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Central Kerala

March 16, 2009
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Back on the train today, trundling along the tracks to the chai-whalla’s rumbling chants. We left Varkala for Kochi (Cochin), 4.5 hours north along the coast to a Portuegese grabland. Past lush green pastures, coconut palms and cows. The train carriage burbles with Malayalam and snatches of Hindi from far-travelled northern speakers.

Kochi is a lovely town. A working blend of European and Indian, relatively clean and very friendly. We three travellers, arriving tired and hungry from an early start and scant breakfast, found a beautiful homestay in the heart of the old fort town. Turns out that our 15th century lodgings were built by Vasco de Gama, the Portuguese missionary/conqueror of Kerala, and he died in the same house. It’s a very Christian area – although becoming increasingly Muslim – but de Gama was not the first cross carrier. Christians and Jews lived in these parts for centuries before the Portuguese arrived, arriving in the subcontinent directly from the Middle East.

There are parts of the town where an antiquated form of Portuguese is spoken, but mostly it is Malayalam, although English is spoken well here and widely understood.

We went to a performance of the local Kathakali dance theatre this evening. It was really fantastic because the gestures and philosophy of the dance was explained before the performance began so we got a lot more out of it once we knew what to look for.

Tomorrow we are trying another night on the houseboat – cross fingers it is a better experience than in Alleppey.

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