Episode 36: Kannur/Kalpetta, India
Date: 09th-15th April 2013.
We didn’t know it when we arrived at our beach resort, but if there’s a large group of Indians where you’re staying, you have good reason to roll your eyes and fear the worst. There was a large group of Indians staying at the potentially idyllic beach resort we’d booked. On the plus side, our first night was their last night.
Yes, large groups of Indians are preposterously loud and self-absorbed. We required properly-fitted earplugs and flagons of lager (thank Vishnu they stocked large bottles of strong Kingfisher here) to get to sleep. We didn’t see the worst of it, the English couple we met the following day had insisted on being moved to the furthest room from the group after they had a late night, amplified game of bingo.
After they’d left, we had a pretty peaceful, relaxing 5 days on the beach. There is not a huge amount to report.
We ate pretty well – we were in the middle of nowhere, so were at the mercy of the “chef” at the resort, who was generous, although we feared we still weren’t getting entirely authentic Keralan cuisine (apart from the bread; the variety and quality of which was amazing). We knew the food was fresh though, we saw the mussel divers and fisherman daily as we lounged on the beach and there seemed to be fewer chickens strutting around the resort each day.
Something which were not in short supply, but didn’t find their way onto our plates, were the birds of prey. As we lay on the beach each day, tens of these bastards of the sky would wheel away above us, seemingly waiting for me to fall asleep so they could swoop down and pluck out a major organ. I didn’t so much as doze. I was happier with the smaller birds on the beach.
Thankfully, none of them relieved me of any body parts or defecated on my face.
Talking of which, look away now if you’re at all easily offended, because I’m going to write about poo. You can look again when you see a photo of my sweaty face (you can look away again at that point if you don’t want to see a photo of my sweaty face).
It was on the beach that one of four specialist poo types occurred. I’ll take you through all four that I encountered on the trip (bear in mind an average score of about 3/10 in India for toilet visits and an average of 5 or 6 visits (or “incidents”) a day and you can see how I’ve had to whittle this list down).
1. The Phantom: you’re on a beach and you suddenly, without any warning, desperately need to visit the loo. Abandoning your wife, you sprint up the steps to your room, you sit down, already sweating and…. nothing. Hugely disconcerting.
2. The Titanic: pretty simple – you’re on a houseboat about an hour into your trip, there’s only one loo and you’re in need, you use it and what you produce is still there the next morning when you leave. Unpleasant, unavoidable, unsinkable.
3. The Gentleman: you’re in a bar and the urge overcomes you, so you waddle to the toilet like a penguin who’s late for a dinner-dance. You see the sign for the toilet, but the woman in front of you doesn’t and goes the wrong way, so you’re in front of her when you reach the UNISEX toilet. What? And there’s only one? And you’re about to shit yourself, but the scene that would greet her would surely see you deported? “After you… you were in front of me”. You’ve never argued so vehemently. Thank Shiva for chivalry.
4. The Coward: seriously, look away now, I urge you. You’re in a dingy bar and your bowels are like a washing machine on a spin cycle, so you head to the khazi. The toilet is like looking into the cell of a prisoner making a dirty protest, except with no light or lock on the door (and naturally no seat, paper or sink). You glance around looking for another option and find that some dirty oik has curled one off in the urinal. You suddenly don’t need to go anymore and you spend the rest of the night rocking back and forth, staring into the middle distance and speaking in tongues.
From Kannur, we headed inland and upwards, to the tea plantations, waterfalls and wildlife sanctuaries of Wayanad, specifically Kalpetta, which would be our base for 3 days of these natural delights.
As promised in the last post, I should make a quick comment on driving in India. We saw both sides of it. You get either:
- the cover-your-eyes, real-life-Mario-kart version in which something almost dies every 14 seconds. It’s a light-flashing, horn-honking, bumper-grazing free-for-all in which nobody reaches their destination with clean underwear
- the less hyphenated type, where your driver positions his vehicle in the gutter and gets overtaken by everything, including pedestrians. On any incline he will be in too high a gear and will only change down when you start rolling backwards downhill. On one journey it took us 2.5 hours to travel 71km (and the roads weren’t busy or winding)
In neither scenario do you get a seatbelt, which in the first case is terrifying, but in the 2nd allows for easy egress for an ice cream purchase and a slow saunter to catch up to your taxi as it rolls back towards you.
Wayanad was a massive waste of time. Due to the heat everything was closed: the wildlife sanctuaries; the waterfalls; any restaurant serving a dosa at the time we arrived. I’d challenged Jane to either wrestle a tiger or stamp on a king cobra, but sadly she didn’t get the chance.
In addition to everything being closed, we’d booked into the homestay in Wayanad during a holy day. This meant that at 5.30am on our first morning we were awoken by what sounded like the theme tune to the Magic Roundabout, but with all the notes in the wrong order and played at 4000 decibels for over half an hour. I was displeased.
I have no idea why, when you’re going to be spending the holiday with your family, you’d add a further level of stress by waking everyone up in the middle of the night with Guantanamo-style torture music.
We’d already decided we’d be leaving the next day, but first we decided to go to the only thing open, some caves. Jane fell into the trap of wearing far too little, and as a result was stared at and photographed throughout the day. At one point an old guy said disgustedly, “Why aren’t you wearing a dress?”. This was a bit rich since middle-aged Indian women quite often have their bellies out, which is clearly wrong. If they’re going to enforce nudity, couldn’t they insist on it with the twenty-somethings rather than the sixty-somethings?
The caves were fine, but it wasn’t tiger wrestling.
At least we finally got a dosa on the way back from the caves, much to Jane’s delight.
Imagine my delight when we got back to the homestay to find that a family of five had moved into the room next door with a 7-month old baby. Little did I know that these idiots would outdo the Magic Roundabout gang by setting their alarm for 4.30am. I didn’t even know this time existed.
Our time in Wayanad was clearly a little disappointing since everything good was closed, but there was some beautiful scenery and we got chance to tick off another item on our “WE’RE MIDDLE-AGED” list by wearing sports sandals for a couple of days.
We headed to Calicut wondering why when there’s so much tea they ration it so strictly.
Next time: beer, a fabulous Abu Dhabi buffet, and Emile Heskey advertising steel.