This morning we sailed into the deep-water harbour of Cochin, located in the state of Kerala in southern-western India.
Again after queuing this morning for face to face Indian Immigration inspection we were able to go ashore. We were headed to the ferry terminal to Fort Cochin. Walking out of the port we were set upon by the many Tuk-Tuk drivers, who persisted for quite a distance to take their ride into Fort Cochin.
After the mob had thinned out we decided to accept a ride with one persistent man, who seemed really in need of the fare for his family, we headed off for the day’s tour of the surrounding area. (He turned out to be a nice chap who we got along well with.)
As we weaved in and out of the city traffic, it did not take long to realise that walking the streets here would have been quite difficult and the tuk tuk was by far the best option.
Our driver pointed out the historical buildings, churches, mosques, schools etc and stopped at some for us to take photos and explore. Stopping at ‘his friend’s’ stores (government t stores) a persistent salesman worked hard to sell us a silk and woollen woven carpet, very nice but out of our price range, though we did enjoy sipping on a hot drink of Chai (black tea made with hot milk and sweetened with sugar) while viewing the carpet. He made his sale though with us as we bought a beautiful embroidered elephant patterned bedspread cover and pillow case.
There seemed to be a Church on every corner and many of them Catholic. Trish enjoyed the tour of the Roman Catholic Santa Cruz Basilica which is renowned for its beautiful paintings and internal structures. The Basilica was built by the Portuguese.
Our next stop was at the Chinese Fishing Nets which are at each side of the entrance to the harbour are still in effective use. Again the persistent hawkers followed us to the nets, where we were greeted by the enthusiastic fishermen who invited us to raise and lower the net. We pulled on the ropes to pull up the net fortunately the system of counterweights (large rocks hanging in ropes) made the job easier. The result was much the same as any fishing trip – no fish this time!! Although the net next to us was having more luck, Typical!! The net is dropped and lifted over 300 times a day, leaving the net in the water for 5-10 minutes each time. Usually only a catch of a few small fish are made in a day and they supplement their income by asking tourists for a tip which we did. After chatting for a while over a cup of hot char we were soon tuk tuking in and out of the traffic again.
As we had spent some time now shopping and exploring Steven was feeling the need to quench his first with a local beer, our driver took us to a local restaurant on the harbour’s edge where we sat back with a cold drink and relaxed for a while chatting to our driver Biju taking in the view out over the harbour.
Our day ended with a visit to his family home to meet his wife and three boys, the baby being only one month old. As we still had a bag of lollies to give to any begging children with us we were glad to give them to his boys. His eldest son is keen on cricket and a backyard match with the local children was in play as we arrived. Seeing as the Australia verves India cricket test was also on that afternoon, Steven joined in the game using what was left of the broken cricket bat, to the children’s giggles.
After a tour of his very small and spartan home and backyard, wetlands (dirty water with rubbish in it) at his back door, his wife provided us with a refreshing hot cup of sweetened tea and we all sat in their single room, lounge, dining room, family bedroom.
We were humbled by his gentleness and the responsibility he takes seriously to feed and provide the best education he can for his sons.
We also found out why he was so persistent in seeking our business. An Australian couple had bought and given him his tuk tuk 3 years ago so he could earn a living!!
Were very happy to give him all we had in local Rupiah we had left (A$45) it was no good to us after here anyway and another 10 US dollars for a great day. (less than third of the price of a ships tour!)Meeting and spending time with his family was the high light of our visit to Cochin City and India.
Back on board, book and cup of tea in hand we headed for the sun deck to lounge by the pool and await sail away from the coast of Cochin. We will be at sea three days now to head for Port Kelang, Malaysia.
The city of Cochin is surrounded by a natural harbour that is dotted with picturesque islands. The region has long attracted international mariners from Portugal, Arabia, Holland and Britain, all who have left their influences in the architecture and way of life of the local people. It is also called the ‘Queen of the Arabian Sea’ and is also the gateway to the sleepy maze of canals that are known as the ’backwaters’. The Chinese Fishing Nets are believed to have been originally brought to India by Chinese traders from Kublai Khan’s court more than one thousand years ago.