After 4 lovely relaxing days here in Kovalam and as we ready ourselves to catch the train to Kochi for 5 nights I’ve been reflecting on Kovalam, which is meant to have really gone downhill in the last two decades since we last visited. Yes, it’s changed from the single storey palm-roofed places to multi-storey hotels, yes the small little restaurants have grown and grown, leaving behind their charm. Yes the hawkers have increased. But so have your local tourists and at the same time the drug-fuelled hippies have moved on – not a bad thing.
So, I reflect…
I’m going to miss your many different bays and your roaring seas.
I’m going to miss chilling with Amy and Jane in some of the nicest places to have a drink, like here at Bait.
I’m going to miss the beautiful hotel, the KTDC Sumadra.
I’m going to miss watching all the eagles, kites and fish eagles soaring in the early afternoon winds.
I’m going to miss the sunsets.
I’m definitely going to miss the way the fishermens’ tilly lamps twinkle like stars as the waves between us rise and fall. I love this is still the same as it was 21 years ago.
I’m going to miss all the fresh seafood at next to no money – Rs600 or Â£7 for 15 large prawns.
I’m going to miss being served a freezing cold Kingfisher Strong in a massive bone china tankard, just in case the police walk past…especially when I’ve eaten nothing that day (hic!).
I will be back.
We’ve always been in that interesting place of not wanting Amy to feel that having Type 1 Diabetes stops her from doing amazing things, to being a little anxious of doing amazing things, like this trip. For me especially if I feel prepared I feel confident going into any venture and this four week trip is no exception. But how would we fare? Well in short Type 1 has not caused any issues, maybe a few delays in the airports but that’s it. Yes, we’ve over-prepared but I don’t see that as a bad thing.
Here’s a round up of a few of the things from the planning and the first week or so backpacking in India.
Amounts of medication and supplies
As a general rule of thumb whilst travelling in the UK we’d take just a little more than we’d thought Amy would normally use, maybe two extra insulin pump infusion sets & reservoirs for a week away. Longer trips to Europe we’d take double.
For India we’ve taken close to triple of everything we didn’t think we’d be able get a replacement for over here – insulin pump stuff – plus double of most other stuff – BG strips, insulin etc..
The perhaps excessive kit is mainly because we had a worrying experience last time – read second paragraph – and almost lost it all.
Being away for four weeks meant that by tripling the supplies we’ve taken 30 insulin sets and 30 reservoirs.
We’ve taken one pen and 2 basal insulins (levemir) just in case we have to revert back to MDI.
We’ve taken one glucagon kit.
We’ve also taken two backup pumps, purely because they’re small and I had them available. Amy’s pump is out of warranty so if it broke there would be no replacement coming our way.
Because of the amount of supplies we’ve taken four Frio wallets, of various sizes. Thanks to the loan from Kelly for these.
Frios are working brilliantly for cooling insulin and much required as we had no fridge in the first two places we stayed, or the train, and only here in our current location do we have a fridge.
We’ve also got a few Frio wrist/ankle bands, which also work well when you’re feeling hot.
Luggage and medication and supplies
The general recommendation from most travellers is to carry everything in hand luggage, something just not feasible with so much stuff.
We made sure all Frios/insulin were in hand luggage and enough set changes for the whole trip, the rest went in our rucksacks.
All kit was divided between the 3 hand luggage daysacks and same applied to kit in our rucksacks. For info, we also did this with our clothes in the rucksacks after hearing the tale of our niece Emily who’s rucksack went missing on the flight here and she had great difficulty finding replacement clothing.
Rucksacks give you the added problem that they are soft and there’s no hard protective edges to be able to use for safety. Easy to get around that though.
Airports – Heathrow and Mumbai Domestic
Armed with letters from the hospital and about xRay machines we felt confident.
Spare pumps and any supplies were (where possible) in clear plastic bags.
At security we made them aware of Type 1 and the kit we had, it was no news to the security people, they’d dealt with this many times before.
The kit in hand luggage went through the xRay machine, which highlighted every Frio wallet, and meant we had to have it all checked, something which only took 15 minutes, most of which was waiting for our turn.
We did have an issue with the xRays though.
We were worried about whether Mumbai Domestic airport would be a problem but without a full body scanner it was even easier than Heathrow.
Take offs and landings
Suggestions from many travellers with Type 1 say to unclip before every take off and landing, and to check for air bubbles before reclipping. Others of course say they never do this and never have any problems.
Amy did follow the advice and had no issues, however after one descent there was an air bubble, but it could have been there anyway.
