Starting point: Udupi, Karnataka
Finishing point: Vatakara, Kerala
Distance covered today: ~350km
Total distance covered: ~2760km
Number of breakdowns: 0…c’mom Robbie….keep on rolling
Udupi to Vatakara. This was a day of epic driving. Lots of hot, sweaty driving. And confusion. Confusion as to what the waiter’s head wobble meant at dinner. He’s one of our anti-heroes of the day. Confusion at where we were. This cannot be the national highway? Not in this condition. Not with pot holes like this. Surely? Not even in India. We took a detour to try the coastal road in an attempt to break up the monotony of the highway. We never found it. But we did find the Indian equivalent of the Cotswolds (according to Erica…we’re not sure if she’s ever been to the Cotswolds): all huge gated houses, tropical gardens, abundant wealth and rural tranquility.
The late afternoon brought yet more confusion. While trying to bypass a city centre on the NH17, we found ourselves completely lost in an area that can only be described as the Indian Hollywood Hills. Ostentatious mansions with sweeping sea views lined the steep roads. But for all the neighbourhood money, the road was more hole than pot. The juxtaposition was stark. Could this be the worst road surface in India? Would Robbie’s recently welded exhaust pipe fall off with all this bumpety-bumpety-bump? To make matters even hairier, Erica was once again in the driving seat. Her two-handed gear changes, meaning no hand on the accelerator and standing starts on near vertical inclines in a vehicle with only a foot brake, were frankly alarming. We somehow made it back to the main road and on towards our overnight stop in yet another grim hotel in the forgettable town of Vatakara. But our spirits could not be dampened. We had crossed the state border into Kerala and were now in striking distance of our ultimate destination, the gold at the end of our rainbow – Fort Cochin. And with several days to spare.
Catch of the Day
Having gossiped our way from Karnataka to Kerala, we’ve already analysed what doesn’t impress us in men. So now our thoughts turn to what does. We’ll use our Robbie as a prime example of what we’re looking for.
1. He’s reliable but not too reliable. We don’t want boring. We like a bit of adventure and excitement, but only at the right times and in the right places (10km from a beautiful beach and not in a Northern Indian industrial hell hole, for example).
2. He’s strong and carries all our bags, but doesn’t make a big deal out of this. It’s all very low key.
3. He has a big horn.
4. He’s pretty handsome, but never vain and looks a little weathered around the edges.
5. He only requires some feeding and the occasional pumping to keep him going.
6. He has no opinion about how we drive. We’re in control. Most of the time.
Anti-heroes of the Day
Two characters stand out as our anti-heroes of the day. They both may lack traditional heroic qualities, but we will remember them nonetheless.
The Indian head wobble can be somewhat perplexing anyway. Its meaning entirely depends on context: hello, goodbye, yes, no, good, bad, OK, definitely not OK, I understand, I don’t understand, you’re welcome, acknowledgment, encouragement, embarrassment, bewilderment at what these crazy girls are doing in a rickshaw. Confusing-head-bobble-wobble man was our waiter in the hotel restaurant in Vatakara. He had a stutter, which meant that there was a short pause between the wobble and the words. This added to our confusion. The kitchen was wildly understocked, and so our ordering was a lengthy process.
Jodie: So you don’t have any paneer?
Confusing-head-bobble-wobble man: (Head wobble. Long pause.) No ma’am, yes. (Head wobble)
Erica: You have paneer, or not?
Confusing-head-bobble-wobble man: (Head wobble. Long pause.) Yes ma’am.
Jodie: Yes, you have paneer?
Confusing-head-bobble-wobble man: (Head wobble)
Claire: Does that mean they have paneer?
On checking into the hideous hotel in Vatakara (‘North Park Hotel: a pompous hotel’), Thompson, a young Indian ‘musician’ in an all black outfit and unlaced biker boots introduced himself to us. His enthusiasm was irritating. You girls are awesome! We passed you on the road. You are SO cool. Awesome rickshaw. You are awesome…You won’t believe it! Our rooms are next door to each other. We’re neighbours! Oh my days, no. The inevitable knock on the door came barely 20 minutes later. Do you girls drink shots?! You know, shots?!! Shots of liquor. Join us. Our room or your room? I’m a musician. We play the violin. We’re going to jam a little! Jamming with a violin? Really? Is that even possible?
A misty morning in Kerala: