Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Hitting the Beach

India; October 28th; Day 37; Kappad Beach

We arrive at the Bus Station in Ooty just before 6.30am to catch the bus to Calicut. The bus is already full and we take the last two seats. It turns out that the journey takes about 7 hours and we arrive in Cal;icut shortly after 1pm. Yesterday when we asked about this bus we were initially told 5 hours, and then later still 6 hours. I don’t think they want to discourage you or maybe the journey time can vary a lot.

The first two hours as we leave Ooty is crazy and the bus stops everywhere to load and unload school-children. The bus is heaving with them and each of tha, has a huge satchel which they just pile up at the back pr give one to hold. Keith had three or four bags piled on him at one point.

At the final bus stop we were gobsmacked by just how man kids appeared from the from of the bus, scrambled down the main aisle and hopped off the back. This bus was a veritable Tardis.

The route that the bus was taking was a bit strange as it continued to go north along the edge of the Western Ghats through several small towns as which we stopped for 15 minutes before finally heading west and the Keralan coast. The final descent down to the plains was down through a series of 22 hairpins. We finally left the tea plantations behind and came down to the rubber and the bananas. The views weren’t that good on this descent though as the windows on the bus (Tamil Nadu buses have glass whilst Keralan ones don’t) was grubby and as usual the light is pale and misty.

As we leave Tamil Nadu and enter Kerala the bus becomes emptier and we speed up along the plains to the coast. We are dropped off beside the road in Calicut and decide to get a taxi for the 20km to Kappad Beach. We have an address to go to but we can get no reply at present. We take a highway north and then duck off through the coastal swamps and eventually find our tired little guest house after our taxi driver asks around a lot and backs up and down several dead –ends. The place is grubby and the proprietor seems half asleep. We take it anyway as we suspect nothing much else is about except the posh hotel right on the beach.

It’s hot and sticky down here and so after a brief rest we go for a walk to the ocean and the beach. It’s only five minutes away. The beach has nothing though except a few shacks selling snacks, am ice-cream van and the aforesaid hotel. We have lunch in the hotel and then discover it has a bar too. You have to go out the hotel and then back in another entrance where half a dozen tables are set up under a large open walled, but roofed room. It’s right next to the beach but it’s apparent that the locals are not allowed in. This hotel is big but has a slightly rundown feel. It doesn’t look like many people are here either.

After a couple of beers we take a walk up the beach with the intention of finding some other accommodation but nothing else is here. The sea is calm and the beach quite pleasant but no-one is swimming and only a few are brave enough even to paddle. Back at our dump we snooze for a while before taking a shower.

That evening we walk through the mangroves back out to the main road, away from the ocean, and find a small village. It’s only about 2km but ut starts to get dark as we get there and the streets are unlit. Just as we arrive we have to cross a level crossing for the railway. The lights go and the gates close but many people blithely cross over anyway before the trains rushes through at high speed.

In the small town we walked around trying to find somewhere to eat without any success so we hired an auto-rickshaw and ride back to the Kappard Beach Hotel for dinner and a couple of beers. Whilst we are there we talk to the manager and negotiate a reasonable rate for a room for the next couple of nights.