Sunday, April 6, 2008


Woke up Good Friday to pouring rain. In fact it had rained all night. I think at some point, Andy had tried to wake me (he will never learn) to tell me that there were elephants going down the street. I grumbled, probably threatened his life, and rolled over. Finally arose around 8:30 so we could figure out the boat situation. Unfortunately, we were in a part of India that has a VERY high percentage of Christians -- which meant boats were suddenly very hard to come by. Our own guest house promised their boat was still available but it was more than we had planned on paying so we told them we'd think about it and do a little research and get back to them.


We headed to the boat jetty to see what was what. All the boats looked pretty similar so we decided we might as well just go with our guest houses boat. Meanwhile, our rickshaw driver was trying to convince us to take his brother's boat. We thanked him but said we'd rather just go with our guesthouse's. He got on his cell phone, spoke for a moment, then informed us they'd already booked the boat. We didn't fall for this. Andy demanded to speak with our hosts. The driver called them "back." No, they hadn't booked it yet -- if we wanted it, it was ours. We said we did and would be back shortly. The rickshaw driver begged us to at least look at his brother's boat so we sighed and said we would but after picking our way through the mud along the jetty, he pointed to a boat not even docked yet and so we turned right around to go back. However, by the time we got back to the guest house, the hosts had booked the boat! Andy had some choice words for them. They complained we took too long to come back.

Infuriated, we packed our stuff and headed to the tourism people we'd spoken to the day before (the guy with the Penn State shirt). Again, the rickshaw driver reminded us that his brother had a boat, although there was another person on it -- a North Indian guy. We said we'd talk to the tourism guys first about our own boat before sharing. When we arrived at the tourism depot, our driver raced in ahead of us. We sat down with Mr. Penn State, who said yes, they still had a boat for us, and began the requisite paperwork. But a moment later, another young fellow came in, told Mr. Penn State something, who now turned to us sadly and informed us that because it was Good Friday, the crew had decided they could not work. Andy and I were besides ourselves. It was evident the driver had raced in ahead of us and offered some sort of incentive to the boys to suddenly not have any boats available. But at this point, there was not much for us to do. We were running out of time (the boats departed at 11) and I didn't want to waste another day waiting for the holiday to be over. And it was still raining.

Back to the jetty, at least buoyed by the thought that it was going to be a relaxing trip, rain or no (the boats were covered and very nice) and we were promised beer- Andy had ordered four. We arrived at the boat to meet our co-passenger... and his wife and 18 month old baby. Great. Just. Great. Also? Only two beers. Andy retired to the back of the boat and I sat and fumed and tried to ignore the baby who must have recently discovered that if she really, really, really, really, really had to have something she could just scream AS LOUD AND AS HIGH-PITCHED AS POSSIBLE. My ovaries shriveled just a little bit more every time that brat's mouth opened. Usually, I'm pretty good with babies. But when she came over to me and started smacking my camera with all her baby might (which was pretty sufficient for camera injury), much to the indulging amusement of her adoring parents, I just about lost it. Don't make me punt a baby in the lake.
Andy eventually emerged and we played cards for a bit. Andy put some music on and it felt a little more relaxing. The baby disappeared for a bit and I had hoped a long nap was taking place -- but no, just a change of clothes. Later in the afternoon, we decided to break into one of the beers and save the other for after dinner.

The food was provided and less than stellar. The scenery was lovely but it was quite a traffic jam out there - many, many boats all on the same course. As night fell, we docked near a resort. Andy and I thought we could walk over to the resort and maybe get some more beer at the hotel bar. Unfortunately we were informed that it was a "dry" day due to the holiday. We went back to the boat for dinner. Afterwards, Andy and the N. Indian guy decided to break out the satellite television. I read while they fiddled and pushed random buttons and maneuvered the dish. Eventually it came to life. The other fellow disappeared into the back... and came out with the second beer, pouring himself a glass.

You have GOT to be kidding me.

We paid for that beer! Or rather Andy did, so I left it to him to let the guy know. I guess he told Andy he'd pay him for it because he said he'd ordered a beer himself.

Eventually he retired (after making us watch some Indian soap opera despite the fact that he spoke English and we didn't speak Hindi) and Andy and I watched "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" and passed out around 11.

Still raining the next morning when we woke up. I was also startled to realize we were already back at the jetty! I went out and helped myself to "breakfast" -- which consisted of soggy toast and pineapple that the other family had already helped itself to 95% of. I slurped down some instant coffee and went back to pack my stuff. When we emerged with our stuff to depart, the North Indian family had already decamped -- so much for the 4 dollars the guy owed Andy for the beer.

We slogged into town and spent a couple of hours in an internet cafe trying to decide what to do next. Andy wanted to catch up with some folks he met in Mumbai who were in Verkala and I was done with Southern India and wanted to head north. Andy had no luck finding his friends and decided he too was going to head North but we thought we'd separate for a bit. He booked a ticket to Dehli and I to Jaipur. We headed to the bus stop to go back to Kochin to the airport but first stopped for a bit of lunch. We walked into what was clearly a rickshaw driver cafe and not touristy whatsoever and it was the first time I realized I was totally comfortable. A thali meal was slopped in front of us (no menu, I guess) -- rice and 3 different types of sauces. No utensils. You scoop your sauce into your rice... or your rice into the sauce and eat it. A man came around and slopped more sauce onto your rice. It was pretty delicious and less than a dollar.
We boarded a bus (one that I has scouted out after asking several different people) only to find out ten minutes in that it was the wrong bus. We got off at the next depot and boarded a different bus. We reached Kochin and hopped a taxi out to the airport. I picked up a ticket and while I waited for Andy to get his, I suddenly developed a fan club. Approximately half a dozen boys surrounded me to find out who I was and where I was from -- all giggles and squirming and one boy doing all the translation.

They finally departed with many backward glances, whispering and more giggles and Andy and I went to check in. My plane arrived first -- a very nice new "IndiGo" jet. It was strange to say good bye to Andy after running around together for so long.

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