Kerala Coast and Ocean

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I feel so completely at home here in South Kerala, as if wrapped in a comforting blanket, as I look out the motor rickshaw at the tropical vegetation, groups of girls in braids walking to school in their uniforms, near them a teenage boy lifting a load of gravel on a metal pan onto his head,  while an older man with short grey hair rides by on a rickety bicycle. I hear the sounds of Sanskrit chanting coming from a local temple.  Although some people look for quiet, relaxation and good food in a vacation, all of which can certainly be found at the properties we have stayed at here, it is driving into the unknown and seeing how everyday life works in another culture that interests me.

Traditional House of Farming Family

From the lake and lagoon area, we drive to Marari Beach, known for its ocean fishing, and arrive at the large Marari Beach Resort, another CHG property, with nothing else around except village life and a clean beach with the nearby sound of the ocean.  Our cottages are large and comfortable with another open air bathroom which, during these 2 days, lets in not only light and air but the unseasonable early monsoon rains which fall on the thatched roof atrium and into the gravel garden that is part of the architectural design.  At one point it is 95 degrees and 95 percent humidity here. Although this open air bathroom is beautiful, the contrast walking in from the air conditioned main room is rather shocking.

Repair of thatched roof cottages on Marari Beach Rresort grounds

The rain at night does not deter us from our morning activity watching a “parliament of owls” with a naturalist as a number of different species live in these trees as well as other birds. The naturalist remarked that they formerly called it “bird watching” but no one came but when they switched to “Parliament of Owls” many guests showed up. Marketing can be everything..  There is also a large cricket pitch in the middle of the property where local teams come to practice and play each other and we watch them from our nearby restaurant where we are served wonderful food. The die hard young men were playing undeterred in considerable rain with families watching them.

Taken from the Naturalists telescope

The water is too rough to swim in and we miss visiting the fisherman bring in their morning catch as the rains keep them from working in the night waters.  But I take a walk along the road and then back along the beach, stepping over some large puddles and waving to a number of children getting ready for school.  And then there is the Aryuvedic medicine spa on the property which all of us indulge in, massages and relaxation, a separate men and women’s wing. We have a private cooking class one evening with the cook picking the vegetables and herbs from the garden and then cooking us a feast with some ingredients we never knew of. I am not sure we learned any cooking techniques but enjoyed every bite.

Our private cooking class

This afternoon, for my last few hours in India, after most of our group has already left, I took a “tuk tuk tour” to a coir museum which is also an national educational design center for this craft.  Riding by myself, I loved passing by small stalls selling everyday supplies as well as the local fruit and vegetable stands that are so much a part of this world.   At the museum, I learn that the coir industry was a major factor in the economic development of Kerala starting from its earliest colonial days when some enterprising Englishmen set up a factory here.  Coir is made from the woody pulp of coconuts, then soaked and pounded and spun into heavy rough yarn to produce rugs and mats and, as I have seen in the museum, used for other creative uses.  The store at the museum is selling bird nests from hallowed out coconuts.  What a good idea!

A coir making exhibit at our Resort

The coir industry really is a microcosm of what must have been happening all over the world with the advent of the industrial revolution:  creative people (almost all men) inventing ways to shortcut traditional hand labor intensive production of various materials through machines.  

The coir making factory at the design center
The coir store at the museum and design center.

My tour mate Linda and I are the last of our group to depart in the afternoon for our late flight out of Cochin.  We in a clean air conditioned car (and we are wearing seatbelts) and it is not raining at the moment.  Our driver tells us that what we have been experiencing the last few days is the early occurrence of this years first monsoon, usually beginning mid-June but global warming has changed the world’s schedule.

On the way to the airport, the main road has a serious washout from the heavy rains so we are take the smaller 2-lane coast road – which is far more interesting going through small villages along the way.  The large grey clouds are actually a beautiful backdrop to the old traditional houses we pass with red tile roofs, cow sheds and banana plantations in small patches, and tall coconut palms with the fruit hanging dangerously overhead.  There are large concrete odd-shaped structures in a large pile by the road and I am told they will be used to form a sea wall as needed as the ocean is very close.  There are many very large concrete white churches, often raised above the rest of the village, each named after a saint, imposing themselves front and center on visual life, with the small Hindu temples hidden on even less traveled roads. Although on my earlier trips to Kerala I remember hearing about forced conversion of Hindus by Portuguese priests a long time ago, what I find written on-line now is something more recent: the coersion of young Hindu girls to move to other countries and marry Muslim men – but there is controversy about the numbers and truth of these stories. On-line it also says 18% of people in Kerala are Christian although from the imposing size of the churches, it would seem the number is higher.

Entrance to a Hindu Temple on a rural back street

White egrets sit in the rice paddy fields we pass and seem to be enjoying the rain.  The grey clouds make it seem darker outside as we near the Kochi airport. There are food stalls along the road and I ask to stop and buy two large ripe mangos to eat on the plane, a farewell to the memorable food and experiences of this brief journey.

Until next time.