The 8 am bus arrived at 7.30, it finally left at 8.40 am for my next destination,Trivandrum, and the conductor put me and my backpack at the front so I had a window seat and only one seat next to me - result.
The trip was through some beautiful countryside as we passed out of Tamil Nadu and entered Kerala and in total contrast to Northern India where here there are palm trees and banana trees and greenery everywhere. With only one detour due to an accident, overall the 3.5 hour trip that cost me 74 Rupee (1€) was a bargain.
My 60 Rupee Tuk Tuk ride would also have been a bargain if there had been anyone at the guest house to welcome me? It was quite surreal. I walked all through the property and the door was open to the staff private room and I shouted, but it was if I had found the land equivalent of the "Marie Celeste". After waiting 30 minutes I left a note saying sorry to have missed you and set off to find alternative accommodation.
Everything happens for a reason I believe and as I started asking any local who had a smattering of English where I could get a hostel, hotel, guest house room near the beach the more I was met with - what beach? I eventually flagged down a Tuk Tuk where the driver spoke English and was informed there was no Beach to talk of here but he could take me to the bus for 50 Rupee and I could go an hour to Kovalam where there was a nice beach. By now I'd had enough of buses so we agreed 350 Rupee (4.5€) and he took me there.
Hotel prices in Kovalam vary from 10,000 Rupee a night on the seafront to 800 Rupee in the backstreets. Further back I found a room in a house and bartered the owner down to 600 a night for three nights and although the balcony doesn't have a view to talk of it has a balcony.
After spending a lot of time trying to get access to Wifi I eventually made it out in time to walk the shore and sit and take pics of the sunset
I was so happy with the one with the family on the beach ( it should be in a magazine) I approached the family got their email and sent it to them ha ha.
A nice hot shower and a change of clothes and I headed down to the waters edge where the day's catch of the local fisherman were on sale and for 750 Rupee (10€) I chose a Butter fish and 1/4 Kilo of large prawns which were served up with a salad and French fries and I struggled to finish the meal but did leave room for a banana lassie hmmmm.
Oh yes, before I forget this is a great place for romantics you can sit in a restaurant facing out to sea while eating your evening meal and watch the twinkling lights of the fishing boats that fill the horizon. I would post pictures but you know I'm not romantic! Oh, all right then !!
Day two (9th December) the sun was shining and a day on the beach for me so after a late morning shower I headed for the beach and enjoyed a paddle and a walk along the shore.
I got talking to a sun bed hire guy named Bourbon ( like the whisky) as you do and we got on well and I mentioned where I was staying and how much and he said he could get me a room right near the beach for that money so cutting a long story short I will be moving to my new place set one street back from the beach on the 21st and have decided to stay here until the new year, I will leave on 02/01/2018 working my way to Mumbai for the return trip to uk scheduled for 12/01/2018.
The price of a sun bed for the day with Bourbon is 400 Rupee (5€) but he only took 200 from me as half the day was gone. I also made friends with an elderly lady called Katerina selling fresh fruit who supplies me with a fruit cocktail of Pineapple, guava, banana and coconut for lunch at the same price which is a little high but affordable.
My days in Kovalam took on a kind of routine where I would spend the mornings exploring the shops and stalls in the back alleyways and the afternoons lazing on the sunbed and swimming in the ocean.
On the beach I thought I had made friends with an American lady, Linsy, originally from New York and now living in Los Angeles but after a couple of days she became involved in her Ayurveda course and I didn't hear from her again.
Over the following days I met two brothers originally from Holland, Ralph and Michael, both avid surfers, the latter lives in Jaipur and teaches sports in a private school and they were good company.
Also in the hotel was a girl from Russia (Svetie) and a lady from The Strand in London (Jean) who was nice to talk to when she wasn't doing her yoga classes.
Very much like Thailand there are small Tailors in the back streets offering to make clothes for you in an afternoon and eventually I succumbed and bought a pair if trousers and a couple of shirts.
