Sunday, April 3, 2011

From Munnar to Kochi

The bus depot was just a hundred meters or so from SMM Cottage where I was staying. A couple of auto drivers recognized me (friends of BG) and they were wishing me well. Such kind hearted people. It had been a satisfying morning as I ventured (walked!) to the New Munnar area where there was adequate bustle typical of any Indian town. I visited Mount Carmel Church and mailed a postcard for my mother who loves to receive them. What's 12 rupees anyway. It won't even buy me a can of Coke.

The bus depot was deserted. but there was commotion at the office. There was some sort of meeting, with food distributed to everyone. It was 11:30 AM and I was told that the Ernakulam (Kochi's main city drag) bus would leave at 12:20PM. By 12 noon, the driver and his assistant called me - the lone passenger. I kept repeating, "Kochi? Kochi?" like a broken record just to be sure I wasn't sent to Timbuktu. They kept nodding and lead me at the seat up front. I always get front seats anywhere I go.

The bus proceeded to New Munnar to pick up passengers from several bus stops, then turned right back to Old Munnar where, by the time we passed by the bus depot, there were 3 Germans scampering about in heavy knapsacks. For the next 3 hours, these Germans would be moving about this local bus like ants in heat. They couldn't stay put; one would even occupy one whole seat (good for 3) to sleep, with his lower extremities jutting off the plant. How nice it is to feel so at home in India. They eventually got off at Kothamangalam.


There were a few more stops. By 1:25PM, we were in Adimaly where I was able to buy fried bananas and a puto-like bread at 5 rupees each. Kothamangalam at 3PM, Kuruppampady at 3:15, Perumbavoor at 3:25, and so on. It would finally reach Aluva (where the nearest long-distance train station from Kochi is) by half past 4. Good, I thought. We were near Ernakulam. I was anxious during the whole ride. There were a lot of "holes" in the information provided by Lonely Planet, so i kept re-reading the pages along with my printed copy of Wikitravel.

When we finally reached Ernakulam, the driver turned to me and motioned that this would be my stop. It was a bus station (not of this bus where I was in). I knew I had to get a rickshaw to the nearest boat jetty that heads to Fort Kochi where I will be based for the next 3 days.


I waited for a good 10 minutes to gather my thoughts, just standing by the roadside, finishing the remaining breaded banana. I was munching away but my brain was churning out impulses. Then I hailed a rickshaw to take me to the main jetty for Fort Kochi. "Five kilometers, 12 rupees per kilometers, 60 rupees!" the driver stated. I turned away, but then he changed his mind and offered 50 rupees. It's supposed to be just 30 rupees, but oh well, I hate haggling. So I got in.


Ten minutes later, we reached the jetty. I saw a tourist information center at the far end of the compound and asked for a map of Fort Kochi (free), then went to the jetty to buy my ticket. There was a queue. When my turn came, I paid my 2.50 rupees. How cheap! Everyone was rushing to get inside the boat. It didn't take 15 minutes. I was in Fort Kochi.

I was able to skim through the map so I decided to try walking around. Four blocks later, a rickshaw driver approached me. "Ten rupees," he offered to get me to Princess Inn at Princess Street. He must have known that it was full because he waited for me. I told him, Burger Street, which was just adjacent to Princess Street, but he took me elsewhere! "Burger Street!" I repeated. This was where the plot thickens. When offers are too good to be true, it must be!

He took me to Orion Homestay, a four-story building that looked relatively new (it opened in 2007, I was told). Though I hated being taken into a place I didn't plan to be in, the place was far from bad! At 700 rupees, my room (number 1, with a veranda and inset bathroom) would be one of the best places I have been in in all over India. So I stayed. I am sure the old man got a commission. Princess Inn and the others in my consideration offered cheaper accommodation at 500 rupees for a room - am not even sure if the room has a bathroom of its own. I wasn't exactly scrimping thus this was a great thing; getting scammed into a better place.

Later that day, I watched the gargantuan Chinese Fishing Nets, while the Kochi sunset dipped into the horizon. A school of mosquitoes feasted on me. After all, Kochi is surrounded by backwaters and marshes. At Princess Street (aka Loafers Street), I mailed a postcard back home. The streets were lined by old colonial Portuguese buildings, and it felt like Ubud or Luang Prabang. Something about solitary walks amidst strangers make traveling poetic, sometimes bittersweet. But it was a great day.

I was content.

This is the Eye in the Sky!


Joseph Pulikotil said...


Fantastic, you reached Fort Kochi. The drive down from Munnar to Adimaly should have been interesting if you were sitting near the window. The hair pin bends and the narrow roads are always exciting.

The photo of the Ernakulam boat jetty taken while you were sitting in the boat is interesting. The auto charge from Ernakulam bus stand to Boat jetty should be around thirty rupees only. But then the auto drivers in Ernakulam are known for fleecing people including the locals.

I am enjoying these posts immensely since you are writing about the place where I live.

eye in the sky said...

@ Joseph:

I had the front seat, and the window seat as well. It was the perfect place to be in, as I could snap away without worrying I'd be bothering others. In front of me were the tons of luggages piled away.

You have a beautiful place, Joseph. Like most places, it is not perfect (what place is perfect anyway)but it is beautiful nevertheless - and the people are warm and welcoming.