Alleppay was really much closer to Cochin than I thought and although the bus ride was suppose to be just under 2 hours, the driver got us there much faster. Due to the ‘unique’ driving style I was wide awake without my morning coffee. I found a cute place in Alleppay and chose it based on the fact that they had free bicycles, SOLD! The place was quaint and well hidden so it was quiet and a world away from Delhi. I found that biking around I got a ton of stares and it was one of those moments that I have to step back and reevaluate the situation from a local perspective. As a westerner riding a bike was very much NOT taboo, but I realized that not only were there no other females on bikes, but that most of them were completely covered, meaning I was in a Muslim area. The previous three months I might have covered to fit in, at this point I decided that I was on vacation and not going to play by those rules anymore. I used to ride my bike through Europe on weekend rides and in S. America through the Andes and into the rain forest, usually just hitch hiking to get back. The island was not big enough for a long ride but I realized how much I missed biking. I decided that I am getting one when I get back.

While biking I found an ayurvedic center with a woman who convinced me to get a massage. Although Kerela is known for their massages I was disappointed with the one I got. With only the ayurvedic massage I got in Jaipur to compare it to this massage was firmly in second place of the two. It was also slightly awkward, since with this type of massage you are on a wooden board with a small moat around you and completely naked. Afterward you are given a bath to get all the oil off and the woman after this massage washed me from head to toe, something I have not experienced since I was about 4 years old.

The one thing that I was looking forward to was traditional Kerelan prepared fish, which is fish steamed in a banana leaf. This ended up being fruitless. It apparently didn’t exist there at all, and moreover getting a good piece of fish was next to impossible. One would think that a village that is completely surrounded by water would have good fish, right?

After a lackluster lunch I reserved a paddle boat and a ‘boatman’ to take me through the backwaters. When I got to the boat there was a French couple already there who claimed that they had been promised the boat for the afternoon. Note that this whole conversation occurred in French and I then had to negotiate with the group of Indians who had gathered to see what we would do, not really knowing which was the owner. It was back in forth between Mayalam, English and French. Even though some things got lost in translation we finally negotiated a price and time. Conversation was slightly awkward as my French was really rusty and needed some work. Overall the couple was cute and had kids my age. We hopped out of the boat to take pictures at a rice field (and since the state is communist each family had a plot that they farmed). The only picture of me I have from this trip is in front of the field.

The boat ride was nice and the scenery tells the story better than words can describe the peaceful waterways:

Fun fact: The Indian state of Kerela is the first voluntarily elected communist government and has the highest literacy rate of any state in India (91%).

Leaving Alleppay the next day I realized that it was Indian Independence day, which is really not celebrated the same as Independence day in the states. Since India is still technically a new state and there is quite a bit of contention from their neighbors (Pakistan, Bangladesh, China). Independence day here is usually marked by terrorist attacks and a speech by the prime minister. Other than that school children often have parades and ceremonies at school. I snapped a school yard having Independence day exercises and the kids dressed up in their uniforms and other than that the day was uneventful.

Still wanting some good fish the first thing I did when I got back to Ft. Cochin was walk down to the dock and find a restaurant to cook up some fresh off the boat seafood.
Not being too hungry I got half a crab and half shrimp. I constantly underestimate how much Indians eat here (and consequently makes our super sized meals look not so big) and thought that this would be a decent amount of food. This turned out to be a gross underestimation and I got a platter of shrimp and not half, but two crabs. It was an embarrassing amount of food for one person, and even more so since I finished it all. I pulled a Ben and photographed lunch.

Kissing crabs

The guy wanted his picture taken with my lunch… I told him he would be famous. I got the lunch but I think that he is still waiting on the later.