Kerala backwaters

Last official day in India: Kerala backwaters

Kerala BackwatersI had no idea that Kerala was a 1.5-2 hour drive from Cochin—I thought it would be relatively close. I was wrong. And the length of the drive depended entirely on the traffic and how much congestion there was. Luckily for us, the traffic wasn’t too bad, but the drive was uninteresting: lots of urban sprawl, large and small shops and shacks… and rubbish. Lots of rubbish.

I must say that when I’m watching local TV, there are many ads for Indian Tourism, but not one of these ads shows the amount of rubbish that clogs up the streets and waterways of India. It’s literally everywhere except some of the cultural or historic artifacts like the Taj Mahal. And it’s worse in some states than others. Apparently, it’s due to corruption (similar to Sicily, which also has a bad rubbish problem)… but I digress. Rubbish is a fact of life in India, something that Indians ignore, put up with or are resigned to.

Once we arrived in Kerala, we were ushered into a boat where there was absolutely nothing to do except sit and watch the world float past us. I saw tiny houses, people swimming and washing clothes and dishes and fishing. Other tourists—mostly Indians—sailed past us, waving and often cheering or yelling hello. We were on the boat for around four chillaxed hours. It was a peaceful and quiet experience…

…which all went out window on the drive back to the hotel. Our driver, who has been with us since Bangalore, suddenly became obsessed with breakneck speed. Maybe he just wanted his part of the trip to finish, but I uttered Oh, My God! to know one in particular several times on the drive back. I was sitting at the front and I could see what was going on. He was passing vehicles, with only inches to spare between our coach and oncoming traffic. Other vehicles were doing the same, and he had to break heavily to avoid several head-on collisions. I must say, I was relieved to see the hotel at the end of the drive.

India is like this, though. The incongruence and juxtapositions and dichotomies are a way of life here. And it is something that has come out loud and clear and time and time again on this trip.

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