ethos (there is much singing, chanting and general worship noises at what seems like all hours of each day).
The food is cheap though. Partly because Jack hasn’t eaten since we got here – still not feeling 100% – and partly because Steve has not found anyone to sell him a beer (not the Christian way apparently), but essentially because less than £10 buys an evening meal, so we’re saving up nicely for when and if we ever do find a nice restaurant.
As it happens, that evening was not to be the one. Absolutely the worst food we’ve had, and when we asked for glasses for the litre bottle of water he’d served us, he looked like no one had ever asked him for such a thing before, then brought a mismatched selection from three different directions. They looked distinctly grubby but they smelt AWFUL, like rancid milk, and fully put us off the rest of the meal. Even without that, the food was a disappointment. I’d managed to order a Chinese mushroom dish alongside the uninspiring curries. The only saving grace is that Ella has been missing her guitar, and this place has one. The brand is ‘strum’, the strings are rusty, but she fashions a ‘cappo’ from a hair bobble and a pencil and is happy.
Day two starts much the same, with a slightly better night’s sleep, having decided to abandon myself to the killer lizards, although the ear plugs are still no match for the dawn chorus. We still haven’t seen the birds that are making the noise, but they’re certainly vocal at this point of the day.
Jack and Ella are both pretty red from yesterday’s sun, but Jack particularly so. I apply some aloe vera like a good mum should, and am appalled to see the skin on his face start literally bubbling and in some parts wiping right off. We’re all a little worried about him and the day’s plan of swimming and hanging about in the sun takes a bit of a turn.
We head out to the beach again to hide under an umbrella and read, and after a short while I nip back to the hotel to Google what to do with sunburn. I’d remembered the toothpaste trick from the cookery day, and wondered if that would help. The internet said maybe, so we cover this cheeks and nose in some very bluey white toothpaste, the mint from which makes his eyes water. He feels it does give some relief. Seeing a bit less bubbly skin, we suggest he stays like this for some time, including through lunch.
We hang about in the shade most of the day. Steve also took the opportunity to go and try to find some of the birds which we could hear but not yet see… (One of the pics below is clearly a butterfly – I’m not blaming him for the noise).
I check for better restaurants on Tripadvisor, and we book in at ‘Palm Heaven’. Booking is a bit of a loose term – I say ‘can we come at 6?’ he says ‘yes’, but doesn’t take a name or make any move to suggest this is a reservation.
The food is a little better but they’re not big on vegetarian options down here. We take two tomato curries and two ‘mixed veg’ as these are literally the only vegetarian options, while Jack chooses ‘small fish fry’. We have timed it so we can sit and watch the sunset while we eat. Ella wrestles a guitar off a particularly hippy English/American traveller (or quietly removes it when he heads down to the sea with his very loud children), and another pencil-cappo later is a happy girl.
Since we’ve had our last swim in the sea, Steve feels it’s a good time to tell the kids that the ‘fish’ he’d seen on day one had indeed been a snake. When we’d been looking at a bit of beach to visit, I had seen that sometimes dolphins can be seen off the shore, and decided to leave my investigations at that. It tends not to do me any good to know the sea is full of jelly fish, sea urchins or sharks, so it was a different strategy to my usual over-researching, to choose not to look. We do plan now to check these snakes out and see if we were in any danger, or what else may have been lurking. (I’ve just had a quick look and early reports seem to suggest these snakes are not harmful, and also there have been no shark attacks since 1595 in Kerala – or according to the trusted source that is google, anyway.)
The only other thing that the reviews had said was that the beach was littered in fisherman-poo, but luckily we hadn’t seen any evidence of that at all. Plenty of little burrowing crabs, but they tended to run away rather than towards me so they were actually quite entertaining and something to look at when the incessant sun, sand, sea and palm trees were starting to get a bit samey.
We’re heading off for a houseboat tomorrow, which seems like a good idea – another day in the shade…