We floated from Kollam to Allepy after Varkala on a David-the-Gnome style houseboat. Three particularly interesting Indian men steered the rig, brought us food, then made friends with us and took us to visit their teensy village. Our chef introduced us to his friends (one of whom is an impeccable Michael Jackson-impersonating dancer) and family. The town and home we visited were not extremely humble compared to some I've seen in India so far, but they were definitely extreme compared to Western standards. Two small rooms house a family of...well, it's hard to tell how many people lived there amongst all the mothers and grannys and bouncing toddlers and children, but they were a bustling, healthy family. Glittering with contentment. Nothing but each other and who needs much else? The landscape of rice fields, fruit trees, and the calm Keralan backwaters shroud their village in peace and quiet.
Allepy is an awesome little town. We were quickly fitted with a small beach-front hut with hammocks out front, two bikes, and a bunch of friends. People like to talk to us a lot where ever we go, but these peeps buzzed around us like flies and even peered in our window at night (and then later stealing our treats by sticking their hand through the window bars) making it quite hard to relax. But despite the mildly annoying clinging behavior of the locals, that town was a breeze to enjoy. Good food, friendly, funny folks, an abundance of Indian culture, etc. We made a couple of traveling buddies as well.
From there we took the advice of a friend and headed for the mountains, though we had to train to Calicut first, a smallish town further north up the coast. There we found ourselves unable to stay anywhere for less than 1700 rupees/night (we are used to under 500/night). We saw the entire town from our rickshaw as we searched and searched for a cheap place to stay to no avail. Apparently there have been some new legal restrictions placed on business for dealing with foreigners, some extra paperwork and the like, due to terrorist activities that have happened recently in India. No one wanted to do the paperwork, apparently. But the place we did end up staying was like going to heaven. A hot shower, comfortable bed, legitimately-sized pillows. Cable television. Amazing. Poni and I promptly turned into slugs and spent much more time there than we intended, drunk with amenities and luxury. We did almost nothing in Calicut, actually, except see part of a movie in the local theater, and go to a bar by the beach. It was the first bar I've been to in weeks, and we stuck out like cute little sore thumbs in a sea of beer-guzzling Indian men.
Well, we did actually do a lot in Calicut if you count emotional and circumstantial processing. Our relationship status has changed from "couple" to "friendship", which is a bit on the heavy side for ye olde hearts to weather, but has lightened the mood considerably in many ways. Something about India makes coupling difficult for many a pair, or so I have heard. I think both of us have faith in the universe no matter our relationship label. If anything, India provides one with the ability to have faith in abundance, despite the colorfully grimy and predictable intensity permeating our experiences.
We peeled ourselves out of our king-sized fancy land of a hotel room and stuffed ourselves onto a bus to Kalpeta. Standing the whole way, surrounded with our baggage and screaming children and sweating bodies while a bus flew at maddening speeds up a mountain, whirring around deathly sharp corners and nearly flying off cliffs at every turn. I paused to feel a little frightened from time to time, but mostly gasped at the fabulous landscapes filled with greenery, misty mountains and tea plantations.
I sat on the balcony of our budget hotel room this morning, started my fourth journal of this trip, and noted the crisply cool weather nipping at my toes. I thought of it as an omen, considering the weather I expect to return to in little over a week. I cannot believe how the time has flown, and am again noting the subtle and completely obvious ways India has rearranged me.