For many, this was their first taste of India. The term Mumbai light was coined by one of the cruise director team and was a warning that whatever we thought of Cochin, it was merely a taster for Mumbai. Easy disembarkation with no fuss. Brian’s head gear and shirt were suitably colourful. Not one of our group as such but a fun guy we met at dance classes. We had a great day with Mal & Megan and hired a taxi from the wharf.
“George” (all guides in Cochin appeared to be called George!) claimed that he had an air conditioned taxi (can be unusual) and spoke good English. Well the taxi was a Tata (small car made in India) rather than the Hindustan I was expecting, which is a throw-back to a 1950’s Morris but with Nissan power and although small, there was enough room in the back for three. We nominated Mal as the navigator alongside the driver as with his sun tan and neat beard, he could almost pass as a local! George’s quote for 3 hours was a cheap $20USD. There had to be a catch at that price as we were expecting it to be about $40.
No catch that we could find and so we headed into the old town, with a list of places we wanted to see, gleaned from Debbie’s lectures. Ignoring the rip offs of the emporiums (any place with a security guard and air conditioning is not going to be cheap) we stopped off at the Dutch museum (5 rupees entry fee) and a couple of churches including George’s own place of worship. The ride was a hoot with seemingly no real road rules, no traffic lights, give way or stop-signs, no traffic wardens and a delightfully chaotic drive, with trucks, buses and cars jostling for road space along with hundreds of motorbikes, tuk-tuks cyclists, pedestrians, cows and goats. Quite hilarious but guess what, even without the western style of total restrictions, it works and appears to work well. After the steering mechanism, the most important essential is a working horn.
Speeds weren’t high but the traffic moves like an amorphous mass with few signs of battered vehicles.
We did buy in a more down market shop (obviously friends of George...) a top each and after a lengthy haggle that ended inside the car, a pashmina as a gift.
On our list was the Basilica where you run the gauntlet of the street hawkers, all trying to pass of various junk items including not so cheap and very nasty plastic models of tuk-tuks, that they all seem to think were Ferraris. On our list of things to see were the famous Chinese fishing nets, cantilevered contraptions that look rather more like medieval catapults, but the ‘fresh’ fish and prawns laid out on open slabs, without even as much as a bed of ice, just the occasional lethargic flick of a stick to waft away the flies, would have given the average western health inspector a heart attack. The litter was appalling.
Back to the ship about 1:30pm for a quick wash, toilet stop and on to the buffet for lunch. The majority of people enjoyed their day in Cochin but none more so than the ones who enjoyed their “Ferrari” tuk-tuk rides. (The tuk-tuk pic show’s Mal in the driving seat and one mightily scared passenger – and we were stationary.)
Overall impression? Friendly but grubby chaos and thoroughly enjoyable. Needless to say we tipped George a bit more than the $20, so we have new friend for life....
Sailaway at 6pm was a warm pleasant affair and the evening dining room menu had an Indian flavour. Paula had the mushroom korma as a starter followed by the prawns and I had lentil soup followed by two mains, the prawns (as pictured) and a beef jalfraize. Hottest dish? The mushroom korma! The beef was disappointly bland.
Vista lounge for 9:45pm on our own as everyone else was pooped (they had a six hour tour including the time on the river). Good singer with half a show and an excellent instrumentalist/singer for the other half, playing alto sax and clarinet.
One waltz (we had the small Atrium floor to ourselves!) and 11:30 bed.
Another day at sea to come with the sea doing a bit of rock ‘n roll... It is also the Philippines Independence day, so that will be celebrated, weather permitting.