Saturday, December 23, 2017

India - Day 1: Arrival at Fort Cochin

Upon waking, we looked for a place in the airport to have lunch before boarding our re-scheduled flight to Kochi, and settled for something akin to Indian fast food in the food court. We were tired, but in relatively OK spirits. It was just a few days before Christmas and we were finally on vacation, and after our documentation debacle and our failed connecting flight, we were so close to our final destination that nothing could bring us down.

We boarded on time and, after approximately two hours in the air, we were back on the ground in Kochi. We disembarked and waited for our luggage with the rest of the people from our flight. The airport was hot and humid and the weather was clearly warmer than it had been in Doha. It was a small airport, but we quickly found our luggage and exited the airport to hail a cab to our hotel, as we would do at any airport, except there weren't any cabs The parking lot was strangely deserted.

The bus was festively decorated.
It was around 4:30PM and we were flabbergasted that there were no cabs outside the airport. A small window and a sign indicated that we could hire a cab there and so we tried to do just that, but the people working on the other side of the window told us that we could only book one from inside. We tried to return, however, absurdly, the security guard would not let us re-enter. I could see people on the other side of the window booking taxis, but they refused to reserve one for us! A nice man waiting for a cab himself offered to call a taxi for us but, after a brief conversation on his phone, he told us that none were available—it was rush hour and we would have to wait. At that moment, a bus pulled up and, asking if it stopped at Fort Cochin, our destination, and understanding that it did go there, the three of us boarded. It would certainly be cheaper than a taxi and there were plenty of seats, at least, which didn't last for long.

Happy to be going somewhere, we tried to enjoy the scenery that was passing by outside. The bus began to swell with people, seemingly stopping at every intersection. Vito kept asking how long it would take, but we really had no idea. We didn't know how far away the hotel was from the airport. Perhaps, some of our problems could have been handled with better planning, although, so far, things had been working out. Anyway, after some time, we asked a woman sitting near us how long it would take to get to Fort Cochin, the end of the line, basically, and she told us that it could take as much as two hours—it was rush hour! We couldn't believe it and another passenger who had overheard us nodded his head and smiled in confirmation when I looked his way. So we just settled into our seats and enjoyed the ride. At least we were in India! It was a good thing that we had eaten before boarding our flight, otherwise, we would have been starving.

We drove over numerous bridges and enjoyed the lush green landscape, a welcome change from the drab desert colors of Doha. Eventually, the bus filled up and it was quite crowded. At one point, two men started arguing loudly on the bus, and it seemed like a fight was imminent, but everything settled down after a bit. Eventually, we made it to the end of the line and stepped off the bus with our luggage. It was dark and we were disoriented and tired. We had no idea which way to go, but I had booked a hotel near the city center. Judging by all the people and traffic around us, we seemed to be there. We inquired at a nearby tour-booking kiosk about the hotel's location, and began walking in the direction that we had been pointed.

The streets were lively—full of tuk tuks (auto rickshaws) and dust and noise and exhaust and people. We passed by Jawaher Park brimming with people and vendors, and decorated with all manner of lights. The hotel wasn't hard to find and we arrived at about 8:30PM. I had booked a couple nights at Hotel Rossitta Wood Castle, an old hotel made of teak wood, which sounds more charming than it was, but it served its purpose. We dropped off our luggage and went to eat at the hotel's restaurant, which was quite crowded so we had to wait. We didn't have the energy to look for anything else. By the time we finished, it was quite late and, having only slept a few hours in the past twenty-four, we went to our room and did the obvious.

No comments: