Sunday, 25 April 2010


Tuesday 23rd March

I leave YogaVilla with no problem – except a fight with the manager about a reduction for having had little water during my stay; my bill includes 135€ luxury tax ! ha ha ha (this is a 15% Kerala tax, which was never mentioned on the website); and 80€ for transport to and from the airport (said on the website to be included). To cut a long story short, they agree to waive the luxury tax and transport. So 775€ for 22 nights. 42€ a night all inclusive. Not so bad I suppose. (But when I get home, I find the exchange rate they have used means that in fact they have taken 825€ out of my bank account.)

The verdict on AyurvedaYogaVilla is mixed. The situation is perfectly idyllic, wonderful, in the middle of one of the most beautiful regions of India, yet off the beaten track, with no tourists whatsoever, no noise, no pollution, no industrialisation, no mosquitoes, less hot than other regions,  a haven with a river running through it, lots of wildlife, lots of greenery... I could go on and on. The ayurvedic treatment is not for the faint hearted, unless you ruse and say you are only there for two weeks or less, in which case you follow a "Wellness" programme which is far easier. And it works. I think everybody who stuck it out came away with the result they had been looking for. How easy it is to stick to a programme once you are not a prisoner in the hills of India is maybe another matter. Because prisoners we were, or rather we were treated as if we were at boarding school.  There were so many rules. And I suppose without this atmosphere it would have been easier to cheat. As it was, we had no choice. So if you want to do a course of ayurvedic treatment, this is the place to go because of the above, and because it is extremely reasonable compared to other places doing the same thing. The staff were on the whole very amiable, the kitchen staff couldn't do enough for us, the food was good, not spicy enough for me, although it is a bit difficult to judge when one has been on a weight loss programme. The massage was simply fantastic.

The downside is that it is rural, things don't always work. Electricity and water for instance, which are fairly important. And when I was there, there was no proper system of generators. The row of bungalows I was in seemed to be the worst off where water was concerned. Room cleaning was sporadic. The manager was incapable of taking any management decisions. And the main downside is that if you are not prepared for what ayurveda entails, you will wish for part of the time that you had  never come.

I forgot to tell you about the woodwasp. She came back and built new nests on my suitcase (which I had to destroy before leaving), and I managed to get a photo of her building with wet mud.

It is 4 hours drive to the coast. I see a large snake crossing the road just up the road from YogaVilla. It is the only one I have seen during the whole time here. The drive down is interesting, as it is all in daylight. We go through tea and coffee plantations. We have a puncture on the hairpin bends coming down from the hills.

I arrive in Kappad in the afternoon. Kappad is just north of Calicut, where I shall fly from in a few days. The hotel, Kappad Beach Resort, is quite classy. Air conditioning luckily as it is very, very hot, room service, laundry, pool. I booked a sea view room,  which in fact I think is not as good as beach view. Beach view is a floor above me, with a balcony and a good view. My sea view is hidden by a wall, so that I do in fact see the sea, which is 20m away, but not the beach.

The beach is in a Muslim area. There is no swimming, at least not for women. Men go into the water partially clothed, women walk along the beach fully covered. One can do what one likes at the hotel swimming pool, but there is little shade and the water is really too warm to swim in. I noticed beautifully shaped boats pulled up on the beach, and camels.

I unpack, even though I shall change my room tomorrow. I order fish and chips from room serviice, not a good idea but couldn’t resist the fact that I had a choice; with salted lime. It's too hot to go outside, my terrace is in full sunshine, I feel rather full!

There are only three guests, I’ve found out. So  there is only one restaurant on limited service.

I go for a walk on the beach after 17h00 but it is still very hot. There are some men bathing and couples walking. I sit on a rock and watch the sun and the tide go down. The sea is grey green, the same colour as the Channel, but I realize that it's because the sky is so hazy grey, there is no brilliant blue reflection.

I have supper at 7h30. Grilled fish and salad. The fish is frozen, shame, but one can understand with so few guests. The helping is enormous, or is it me that decidedly eats less? I can't finish it. I only eat half which is what I must get used to doing. And I have a large Kingfisher beer, which heats up very quickly. I only drink half of that too.

I go to bed at 9pm. The sound of the sea is very loud. Wonderful to hear it again. And it’s still very hot.

Wednesday 24th March
I get up at 6h45 and go for a walk up the road from the hotel. I thought to go for an hour, but it is much too hot. I came back in a complete sweat. But I walked for 40mns just the same! Lots of people are waking up, drawing water from wells, babies, men arriving for work. There is a photo a minute to be taken but I can’t, it's too sensitive, people don't like it very much. . Even scenery you can’t take because someone is dressing, or washing in a corner of the picture. Coming back I go down to the beach for five minutes and photograph a few birds, some of the same darting little seabirds I see on the shore in Brittany. There are no seagulls. There are several sort of fishing eagles but can’t photograph them.

There is wifi in the hotel, I just discovered. They forgot to tell me it is not free, but 60Rs an hour is not too bad (1€). I have asked to change rooms and go to an upstairs one. Slightly more expensive. But even so, with the off season reduction it is not much more expensive than YogaVilla.

I have a good Indian breakfast (this is included in the room price) of watermelon juice, dosh masala (rice pancake filled with potato and veg mixture, with coconut and chili chutney and a kind of vegetable stew like the one that goes with couscous but hot) and masala chai.

I read on my terrace in the hanging wicker chair for a couple of hours. There is a breeze coming off the sea which makes the heat bearable. Then I pack up my things for a room change, and go to do an hour of internet. It is much easier on my own computer. I manage to catch up with Cécile’s blog and Nicholas" pictures!

I go back to my new room, which is much nicer, with a good view and a good shady and private balcony. I’m happy with that. I order lunch in my room. Dal with plain paratha and salted lime juice. 125Rs. 2€. There was about 15 times as much dal as I’m used to eating and 2 parathas. I ate about half the dal, and both parathas, they were so good, And I digested well. It is going to be more difficult than I thought to judge quantities and keep this up, especially when I get home.

Thursday 25th March
Life is pretty monotonous.  But it's nice not to have a programme for a change.  I get up early, but have given up walking, it's just too hot; I did 45 mins yoga and breathing practice in my air conditioned room. Breakfast of a couple of aloo parathas (potato and spice filled) a couple of glasses of pineapple juice, and some watermelon. I read and do tapestry on my balcony, and watch the birds and the people on he beach. It's so lovely to be so near the sea. Clients of the hotel all order their food in their rooms, so I now do the same, except for supper, when it's cooler to go out. I have a couple of minutes walk to the restaurant without shade, and that is enough to keep me from going there! So I order hot and sour soup and parathas in my room. This evening I have to go into Calicut by taxi to buy an extra bag to take my stuff back in. 550Rs. = 9€ for the round trip which takes us just over an hour. Rush hour traffic. There are no rules. Might is right. But no one drives too fast so are able to avoid the worst. But I see women in floating saris on the back of motor bikes and scooters, hardly anybody wears helmets, how they survive I don’t know. Busses are in a hurry and come head on flashing lights. Pedestrians along the road sides and trying to cross. It’s murder. The driver took me to a supermarket to get spices, which meant I could only get tiny packets, so I didn’t get too many, but it was not expensive. Then to a discount baggage store, where I bought a samsonite foldaway tough nylon duffle bag for 1400Rs = 22€. It’s a good one and quite roomy. I shall try to check in some of my bags straight for Paris. I am spending the night in Muscat because Oman Air changed the time of my flight and I miss the connection. I hope the hotel they use is in the centre of Muscat. It’s a shame to spend a night in a country you don’t know and see nothing.

The taxi gets me back home after nightfall. He offered to come and fetch me to take me to the airport Sunday morning, I accepted, he drives well.

At supper, still no fresh fish, though I’d seen a lot for sale along the roadside going into town, and fishing boats are out all day. I have ordered a small fish grilled for my dinner tomorrow night.

Indian television is awful (isn't all television awful?) and there are adverts every five minutes. There are few channels in English. I watched a bit of golf before going to sleep!
Friday 26th March

I’ve been watching men on the beach loading and carrying sand. Not very good for the beach. One older man digs sand into a bamboo basket, and smooths it all round into a cone shape. Another younger one goes back and forth, carrying the basket on his head. It takes the two of them to hoist the full basket onto his head, it must weigh at least 30kg. You can see his spine sink as the basket goes on his head. He has a sort of carrying pad on his head between his headcloth and the basket. Sometimes he only goes as far as the sea wall and transfers it to another’s head. Sometimes the other is not there, he goes all the way. They've been doing it for hours.

I have lunch in my room. I've finished my book, and have gone on to tapestry, which is not progressing very fast.. I look at the sea, meditate on it’s attraction.The sea is greeny gry today, the sky less hazy. It is Friday, a Muslim holiday, and a lot of people are walking on the beach. A school group in uniform with teachers in saris. The boys play in the waves, the girls, some of them completely veiled, walk at the water's edge and get their trousers wet. Even the teacher goes in ankle deep in her sari. I can't get over the unfairness of being a woman in a Muslim society such as it is here. Do the boys realise how lucky they are just to have been born boys? At what age do the girls despair at having been born girls? Or are they resigned? Do they consider their lot to be normal?

Indian families have arrived at the hotel for the weekend. Extra mattresses are delivered for the children. I go to the dining room for supper thinking there will be a bit more animation, but people still have their meals sent to their room. I am alone in the dining room, with an ageing Indian hippy who settles down to play music as soon as I arrive. An electronic sound system, backing and keyboard, and an electric guitar. He plays excruciatingly throughout my wait for the fish I had ordered, it took more than half an hour, and all through my meal. Luckily I have my back to him so I don’t have to invent an expression. My fish arrives, a poor thin headless thing. The first mouthful must have contained 15 bones. I felt I had to do honour to the fish I had requested, so I worked at it. This creature from the deep seems to have spent the last three years putting on bone instead of flesh just to embarrass me when it appeared on my plate. Do they not have other types of fish with more flesh and less bone? Luckily it was not expensive, 190Rs. 3€. That is a lot actually. How often does one find, over the world, that they take no advantage of the sea and seafood? Thailand definitely has the edge on India in that department. I suppose I'm spoilt, living in Brittany, where fish and seafood figure prominently in our lives.

Saturday 27th March
My last full day in India. Evy is due to arrive early afternoon. The only reasonably “cool” time is before 7 am. That is, the heat doesn’t hit you. I've just ordered American pancakes, juice and hot chocolate in my room. Running out of things to try on the menu.

A jackdaw just landed right by me on my balcony, a foot away, on the rail. I don’t know who was more surprised, me or him. He studied me for a minute, then flew off. The sea eagles, which may be kites, are chestnut colour on top of their wings, buff on the underside of body, apricot under wings with black wingtips. The tips are not spread much. The tail is black, mostly T shaped, but I saw one with the tail in a V. Their head is off white. Their wingspan averages a metre I should say. They have a falcon’s beak. I saw a jackdaw attacking one yesterday. Not very successfully. There can be up to a couple of dozen at a time circling, mostly late afternoon.

I've been watching an Indian family who are staying at the hotel go down to the beach. It is interesting to see the way they behave. The women hardly wet their feet most of the time. The childen are afraid of the water. The men play with the waves like children, jumping into them, lying down in them, never swimming.

I can’t decide how to pack my bags for my stopover in Oman tomorrow. I have to cover up that’s sure. It’s going to be hot, that’s also sure. And I need fresh clothes for the next day.

There is little difference here between high tide and low tide. A few metres. I wonder why?

Evy arrives in the middle of the afternoon. We go for a walk up the beach, further than I've been, and coming back get caught by the tide and have to scramble up rocks to the path above the beach. We have a Ricard or two on my balcony with some peanuts before going to supper. There are more people in the dining room and no music. We have a good supper because we can share the enormous portions in two. My bags are packed, I leave after breakfast tomorrow.

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