Munnar accommodation – Green Magic Home

Rs3000 £38
Our accommodation for our single night stay near Munnar belongs to Stanley Wilson whose tour company is doing our two day travel with a car & driver between Kochi and Periyar.
On TripAdvisor at the time of booking it was 7th out of 188 B&Bs in the area, receiving 4.5 stars from its comprehesive 467 reviews.

Kochi’s Kathakali Culture Show

Way back many days ago in Kochi – we’ve stayed in 4 hotels since then – we spent our last evening at a Kathakali culture show. Kathakali is an ancient method of dancing which is probably fab, if you like that sort of thing, or more importantly, you go and see a different performance. For us this was, well, erm, dull and surprisingly both Jane and Amy wanted to leave early, although to be fair this was still 90 minutes into a performance which is probably still going on now as it showed no signs of finishing anytime soon.

We watched the actors ply themselves with the Kathakali make-up, that was interesting. Then we got demonstrations of the eye movements (very interesting), hand movements (not so much) and expressions of emotions (standard).

Watch the video to see how fast the actor can move his eyes, it’s pretty amazing.

Long story cut short: I won’t be attending a Kathakali evening anytime in the (not so) distant future.

Underwhelmed and overwhelmed at Kochi’s Chinese Fishing Nets

At first glance India’s most photographed fishing nets were as underwhelming as I was worried they might be. I could see that they’re a wonderful set of engineering ingenuity, lots of planks and poles all lashed together, using lots of weights, pivots, pulleys, and above all else, people. But still I was underwhelmed.

Facing north on the island with the sunset to the west through the line of the nets they’re a photographer’s dream, and the stereotypical sunset shot has been adorning my computer at work for 6 months. Virtually every TV documentary which features Kochi, Kerala or its backwaters will at some point probably show the fishing nets.

I remembering feeling underwhelmed when I saw the Eiffel Tower for the first time. Saturated with seeing too many images beforehand, being there just didn’t feel like a new or great experience.

All this changed last night.

As Kochi’s clouds thinned for a while and with the sun coming through a little I readied my camera bag and headed for the nets, barely 200 yards from our hotel. I stood with many others on the walkway near the nets and took some photos, still underwhelmed.

It was low tide, the water lapped at the end of the poles supporting the nets, rendering them unusable. Many fishermen were underneath the huge nets hand casting circular nets in the hope of catching something small. So I made my way through on to the beach, through the junk and seaweed, past the dogs and fishing boats, dodging the ropes controlling the nets.

Eventually I found myself at the water’s edge, underneath the massive nets, and started appreciating the nets a lot more already. I took some photos, then some more, and some more still. I stared at the sheer size of the nets in contrast to those used by the fishermen.

I looked at my watch; I’d been there by myself, taking photos, for almost an hour.

I had fallen in love with the Chinese Fishing Nets of Kochi.
They really are magnificent.

And here’s a little video:

Panic! Almost missing the train to Kochi, and sleeper class confusion

Panic at the station

We had all the time in the world, then in a flash we had none.
The little detour to look into the Pothy’s sari and salwar emporium, the walk back to the railway station and the retrieval of our luggage from the cloakroom all took far longer than we expected.
We had 20 minutes to catch the train.
We were located on platform one, the announcer told us we needed platform 4.
The crossing bridge was a hundred metres but felt somewhat more when you’re carrying between 13kg and 18kg on your back/front. But its weight quadrupled when we hit the stairs upwards.
On the bridge over all the platform we reached the stairs for platform 4, and saw the sign which told us our train – number 12624 was on platform 3, which was down a different staircase.
Down the stairs to platform 3 and I look on the numbers on the side of the train: it’s not ours!
The western traveller told me platfom 3’s train was definitely going to Chennai, as 12624 should be after Kochi. “But” she continuted “if the numbers on the train don’t match your numbers, it won’t be your train” confirming what I already knew.
I ran along the platform still carrying my gear, the numbers on the train didn’t change: this was not our train.
Running back, and up the stairs which felt like ten times higher than they actually were, we were back at the top of platform 4.
Down the stairs again and one carriage along I saw 12624 on the train.
Thank God.
A quick check of the watch and we’ve got 15 minutes, but we’ve got no water and we’ve got to get to our carriage, 18 carriages further on.
I try walking fast but the girls are getting left behind, I try stopping at the kiosk whilst I’m ahead to get water but I’m in a queue of 5 and I’ll never get served in time, stuff it, we’ll have to hope there’s a water seller on the train – there wasn’t.
Reaching our carriage with minutes to spare, we get to our seats and someone is already sitting in them; they move when we state which seats are ours.

And relax.

Sleeper Class capacity: is there one?

There’s meant to be 6 people on the two benches, we’ve got 7 on ours and two on the fixed beds above, someone’s not got a ticket. Looking across at the side berths and rather than two people, there’s three. Another one joins our seats, now’s there 13 occupying the space for 8.
It’s okay I thought, the rather officious Train Ticket Examiner won’t put up with this, he’ll chuck the rogues all out.
The TTE turned up and examined some of the tickets, didn’t bother with others. I counted 4 who had no tickets, he did nothing.
I showed him our tickets and passport, he looked glum, with an accusing look he asked me “which seat?” Looking behind at the number 12, I turned back to him, “12!” holding back the “der” which would have got me thrown off the train at the next station.
So the only ones who got any crap off the TTE were the people who booked their tickets the earliest, us.

Water, water, give me water

Two hours in the heat and we’re in need of some water.
The chai sellers on the train didn’t cut it for us, we needed a couple of bottles.
Jane hatched a plan: at the next station she’d get off, get some water and get back on. Simple.
With 100 rupees she got off.
The train was due to stop for two minutes.
Two minutes later the train pulled away, one further minute and there’s no sign of her and we’re starting to panic once more.
It occurs to me she’s got 100 rupees, we’re two hours from Kochi, she doesn’t know the address of the property, she has no identification. I could imagine the news report.
Then she appears.
Thank God.


And here’s a little video:

Kochi accommodation – Walton’s Homestay

Rs2500 £30
Our longest stop of 5 nights on the trip is Kochi (Cochin) and we’re staying at Walton’s Homestay, a small hotel in Fort Kochi and within easy reach of the local sights such as the much photographed Chinese fishing nights. The place has a five-star rating from 304 guest reviews on TripAdvisor, many of whom are repeat customers, and at the time of booking was 11th out of 429 B&Bs.

I’m going to miss Kovalam, a lot

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 £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.

Type 1 Diabetes & backpacking round-up, 8 days in

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.

Insulin cooling

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.

Photos: Sleeper class isn’t so bad

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 £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:
ready for our sleeper class experience

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:
a long walk

There’s no air-con in Sleeper Class but the lack of windows means there is air con.
through the open window

enjoying the real air con via the open windows

As well as the open windows there’s lots of fans:
insider sleeper class

Amy and Kev doing the standard let’s-look-through-the-open-door-as-we’re-hurtling-along thing:
hanging on tight

Kev, going one stage further
hanging out in/of sleeper class

Fun photo of the day: I like this term
differently abled, I like that

Short stopover in India’s southern most tip: Kanyakumari

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: