Fort Kochin to Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary

Fort Kochin is special for the Indian’s try to make it that way – for tourists. The part where we stayed is the most ancient part of the peninsula, that part where the Europeans landed some 500 years ago. After a five minutes walk, however, you are quickly reminded of where you really are: India is beckoning with its littering, dilapitaded buildings, bad smell, traffic chaos.
On Saturday, we started our exploration of Fort Kochin by visiting the ancient and famous Chinese fisher nets. The fishermen were so friendly, calling us over, to check out the nets and take photos, only to demand an indecent amount of money from me – Sylvia having a hunch refused to come -afterwards. After telling them, that I was not willing to pay the demanded price the smiles suddenly vanished.
Afterwards, we decided to take a tour with a rickshaw and ended up telling the driver – after we had agreed to visit one which turned out to be heavily over priced – not to bring us to any more shops. It is anoying. You tell those drivers that you only wanted a trip around the place and end up continually telling the driver that you do not want to buy anything. This is because they get comissions from shops when they drop tourists there. It is anoying and nowadays I grow sick and tired of it very quickly.
Since refusing to play the driver’s game, the whole trip wasn’t such a happy affair anymore. Thus, we were happy to have seen a fair bit of Fort Kochin and to be back at our homestay. We decided to do the rest on foot and walked the streets of this ancient and admittedly beautiful place.
Due to its European heritage it is deeply rooted in Christianity as evinced by Saint Francis church, supposedly the oldest Christian church of India, situated just opposite of our homestay. Sylvia, in particular, like the place. Vasco da Gama’s grave was there until they brought the remains of his bones to Portugal 24 years after his burial in that church.
Another good thing about Fort Kochin was, no surprise, the food. We ate really good here: curry masalas, seafood, and the best chocolate cake you can imagine. Beer is not served because alcohol licences are expensive. If you ask for “special tea”, though, you might be lucky enough to end up with a Kingfisher beer in a tea cup.
Since we were destined east for Bengalore, we had to cross over from Kerla to Karnataka, which means passing through a mountain range called Western Ghats, which is renown for its Wildlife Sanctuaries. The owner of the place where we stayed, Wilson, arranged a two nights, three days trip for us from Fort Kochin to Mysore, which is about 500 kilometers or 12 hours by car. Since the journey goes through a Wildlife Sanctuary, we booked into one of the resorts there, Jungle Retreat, in order to relax for a day and spot some wildlife. We knew that the trip would be a challenge but we had to get to Bengalore anyway and with this trip we were able to combine a stay in the mountains and jungle with getting to the place from where we would return home.
We left early on a Sunday morning. Being Sunday, the streets were –relatively– empty and we made swift progress. We had a good driver, Baboo, who was instructed to put safety before speed. Still by mid morning, we had to go through the usual dodging of rickshaws and busses, the later being a real threat on the streets, approaching our vehicle in the middle of the street only to give way a few meters before impact. We passed through a busy area, the hub of India’s sandelwood production, saw some beautiful countryside, some really poor villages and something very peculiar: an elephant on a truck. It looks surreal when you see those elegant, huge animals on those small lorries. The look of it makes you really sorry for those poor things, who have to be taken down the lorry after half an hour for a walk in order for them to be able to make th journey.
We arrived the resort by mid afternoon after 380 kilometers in 8 1/2 hours. Before we had even got into our safari, we knew that Mudumalai was worth the effort, greeting us with lush rain forests, high mountain peeks and tranquility. It was nice to be out of the bustling towns of hot Kerala and in the coolness and tranquility of the most remote part of Tamil nadu. We settled into our bamboo huts and went for a well deserved afternoon nap.