Ch Ch Ch Ch Changes

Well, time to move on (Travelling or pub crawl, same same). After 16 days of issue-free stomachs, on the day we move country, one member of Team Roberts has “both ends syndrome”. That member lies still while the other packs, then its “Cheerio” and we’re in a cab to the airport, along the best road in Kerala, watching the sun rise over palm lined paddy fields, past concrete half built shacks and the craziness of the day just beginning. Leaving India encompasses relief and sadness. Its an amazing and incomprehensible country.
We get to the airport. Flight paperwork checked to enter building. Then checked again to enter check-in desks. Our preprinted boarding pass is ignored as we are issued another one. We go through immigration and security checks. Only WHSmith don’t ask for any paperwork, as we show our documents EIGHT times to various people. We’re up, fed and down very quickly and as we left 30 minutes early, there’s a toilet stop for “Both Ends” before we fly through immigration. The toilet stop makes rucksack carousel null and void as both are there when we arrive and we are greeted by a man with Guy Roberts on a bit of paper and driven to Anuradhapura (3 hours). First impressions of Sri Lanka are good. Driving rules are the same as India but the roads are better so we go faster. The scenery is very similar to Kerala but with out plastic rubbish everywhere and a bit tidier. We get to the hotel and one person sleeps and the other has a bottle of Lion stout 8.8% and deviled chicken (SEARINGLY HOT) for lunch despite having no jetlag.

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Nun watch carries over to monk watch and scores when we get to hotel are

Al 13 – 12 Guy

Choral Sweet Child of Mine

So, after a disturbed nights sleep, due to heat and feral dogs barking throughout the night, we had breakfast with Neema and her husband of Appad – rice, semolina and coconut lace pancakes – with a potato, pea and carrot spiced coconut curry, a fried egg and coffee. Neema then sent us to Fort Cochin for a days sightseeing, however a Jewish synagogue and cemetery were not for us, the Jain temple forbade you to go in with a bag – you were advised to leave it outside,at your own risk, and walked right past the Dutch cemetery without noticing it. So we have basically spent the day wandering around the merchants part of town, shops filled with sacks of rice, potatoes, shallots garlic, chillies and other such foods, we nearly witnessed a ‘punch up’ between a couple of locals, and found ourselves coming across more wandering goats than I have ever seen.  In the absence of seeing any sights we have written postcards, caught up on blogs or reading in the traveller cafes, drinking more lime soda than is probably good for you, waiting til it is reasonable to have a beer. The current cafe seems to have an intriguing taste in music, choral versions of rock’s greatest hits, Sweet Child of Mine is at present being butchered……….we have to go now as Guy is about to gouge out his eardrums with a straw! 

UPDATE – next cafe was playing Radiohead and U2, guy’s eardrums are safe!

Last Indian transfer

So we said our fond farewells to everyone at Marari Villas, what a fabulous place to stay. They were all there to wave us off / check we hadn’t nicked any fixtures and fittings….not that we have any space in our 10.9kg (Al) and 15kg (Guy) back packs! I had wanted to slum it and get a train to Cochin, however with just 2 trains a day erratically leaving the nearest train station Guy got his way and we drove in AC comfort to our last home stay in India – Heritage Bungalow, Vipeen/Vypeen/Vipin/Vypin/Vyypin – feel free to used whichever spelling you fancy. So the journey of 60 km took us just 1.5 hours, on good roads, no potholes, and even 2 lanes with traffic lights appearing. However the most amazing thing was that our driver only sounded his horn 3 times…..yep, that is 3 times in 90 mins, which I believe is a world record.
So we are back in a big, sweaty, claustrophobic city, with people everywhere, more traffic fumes than you care to think about and weirdest of all, other western backpackers! After seeing very few other westerners, let alone any other traveller types, it is strange to be back, wandering down streets for western tourists, although whoever advised someone to start up a cafe for Syrian, Creole and fusion food should be sacked, surely?
We are staying on a small island across from Cochin, which means we have to get a short ferry across to Fort Cochin or Cochin city itself, the ferry journey costs a budget busting 2p for one person, and the car ferry is the best one to go on. The ferry doors don’t raise up when leaving, the ferry parks by drifting into the concrete ‘jetty’ and somehow positioning itself where all vehicles can drive off it.
Our home stay is fabulous, it is run by Neema, and her husband. He used to be a merchant seaman so their house is filled with memorabilia from their travels.  We have been promised a tour before we leave. We had dinner with them last night, the food was never ending, huges bowls of spinach and coconut curry,  pineapple and yogurt curry, green bean and prawn curry, fish in spiced gravy, rice, yam and potato curry just for me and Guy which we ate whilst they chatted to us. Thankfully we managed not to dribble too much down us and / or the table cloth……..our mother’s would be proud!
Then, as we are staying in their home, we left them to watch TV, clear up etc whilst we sat in our room reading. I gave up on Miranda’s autobiography and read Hemingway, the Old man and the Sea if you need to know. Guy is ploughing on with Tolstoy.
Rock n Roll!

Keralan recipes

So, for the keen cooks out there, here are a few recipes from our cooking session last night. 

Allepy fish curry
Heat 2tblsp of coconut oil til smoking.  Add half TSP fenegreek, half TSP mustard seeds and wait until they pop!
Then add 3 tblsp chopped shallots, 1.5tsp chopped ginger, 2 chopped hot green chillies, 2 tblsp curry leaves, fry for 3 mins on medium heat.
Add half TSP tumeric powder, 1.5 tblsp cashew but paste, fry for around 10 mins on medium heat until it is paste. Add coconut milk, about 300 ml, and one unripened sliced mango and half tsp salt, and 100 ml water.  Simmer til mango is soft, around 10mins.  Finish with 100 ml coconut cream and leave to cogitate. Serve.

Prawn tenga curry
In a cold pan put 2 tblsp chopped shallots, 2tblsp of drumstick – a vegetable only found in Kerala, substitute with a sour mango or other vegetable, 1 chopped green chilli, salt to taste, 1tsp curry leaves, 1tsp curry leaves, 400ml water, cover and simmer for 10 mins.
Add 10 large prawns and 4 chopped tomatoes, simmer for another 10mins.
In a bowl add 1tsp tumeric, 1tsp chill to 400 ml coconut paste (blended coconut and water).  Add to the prawns and cook for 5mins, sprinkle on some coconut oil, cover and leave to cogitate before serving.

Paneer butter masala
Heat 2 tblsp butter, add pinch cumin seeds, big pinch of methi leaves, 4 tblsp chopped shallots, 1tblsp chopped chili,1 tblsp chopped cashew nuts, 1 tblsp golden raisins, 1 TSP ginger (40%) and garlic (60%) paste.  Fry on medium heat for at least 10mins, scraping the pan to ensure it doesn’t stick.  Add 6 tblsp chopped tomatoes, 1 TSP salt, half TSP sugar, fry for another 10 mins, stirring.  Add half TSP tumeric, 1 TSP chilli and fry out.  Add 100 ml cashew nut paste, TSP ground fennel seed, half TSP garam masala (made up of cinnamon, cardamom and cloves) and 200 ml water, simmer for 5 mins.  Turn off heat, add block of paneer, cover and leave. Serve sprinkled with fresh coriander.