After a day on the beach the evenings were spent searching out new places to eat and new Kerala dishes to try one of which called Alan I single out as a superb vegetarian restaurant and I went there three times each time not disappointed.
The funny thing is hardly any restaurants have a liquor licence but many will serve you a beer as long as it is in a mug and the bottle stays on the floor between refills. Everything starts closing at 10 pm and by 11 pm the place is like a ghost town. Should be interesting on New Years Eve?
Kovalam is still predominantly a fishing village being overtaken by tourism and the boats that are taken out at night can be seen covered on the beaches in the daytime.
I spent an interesting couple of hours on the beach one morning watching a string of 30+ fishermen haul in by hand the net that had been strung across the bay by boat and at the end of this laborious task the result was really not worth the effort.
A really nice family, Tim and Rebecca with daughters Maisie, Kiera, Rhianna & Sienna took pity on me being on my own and we had a very enjoyable evening sharing a vegetarian dinner. Occupying an hotel Just around the corner we regularly exchanged hellos as they passed by and as they live in Loughton I hope to meet on my return.
There is a famous temple in Trivandrum called Padmanabhaswamy Temple and the brothers Michael and Ralph and I decided we would hire bikes and go visit. We read up that trousers were not allowed and male visitors must wear a lungi so using my haggling skills I beat on old man on the beach down to 160 Rupee but gave him 200 as I felt sorry for him after which we found out that only Hindus are allowed in the temple. FOR SALE - One Lungi used only once offers accepted?
The day arrived for me to book onward tickets on trains to the places I want to see on the way up to Mumbai but unfortunately so many trains and even planes had no tickets available because of Indians from the north returning to their homes after the Christmas / New Year period and I will miss out on a couple of planned destinations but with some imaginative ideas I am now armed with tickets to get to Mumbai via some good stopovers.
New Years Eve daytime saw me booked on a Boat trip in the mango swamps in the Kerala backwaters at Poovar for 3000 Rupees. A two (2) hour boat trip was sandwiched between a 30 minute taxi ride and was relaxing but put me in the mind of The Norfolk Broads but with floating restaurants and a stop off at a beach for pony rides.
New Year's Eve and there was a noticeable police presence patrolling the beach from mid afternoon onwards, apparently, in the past the locals have become the worse for wear by midnight and fighting has broken out as well as unwanted attention to white females which explained the precautions.
Around 7.30 pm Jean, Michael, Ralph and I went off for a NYE dinner which was a little disappointing but good company after which Ralph and I grabbed a coffee overlooking the beach while the other two decided on an early night. At 11.30 we returned to our hotel for a comfort break before midnight fireworks to find Jean had been waylaid by our hotel owner to see in the new year with a bottle of Vodka. Well the only sociable thing to do was wake up Michael and all join in for a drink after which we all walked the 100 yards to the beach to welcome in the new year and watch the fireworks.
After the display the police cleared the area within 30 minutes and we all retired to the hotel foyer with the owner, Surya, his brother VJ and later Svetie from Russia who entertained us by posing for modelling pictures and we celebrated new year into the early hours until the vodka bottle was empty and a very good night was enjoyed by all.
New Years Day 9.30 am and like many others around the world slightly the worse for wear I joined Ralph for a couple of cups of coffee at a local beach cafe and chatted with Maisie and Kiera who had survived the previous nights celebration at their hotel and were heading for a sleep on the beach.
For my part a light breakfast in the hotel was followed by arrangements to be picked up early next morning to be taken to the train station and the chore of packing after the long break in one place and hoping everything would still fit in the backpack.
A wonderful last night send off by, Ralph, Michael, and Jean who invited Maisie and Kiera along and we all went out for a meal overlooking the beach and I feasted on the most amazing Red Snapper and enjoyed the company of a group who just come together and get on so well without even trying.
I hope we all meet again one day but for now an early night and back on the road at 5 am. Next stop Alleppey.