We're typing this from our beautiful guesthouse in Kochi, Kerala. It used to be Vasco de Gama's mansion, and apparently he died here, so if we're visited in the night by any Portuguese explorer ghosts we'll know why.
Here's what's happened so far: arriving in Delhi was a hot, sandy experience. After nearly 22 hours of travelling we were pelted wide awake when we stepped off the plane to high, warm winds and sand in our mouth and eyes. It was hot, yes, but the wind made it bearable. The next morning, however, we were definitely hot on our autorickshaw ride to meet Leslie's friend Pallavi in a market in South Delhi. The ride itself was actually one of the amazing things that we have done so far, only because India smacked us in the face. I can't fully describe it, but it was a combination of the insane traffic, the heat, and the sheer number of people that left us completely dumbstruck.
Small children would come up to us whenever we stopped at a light, making signs that they were hungry and pointing out wounds for us to see. I don't even know what to say about that...
The market was a combination of a dusty, cow-filled bustle and air-conditioned, security-guarded extravagance. We wandered around for awhile, our favourite things being the cows that were everywhere, especially sitting between parked cars. One parked car, one parked cow, one parked car, etc...When we met Pallavi we were already exhausted from heat and culture shock, and then she informed us that we were so lucky, because it was only 33 today, and it has been 43 all week long! I couldn't imagine, at the time, trying to see Delhi with ten more degress hitting us, although we got a better idea when we travelled to the Bahai Lotus Temple after lunch, and burnt the soles of our feet on its stone steps, the heat approaching 40.
Since we were all nearly completely exhausted - even Pallavi, who is from Delhi - Pallavi took us to Dilli-Haat, a shady and quiet market where artisans from all over the country come to display their work. I bought a scarf to protect me from the sun, and we sat under a tree drinking fanta and watching stray puppies play in the sand. All we could do after that was stop at McDonald's, on Pallavi's recommendation, to bring home two McVeggie burgers, made with potatoes and mixed vegetables (no beef burgers at McDonald's in India, of course!)
This morning we left on a flight for Kochi, and we had a dangerous run-in with the famous Indian head 'wobble.' Indians often make a motion with their heads that is neither a nod nor a shake, but sort of a sideways nod. The best way we can explain it is if we North Americans were making a gesture to indicate that we were undecided. In India, it can mean 'yes,' 'no,' or 'maybe,' depending on some subtlety that we have yet to figure out. So, you can imagine our dismay when the soldier at the entrance to the airport, armed with some sort of scary gun, handed back our tickets and passports and simply did the head wobble. After a moment of hesitation, we proceeded cautiously through the door, which is apparently what he meant for us to do. Whew.
We landed in Kochi to a 'downright bearable' (James' words upon arrival), though very humid, 28 degrees. Kerala is so different from Delhi, it is the jungle to Delhi's desert. It's full of beautiful, old cantilever fishing vessels and it's much more relaxed. Kochi is an island town with strong Portuguese and Dutch colonial roots. It poured a bit during our long taxi ride, but we had dry-ish (it seems like there is no 'dry' here, because of the humidity, at least at this time of year) conditions for our jaunt out to see the Dutch Palace, originally built in 1555 by the Portuguese as a 'gift' in return for a temple that they previously destroyed, and repaired by the Dutch when they took over the conquest of Kerala from the Portuguese. It is full of Keralan history, as well as beautiful Hindu murals dating from the original construction. On our way back we stopped for dinner at a small vegetarian restaurant that fed us delicious food for a great price. Two masala dosas + two pop = $2.50 total!
We continued home to our guesthouse through goat-filled, dusty lanes, dodging traffic, and upon arrival James promptly fell asleep while Antonia sat on our balcony overlooking the Arabian Sea.
We're exhausted but happy! We love Kerala!