*We interrupt our Resistance is Fertile broadcasts to bring you up to speed on where we are and what we’ve been doing for the past few weeks…*

We left Bhubaneswar in need of a holiday, and headed to what turned out to be the most touristy place we have been to so far – Mamallapuram. From there we escaped to Trichy which didn’t provide that much of an escape then on to the very southernmost tip of India. Then we officially began our way home, heading westwards up the coast to Trivandrum, then Kollam, Amrithapuri, and now Allappuzha. It has been a fairly relaxing time, and Kerala is by far the most beautiful state we have been in in India.

Mamallapuram

We balked at Backpakistan and the largest proportion of white faces in the local (temporary) population that we’ve seen since leaving Europe, but we did manage to meet up with Josh’s friend David and his girlfriend Tabitha which was pleasant. I got horribly sunburnt on the beach, and we visited a bird sanctuary: I have never seen so many birds all in one place. We tried coconut fish and red snapper, fresh from the sea. Coming out of the hotel, someone came up to Josh – ‘Um, do you know my brother? He has the same T-Shirt as you’. This wasn’t as odd a question as it sounds, as Josh was sporting his ‘I’m with Plane Stupid’ top, and the guy’s brother turned out to be a friend of ours from London. It’s a small world when so many people are plane stupid, eh?

Trichy

There is little to commend this town other than the few temples, although these are definitely a good enough reason to visit. We staggered tiredly from expensive hotel to fully booked hotel until we were found by an Indian man who offered his homestay. So Josh and I squeezed onto a single string bed (no mattress) for the night, and spent the next day realising our train tickets were wrong and dashing around trying to sort them out. Our final day there, having accepted we would need to stay an extra night, was chilled – we took time to just sit and relax in the enormous temple complex, discussing how someone white would be able to convince the people that they were Hindu and therefore allowed into the temples themselves…

Kanyakumari


I have never associated Mahatma Gandhi with the colour pink in particular,  but apparently somebody has. You are now, thanks to a faster internet connection, able to appreciate the incongruity of the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial, all trussed up in pink and yellow… The end of the subcontinent is exciting for its being the place where three seas merge and where an 113ft poet stands looking over the land, but our experience was mainly of queuing. Tip: if you fancy heading out by ferry to the island with all the temples on it, go after lunch when the queue isn’t literally 3 hours long! There’s more queue hidden inside!

Trivandrum


On our first stop in Kerala we realised how green everywhere is. Also, the roads have real markings and road signs and traffic lights, and the rickshaws have metres that actually work! It was like being in Europe or something. We headed for the galleries and zoological gardens, all beautifully laid out in a big green space. The museum is in an enormous building and full of carvings – nothing is explained about any of them, but it’s good to make up stories for yourself. Another gallery houses the history of the area in enormous cartoon-like pictures. The ‘zoological gardens’, where the Lonely Planet claims animals live in what is very close to their natural habitat, was, as to be expected, full of cages and enclosures that are far too small for the enormous animals and birds housed inside…

Kollam


Here we found a canoe tour to take us through the backwaters, amongst the villages, ducking under footbridges. I learnt what cashew nuts and peppercorns look like as they grow, we saw a rat snake dart through the water and a kingfisher sit overhead. Some local people demonstrated for us how to spin coconut fibres into rope, the same rope used to tie together the planks in our canoe. When I arrived I banged my elbow in the bus and a little girl bandaged me up with some multi-coloured cloth. The man at the tourist help centre explained that at the state government guest house there were rooms so big, you could play football in them, and we were not disappointed. The frogs came to hang out in our bathroom in the evening.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amrithapuri

Quite possibly the most alien experience on the trip so far was visiting Amma’s ashram. Amma basically believes that love will save the world and so goes around the world hugging people. Thousands of people. For hours on end. She believes that there are two forms of poverty in the world: material and spiritual. By curing the latter, she believes we will eradicate the former. On the plus side, as well as a lot of complete nonsense, Amma’s NGO seems to do quite a lot of admirable humanitarian work – they have built homes for many of the Indian and Sri Lankan victims of the tsunami. Though, this NGO also seems quite chummy with the likes of Bill Clinton and India’s president (analysis, anyone?). An introductory video proudly quoted the New York Times statement that Amma wishes to eradicate world suffering “through hugs”. I think Amma’s film makers missed the cynical tone…

I must admit I had been expecting something a bit like a monastery so I was surprised to be faced with several enormous tower blocks upon arrival. They are all pink. We were encouraged to come to the 4.50am chanting session, and were invited for the free (basic would be a euphemism) meals whilst being warned away from “local” food…

Allapuzha

There is nothing really to do here if you aren’t interested in expensive canoe trips/ barge tours/house boats. We walked around a little and Josh ate some very nice chicken.

Kochi

We are now in Kochi. So far we have indulged in dental tourism or whatever you call it when you go to the dentist for cheap when in another country. Luckily neither of us needed anything. The streets are full of spice sellers with sacks full of pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon and many other good smelling things. Today there was an almighty downpour which was a tad unexpected. Keralan martial arts are exciting – they did this bit with whips made from blades!

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