Trains and cars, the benefit of the pump
With 2011’s trip shortly after Amy’s Type 1 diagnosis she was still using MDI and injecting 4 times day. I remember finding it tricky when we wanted to eat during a train ride as there was no way she’d inject whilst moving, so she got used to getting ready with the injection for when we pulled into a station and stopped.
This time, with the pump, things are so much easier. She can bolus whenever and whereever and snacking on the train, or plane, or car, or taxi, or tuk-tuk is really easy.
Heat and humidity
It’s been between 25C and 35C everywhere so far and humidity is pretty darn high. So far this hasn’t caused any issues.
Hypers and hypos
Officially, using below 3.9 as the limit, Amy hasn’t had a hypo yet. She’s only been 3.9 twice.
Conversely she’s not been very high either, maintaining levels between 6 and 11 generally.
Which does mean we’ve still got rather large stack of Dextro in our bags!
If there’s anything I’ve missed out which you’d like to know about please leave a comment.
In all the train trips we’ve ever done, none have been in Sleeper Class, which is the first class down from carriages with air-con. Sleeper class is a slightly misleading term as it’s perfectly fine for using solely for day time travel which is what we did.
It wasn’t actually possible to book from Kanyakumari to Trivandrum as the distance is short at around 100km, so I had to book up to Kochi, which at 310km is three times the distance. Total cost for the trip up to Kochi was Â£9 for all three. NINE!
Let’s let the photos do the talking…
Obligatory selfie, each carrying 9-13 kilos on our backs and 3-5 on our fronts:
We were in carriage S10, i.e. the 10th Sleeper Class carriage, it was the 12th out of 23 carriages, so it was a long walk in the searing heat along the platform:
There’s no air-con in Sleeper Class but the lack of windows means there is air con.
As well as the open windows there’s lots of fans:
Amy and Kev doing the standard let’s-look-through-the-open-door-as-we’re-hurtling-along thing:
Kev, going one stage further
Fun photo of the day: I like this term
I’d never really thought much about coming to Kanyakumari to see India’s southern most tip as I guessed it would be a little like the Land’s End disappointment I felt upon seeing it: “is that it?”. But Amy really want to see it so I planned our journey around it, changing our intended train from Chennai to Trivandrum (for Kovalam) to Chennai to Kanyakumari. Trouble is we’d have full rucksacks with us so sightseeing wouldn’t be fun, and we’d still need to get to Trivandrum/Kovalam. The problem was easily solved with another train booking in sleeper class from Kanyakumari to Trivandrum, which then entitles you to use the luggage cloakroom for Rs30 (36 pence) per rucksack for 24 hours. Our train out left at 10:30, giving us 3 or so hours to see what we could.
First we needed breakfast so relying on the Lonely Planet we walked sans-rucksacks to Hotel Seashore and their much appreciated a/c seventh floor restaurant. The view was stunning and being the first visitors at 7:15am we got prime position.
Realistically we only wanted to see the view, we weren’t interested in visiting the temples, or seeing anything else. We did venture down towards the ferry to the islands but with not enough time we decided against that and headed on down to accidentally discover the fish market which was a hive of activity, and well worth seeing. Hardly something you’ll find in recommendations on TripAdvisor, proving yet again just getting out there and building your own experience is the way to go. Also saw this man which I thought was interesting:
And finally, happy anniversary to the both of us:
Here’s a little video panaroma:
With its views of the sea over the swimming pool and through hammock-supporting coconut trees it’s an easy choice to stay here, once we’d decided to blow our budget a little to celebrate our anniversary..
And to top it off no only have they given us a returning cutomers discount – it was 21 years ago! – but we’ve got the same room too.
Here’s my first pics of the place:
If we’d stuck to budget we would have chosen the Hotel Thushara which is a third of the price at Rs1700 per night.
The only downside for us is that it’s a 1km dark walk back from the restaurants and bars of Kovalam. At the time of booking it was ranked 4th on TripAdvisor and 1st within its class of a mid-level hotel.
Last night we slept on a train, well, kind of sleep, kind of didn’t. It was our first train of this trip and the longest one to boot, 750kms, taking 13 hours to go from Chennai to Kanyakumari, which is India’s southern most tip.
It was good fun, we all love the trains.
We used 2AC class which has air conditioning and usually cubicles of 4 berths, 2 below, 2 on top, with a curtain between the cubicle and the walkway, plus it has lines of side berths, 1 up, 1 down. This time though we had the only coupe – 2 berths one about the other and one lower side berth.