22.12.2011 - 27.12.2011 30 °C
Day 84: Allappuzha, Kerala 22/12/11
A good night’s sleep after our busy day and last night’s festivities and we head off to see some more of the local area. We are taken to a local hill station, where the views are spectacular and the fleece is needed on the exposed hill tops. The view into the mist filled valleys is eerie, giving the impression that you are stood on the edge of the earth. A cup of tea and a fresh passionfruit at this altitude are bliss. The typically Indian driving style of the minibus driver brings us back to reality – a favourite manoeuvre is the blind bend overtake on the mountain roads.
Head back to Kochi for the bus to Alleppey, a bus that very nearly goes with Gemma and our bags and without me! Arrive in Alleppey, grab some beers and check into our hotel. Does not look quite as it did on the website and we are unsure whether to stay or not for the Christmas period.
Day 85: Allappuzha, Kerala 23/12/11
We slept on it, moved rooms and have decided to stay – it is a lot more homely and festive with the tree and lights up. Breakfast of banana and coconut pancakes, iddliappams and curry, all of which is very, very good.
A trip into the city centre reveals a very busy main street awash with Christmas decorations. However, it is quite a strange town with very little in the way of a focal point – no market region for instance – but still plenty going on. We try to scope out a suitable venue for Christmas dinner, with a buffet dinner at one of the nicer hotels looking favourite at the end of the day. Gemma heads back for a shower/sleep while I head to the beach to look for more options for Christmas dinner. Befriended by a young man who introduces me to his friends on the beach but there are not a lot of options for dinner down here.
Jostle with the locals at the off licence before the table tennis set makes an appearance on the long dining table at the hotel. Naturally, the ping pong set falls apart seconds after opening.
Day 86: Allappuzha, Kerala 24/12/11
Christmas Eve and after breakfast the owners of the hotel kindly agree to let us use the kitchen to cook dinner tomorrow. With this in mind we are off to source some ingredients for the perfect Christmas lunch. We get our veg – potatoes, carrots, beans, onions, garlic (but no sprouts) – for about a pound. Then to the butcher, where we buy some beef in the same room a cow is being skinned and carved behind a small curtain. Next door is the chicken shop, where upon ordering a kilo of chicken we hear a squawk and the flapping of wings. Five minutes later some rather fresh meat arrives.
Later, we treat ourselves to Christmas haircuts. One hour later there is one cut that passes the grade (Gemma’s) and one horror bowl cut concoction, shorter on the top than the sides. The only kind, humane option is to take the beard trimmer to it.
We have a few Christmas Eve drinks with an American couple at the guesthouse, who will be joining us for dinner tomorrow. A few too many rums for Gemma sees her sleeping at the table outside. I could not carry her down the wrought iron spiral staircase.
Day 87: Allappuzha, Kerala 25/12/11
Merry Christmas! We lie in and open the few presents we have got between us. I must have been a very good boy this year as I get a pair of y-fronts, a vest and some socks!
Gemma’s legs are COVERED in bites from her night outside with the mosquitoes, looks really quite sore. We have some breakfast and then head for a beach about 8 miles away with the Americans. The beach is absolute paradise – beautiful white sand lined with palm trees and a deep blue sea – the nicest beach we have been to! Despite the weird locals, we have a nice morning, seeing dolphins, one of which was apparently a few metres from me when I was swimming. In true panto style it was behind me but I was none the wiser. Graze my stomach after being crashed onto the beach by a huge wave.
Skype the folks back home when we arrive back at the guesthouse – good to speak to everyone! We then cook our first ever Christmas dinner, in somewhat alien circumstances. A stressful, very hot experience but the end result is good and goes down well with the Americans. Gemma’s mash is to die for. We have a few more Christmas drinks with the Americans and another quick skype session and a good Christmas day has been enjoyed by all.
Day 88: Allappuzha, Kerala 26/12/11
A fairly quiet Boxing Day and after running out to get Gemma some ointment for her bites we do little more than watch some National Geographic channel (some great programming to be fair – I now know how to catch a snake in the wild using only my bare hands).
We play the Corram (or Karam I think) board for a couple of hours. It is essentially a game of pool crossed with air hockey, played on a wooden board with pieces like draughts counters. Gemma leaves the table for a moment and a guy from Bangalore jumps straight into the hot seat, taking me on for about 15 straight games. A slightly addictive bar/parlour game I would say.
Pose for the family holiday photos with a huge extended family gathering in the upstairs living room/eating area. We watch some of the footy on ESPN and order some food, which eventually arrives about two hours after we order. The people here are very nice – they were on skype to our folks last night.