Me and my friends arrive at Kochi Airport in the morning. Sunshine and heat - we change our footwear and take a taxi into Kochi town. This ride already gives us a good impression on what India is like - a million of smells ranging from flourish to rotten, a million on vehicles on the dusty roads barely concerned about regular European street rules, and a million of colors aside the streets. Dust, fume and the noises of a dozen simultaneously honking vehicles. Pedestrians, cyclists and even animals in between. After we managed to get some Rupees we head towards Fort Kochi, the old harbour town. Chinese fishing nets and a slightly smelly fish market on the shore. We find a somewhat dodgy backpacker place with a free windowless 3 bed sleeping room with bathroom which turns into a sauna after each of us had a shower. The mosquitoes love our sweet blood already when we have our jetlag nap. Beautiful sunset on the first evening, and two cute Isrealian girls...
Next day, we join the girls for a backwater tour on a two man poled wooden boat. Tranquil and silent ride on the small brackwater channels through crop fields, coconut plantations and trees. Vegetarian Indian lunch on a small island. Tourist stuff, however very very pleasant. On a bigger lake we watch Indians fish hunting with plastic pieces being dragged by a small boat and a diver collecting the thereby motionless watching fish. And we go swimming there from our boat too.
After we met our French friends we were waiting for, our bunch is complete. And the action starts right away, five of us with backpacks on a single Riksha in the middle of town, waving at the waving and smiling Indians. Werner gives his son Jean a two-day houseboat ride ticket as birthday present, and Urs and I join them. Compared to the other boat ride, the houseboat attracts with a feudal feeling. A three man crew takes care for all of our desires. Two bedrooms, a dining room and a big open air area with big couches and chairs and sun shelter in front of the boat - luxury compared to the half nice backpacker accomodations we have had in Fort Kochi before. We play all those 60ties and 70ties tracks and watch the afternoon passing by on the slow boat ride. Kingfisher birds sitting on the wires. School children wait for their taxi boats back home. Rice fields and palm tree plantations. Women washing their clothes in the channel. Trees with big blossoms. We anchor in the late afternoon beside the rice fields and go for a swim, after which we became very brownish... From the opposite riverbank, Indian sounds frame the sunset. Lovely diner, and good vibes all evening long. We decide to sleep on deck rather then in the sleeping rooms.
Next we decide to take a break from the heat and head for the mountains with rikshas and local buses. It takes almost one day to get to Kumili. Tea and pepper plantations and small towns along the road. The old bus groans and moans on the small roads uphill, yet it does the trick. We get nice rooms in a small new hotel, who's owner proudly shows us his pepper and cacao plants and his solar equipment in the roof.
The first morning, Werner and I meet very early in front of our rooms and decide to take a walk, following the sun in the East. After a while, we leave town and enter the forest on a small footpath. Watching the birds and talking, we keep going and going. We cross the forests and enter a gras lowland with lots of animal traces. Heading more west again, we find a gravel road and slightly after, a guarded gate which we have to cross to get back to town. The guards stop us and ask where we are coming from, telling us we were already in the Nature reserve of Kumili. We reply innocently where we were coming from. There was no gate nor fence nor any other sign preventing us from entering the Nature reserve, we tell them. However, they insist on a fine for illegal entering the reservation. It takes a lot of polite smiles and talks to convince them, but in the end we drink coffee together and talk about computer programming, and we can leave without a fine. On the following day, all of us head for the park before sunrise with a guide to watch an elephant herd, monkeys and the incredibly beautiful landscape of the mountains.