The journey to Alleppey to Fort Kochi is maybe about 2 hours, and, as has become a bit of a theme, only two of the seatbelts in the back are working.
On arrival at our hotel, I’m immediately struck by how modern, pleasant and clean it all is. The staff speak excellent English and I remember that it is a two bedroomed apartment, (I’d forgotten, so this is a nice surprise), which also includes a lounge area and a kitchen with our first fridge of the trip! Jack had chosen this place (‘Fort Abode’) which we’ve booked through AirBnb. I seem to remember Jack saying that although it’s not got bags of character, we might have had enough adventures by this time and be ready for something easy. It seems like a good choice.
As I start to unpack, I am charmed to find an unexpected visitor in my case – a little fat cockroach. Ella steps in to help me hurl it over the balcony (or when I say help, she did it, I watched, admired and hid). It made me notice the contrast still further between our new home and the houseboat the night before – I’d not spotted cockroaches, but it didn’t surprise me hugely that one had managed to stow away… I also started worrying about whatever else might be in there, but didn’t spot any stray lizards…
The kids and Steve check out the pool, and we decide to head up. The pool is on the rooftop and for the first time it is utterly not overlooked, and there’s a noticeable absence of anyone to try to take a sneaky picture.
We explore Fort Kochi, the main area of which is less than a ten minute walk from the hotel, and find two bookshops (Kochi Books and Idiom Books). After Kochi books we are in another shop when I get a phone call, and notice that it’s a call from a local Kerala number so I’d better pick up. I get such a polite ‘hello, I think you have taken my phone by mistake’, before remembering that it had indeed had a different ringtone, and I hadn’t really questioned it. I dash back to Kochi Books to return his phone, very grateful that he’s taken it well! Our phones and phone cases are remarkably similar.
In the second book shop the lady laughs at how hot I am, as I’m swooshing my skirt around for a bit of air. She tells me I should wear a shorter skirt – shocker, Keralan ideas are a little more liberal I think than in the North, and probably by necessity as it is really very warm. It’s about 37 degrees at this point. We’ve noticed that the men at the beach area and on the houseboat tend to wear a skirt-like outfit of a piece of draped material, sometimes long, sometimes shorter. I wonder how long it would be before Steve as a tourist would adopt such a thing, as I can see the temptation. He is not tempted, however. Judging by the chap with the loud children that Ella stole the guitar from in Marari, it may take roughly the same length of time as to grow your hair long enough for a man bun?
We have booked to do a cookery course this evening, hoping it will give us some different ideas and not knowing much about Keralan cooking… I’d done a bit of shopping around and the one that gets the top Tripadvisor reviews in the area was going to be £100 for the four of us. I politely turned her down. This one is 650 rupees each (about £29 in total), and you get to eat the food as well, so less than a meal out in England.
None of us are feeling particularly up for a cookery class by 6pm, but we dutifully wander out to find it.
The class is in the home of our teacher, Meera. Apparently this would not be allowed in a Hindu household, but is more common down here in a more Christian area. She has all the ingredients set out ready and starts by talking us through them. It’s absolutely boiling, and we’re all casually trying to get the chair directly under the ceiling fan, under the pretence of leaning in to smell spices…
Ella steps up first and makes a tomato and coconut based curry…
We make coconut rice, and find out that it would normally have ghee in it, and we’ve eaten quite a bit in the last few days, so Ella is worried about her vegan credentials. We put coconut oil in instead (which is noticeably liquid here, whilst it is solid at home purely due to the difference in temperature – I know that might be obvious, but it wasn’t to me!)
We made a ‘dry vegetable’ curry from beetroot and carrots, and a dahl, and then Meera’s husband came to make chapatti with us. It was noticeable that the food was ‘lighter’ and less oily. When we’d done the course in Rajasthan there had been frequent ‘of course you wouldn’t eat this all the time – special occasions only’ kind of chat, whereas this was very much every day food. Crucially nobody was injured.
At the end of a long, tiring, day we settled down and watched a bit of comedy using the wifi (another sign that we’re moving back into ‘at home’ rather than Indian mode I think)… Ella was tired enough to fall asleep on the hard tiled floor. Luckily her kind brother was on hand to help her out.