Today was a day to get ourselves organised for our next leg – will we stay in Fort Cochin until New Year’s Eve and experience the Cochin Carnival Street Festival on new Year’s Day or travel to Goa via sleeper train and stay in Goa somewhere?
Steve and I took a stroll up to the Tourist Information Centre (that I had briefly seen and spoke to the man in there on my walking jaunt) while the girls took some time out in the hostel room and asked the Tourist Centre man some questions about availability of trains, using Taktal (a premium way to purchase last minute trains seats). There was a train leaving at 10:30am on the 29th for Goa. The price was a little more, but we had no other choice at this very late stage. We wanted to take a train from Ernakulam Junction in Cochin to Modgaon Station in South Goa. The girls (the teens of the family) were more keen for us to spend NYE in the infamous party capital North Goa, but there was not a skerrick of accommodation there that could work out for the six of us and within our budget. So south Goa it was.
We decided to walk back to our homestay accommodation and check in with Dr Moses via Messenger to see if he could book tickets for us and pay for them out of his bank account as getting hold of a decent amount of Rupee cash was becoming an issue. ATMs were empty and were not being filled as quickly as they were needed here in Cochin. On the way back to the hotel we tried our luck at various atms. If we couldn’t get our hands on Rupee we couldn’t book and pay for even a tour to experience the backwaters of Kerala. We asked people on the streets where the atms were located and they pointed down streets and spoke basic English – left then right and then left – so we followed their directions with a large dose of intuition. Each ATM we tried was empty. We walked down a street called Fossil Road and bonza – one ATM full of cash and a short line up outside of it. We were breathing a sigh of relief as we could now pay for our accommodation at Rampart Homestay. Steve used his debit card 3 times as the limit to withdraw in one transaction was just 2000 Rupees ($44). We now had some cash to pay for our accommodation at least, and continue being able to feed our family of six here in India!
Dr Moses had secured 4 sleeper beds, with 2 waitlisted. But we still had no accommodation booked in Goa. Due to it being tourist season, everything was booked out along and close to the beaches. The girls had been hanging at Rampart Homestay while Steve and I scoured Fort Cochin’s atms and when we returned, we all ventured out to grab some brunch, stopping off at a cute little café/homestay called Happy Camper just around the corner. Happy Camper ticked all the boxes – free wifi, tasty lassi and food, a perfectly shady spot to sit at with overhead fans circling overhead. The girls ordered pancakes with Nutella; Steve and I stuck to our eggs. Everyone was very happy campers there.
Poor Steve spent most of the brunch time and the rest of the day on the computer and the phone trying to locate accommodation for us in Goa. He read unfavourable reviews from the places that were available on Trip Advisor. It sounded as if the last were a bad bunch with many telling the truth of management lies and very disappointed people. We had our train tickets, but no accommodation. Hello stress!
Late in the afternoon we walked out to find dinner, down Bastion Street which intersected Princes and Princess Streets – the two main streets were lined with cafes and boutique shops. We looked around for a bit, looking for another place that might offer a beer. In the end they were too hard to find or just non-existent! We returned for a drink and snack at XL Hotel (where we were the previous night) and enjoyed a couple of Kingfisher beers and soft drinks for the girls. We have fallen in love with the Indian version of Spring Rolls – they look like a sausage roll, cut up into four pieces and full of cabbage/vegies. They are yumbo! Dacey now has a new favourite dish other than fried rice! Billie still refuses to try them!
After the beers,we walked just next door to a restaurant called Sultra. It was a magical place that had a courtyard with outdoor bench style tables and seats. Run by an English woman who had lived in Penang for 5 years, she had married an Indian man and they returned to his hometown of Fort Cochin, India to start a restaurant. We had got there early, so the tandoor oven had enough time to heat up, but the other selection of meals was magnificent. We are certainly eating well here in Cochin! The English woman shared that her restaurant had only been open for a month, even the bench seats that we sat at were new having arrived yesterday. We knew our way around a bit more now, so we walked back along Princes Street, with Dacey eyeing off a shop offering Gelato.
We each bought a cup with a scoop of ice-cream or gelato and as we were walking out, an English family of five seated in the gelato shop stopped the girls to have a chat with them. They were travelling for 4 weeks in and around southern India. They had gone on the tribal Munnar tour and seen the tea crops, and attended the traditional dance performance that night. The kids it seemed were not at all impressed with the traditional Cochin dance and singing performance! The couple had a daughter and 2 boys, similar ages to our crew, and when we explained that we were on a year trip they were amazed (like most people). I looked at them – they seemed so happy, so content, so in the flow. I wondered was their family not going through what we were dealing with at times with our kids – the fighting, bullying, swearing, crying? The answer is most likely yes of course they were but from the outside looking in most families look perfect to an outsider. What looks all calm and peaceful may not be so. That made me feel a whole lot better for some reason…I think when you travel with your family and so many different personalities and you live in each other’s pockets, everything the kids say or do is heightened because there’s no break from them or for them. We are together 24/7, and that’s the reality and the nature of our trip. Something we have to manage and deal with, and hopefully get a lot better at along the way.
We walked home, Steve stopping off at the atm along Jacob Street to line up with all the other travellers to grab some more cash; me walking back to our accommodation for bed with the girls. We had decided to try and get a booking for the Backwater Boat tour – 850 Rupee ($19) each – if we could get enough cash out to pay. So when Steve got home we spoke with Binu the manager who made a late call and confirmed we were okay to go on the tour tomorrow morning. He then suggested he would take Steve on the back of his motorbike early in the morning to atms he knew that would be stocked with rupee.
That decision to go on the tour made me happy – to get out and see more of the sites in and around the state of Kerala. Not so impressed were the gang of four – who didn’t jump at the sound of a 7-hour boat tour the next day.