Thursday, 18 November 2010

Elephant and kingfisher

It's an early start to Kodanad to watch elephants being bathed. We leave Kochi at 6.30am for about a 90 minute drive - the roads are pretty clear, not the mass of traffic from earlier in the week and to begin with it is quite cloudy.

We go through Kochi and Ernakulam, past a huge shopping mall being built and then into the countryside past villages and towns.

At the side of the roads are massive hoardings for saree shops, gold, clothing, apartments and silks. What's noticeable is that the models are all very pale-skinned and western, almost Anglo-Indian looking, whereas the majority of people we see are darker. The palest person I've seen was the carpet man and he was Kashmiri, with blue eyes, probably a Pathan.

It's curious that pale is desirable in a continent where it simply isn't the norm...

Anyway, back to the elephants. At Kodanad we go down to the water's edge and there is a little 5yr old female called Anjani. She is very friendly and there are lots of photo ops. She is a bit naughty, like a toddler, and occasionally doesn't want to do as she is told and stamps her foot and flicks her tail! She is a wild animal after all. Her hide is leathery but warm and her tail is a bit hairy and flat at the end.

After a while another, slightly larger one, arrives and eventually there are 4 - they come down in size order!

The mahouts change into short lunghi and lead their animal into the water to be scrubbed and cleaned.

While all 4 are in the water a 5th arrives, huge and with big curving tusks. He has a paddle and doesn't stay long.

The elephants have all been rescued, either from a group or where there has been an accident, type unspecified. Perhaps he's not good with other elephants, because back at the sanctuary he is kept quite far away from the others.

The sanctuary has the 5 we see and a small zoo of birds and monkeys. These cages are pretty horrendous - extremely dirty, not very big. The birds and monkeys are quite restricted. The crocodile is in a small swamp that looks and smells like the most stagnant of ponds. This bit is not a happy experience.

Back at Kochi we go for a walk to find a place in the book but can't find it so have lunch at a restaurant called Oceanos. The waiter asks us if they were recommended as they are new. We promise to tell others as the food is good (We have aubergine and yoghurt and paneer butter masala), it's clean, nicely decorated and attractive. The music sounds like Curtis Stigers however - very cheesy sax!

After lunch we visit the church - originally Portuguese, taken over by the Dutch, it has an impressive front much like a Dutch gable, and inside are lovely old punkahs and the grave stones relocated in the walls which has preserved them. They include the original headstone of Vasco De Gama from 1524, though his body was taken back to Portugal in 1536.

After this I need another nap! Maybe it's the heat...

In the evening we successfully get beer! We get to the bar earlyish and it is less crowded, though the main clientele are westerners. After 2 beers we go to find dinner just near our homestay.

I have a prawn coconut curry, S the vegetarian special. Both are very good and the restaurant is very chic and smart.

Then it's a bit of tv - BBC World news, some bollywood, the Indian version of who wants to be a millionaire, and bed.

I find I have acquired 2 bites which is most unfair as I was wearing sleeves.

It's humid but the fan sorts that out...

Onwards to the coast

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