On the morning of Saturday April 9 after cruising 1,529 nautical miles through the Bay of Bengal and the Laccadive Sea we arrived bright and early into our first port in India. The sail in was stunning. Thunder storms all around with extensive cloud to sea lightening strikes and tropical rains. However as the sun came up and we got closer to land the skies cleared up and we left the nasty weather behind us in the Laccadive Sea. The entrance to Cochin is pretty in its own right. We were escorted into the harbor by 100s of dolphins and met by fisherman setting to sea and on the beach. Once inside the harbor entrance we had a short cruise to the dock passing by the famous Chinese’s fishing nets. Even from the comfort of our luxury cruise ship you could see the extreme poverty that is India. The harbor was full of overloaded ferries that should have been put out of their misery 30 years ago. I know this is part of the charm. Also part of the charm was the filth of the waterway. Did I say the waterway was full of trash and filthy, yup! Not even sure what was in the water besides plastic, but as we saw later in the day I’m sure much of the brown floating stuff was human shit! However this place was still very intriguing. You could still see the old buildings and old Imperial British structures. If you looked beyond the grime and the filth you could see some very beautiful things. Since we have never been to India before we decided to do a shore excursion called “Tranquil Backwaters” in Alleppey located in the Kerala region of India (aka. the Venice of the east). This excursion you cruised through canals by houses and had a nice lunch in a 5 star (ok 2 star) resort hotel. You did get to see how folks live. We had about a 2 hour bus ride to the boat boarding location. This was eye opening. Traffic rules do not apply in this part of India. We also saw more people that I ever expected taking a shit or leak by the side of the road. Rather disgusting if I say so. Last time I saw this was several years ago in the Peruvian Andes. Makes you watch where you take a step when you’re walking. I was doing that anyway out of fear of stepping on a cobra but human excrement was more likely an issue than the cobra was. The bus ride was also very interesting. The actual bus was a trip. The passenger space was air-conditioned and ok as far as comfort goes. The bus driver however was in his own cabin that had 50-1 AC (50 MPH and one open window!). I felt sorry for him as after all this is India and it was 95 degrees F and 95% humidity. Once we made it to the boat for the trip down the canals we had to board the boat. To do this you had to cross the street from the parking lot. Even though this is a side street as I mentioned earlier rules of the road are made up on the spot and pedestrians are a fair target. They must get extra points for hitting white tourist! So you dashed across the street and hopefully you made it to the gang plant to get on the boat. Now in India I think there is strong penalty to the tour guides if you lose a guest, as they did try to get us all aboard safely. Once aboard I was glad to see that they had something like a life preserver for every guest on the boat. Now about these tourist boats. Once again the USCG (United States Coast Guard) would never allow them to be in the water never mind take paying passengers on board. However shore was always nearby and I’m still a reasonable swimmer. However I am not so sure about some of the other guest on board. Fortunately everything went without any real problems. The actual boat trip was nice. You got to see how people actually live in this area. Some very large nice houses could be found on the canal side and also some real hovels. Once again the water quality left something to be desired. Everyone who lives here goes to the canal to wash up and they also wash their clothes here. Oh they also get their water for cooking from the canal and catch fish. Guess what the canals are also used for? Yup it is used as a bathroom. Go figure! You put it in the garbage you’re going to eat it someday! Only approved bottle water for me thanks! Once again this area is pretty but sanitation has a long way to go! I and very surprised how long some of these people live. Maybe we have it all wrong, maybe the dirtier the better??? Before we headed back to the ship we had a nice lunch and none got sick! Back on the bus we returned to the city of Cochin. In the city of Cochin we drove around to see some sights and ended up at the Chinese fishing nets. These are basically enormous dip nets. The best view was from the ship on our approach that morning. So we did not get off the bus at this stop. The people who got off the bus were quickly jumped upon by the local street vendors who were very very aggressive. Everyone back on the bus said we made the best decision to wait on the bus. From here it was a 20 min. ride back to the ship and our on-time 6:00 PM departure from Cochin. As we were leaving the harbor the ship stopped. We were informed that they had to evacuate a passenger for health reasons. So a big harbor tug came by and the games began on how to get this person of the ship and onto the tug. I felt so bad for the person in so many ways. First just the fire drill to figure out how to get them off the ship onto the tug, and then I wondered about the quality of health care in this area? All this said after about 1.5 hour delay for this activity we were off for Mumbai which we would reach after a sea day spent cruising the Arabian Sea. More to come!
Incredible India! I think not! Someday maybe if they can clean up their sanitation!