Kolourful Kochi

DSC09277rI think that every bus in Cochin (Kochi) had been hired for our arrival. This time we didn’t take a ship’s tour because it is just as easy to DIY.

DSC09280rTwo of our friends had decided to join us for a tuk tuk tour of Cochin. Our other two friends where having no end of trouble with immigration, because my other friend’s wife who is Chinese had to be processed differently than the rest of us even though she had an Indian visa issued in New Zealand.

We checked various tuk tuk drivers for their command of English and picked one who had a business card printed in English with a list of the main places to see.

I wanted an English speaking guide so there would not be any misunderstanding about the rate agreed, on our return to the ship.

DSC09283r  There isn’t a lot of room in a tuk tuk for two – make sure you are both close friends.

DSC09284rIt was monsoon season so I took precautions of carrying a pair of flips flops because I didn’t want my shoes ruined in water.

DSC09286rFollow that Ferrari !

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View from the back seat – these machines will turn on a sixpence.

DSC09296rFirst call was the dhobi wallah – local laundry – one of them had the contract for all the bedding of a local hotel. The above picture is the main area where the ironing takes place.

DSC09297rThis man was ironing a shirt – the iron was heated by red hot coals in the base of the iron – the whole ironing ‘item’ weighed eight kilos! (nearly 18 lbs). As we watched it looked as if part of the shirt was going to be marked with a burn but it wasn’t and he handled the heavy unit with great dexterity.
We were told that the weight was 8 kilos so I checked on the empty weight (the iron is called a charcoal iron) and the empty weight is 2.75 kilos, but I doubt that it would hold 5 kilos of burning charcoal so perhaps they meant 8 pounds, regardless it was interesting to see him work.

DSC09298rThis man was belting the life out of a piece of clothing – his washing tub was behind him – solid concrete.

DSC09299rAll done by hand – washing tub at the back, soap powders, and a constant wet floor. If it is the same as Mumbai (Bombay) then each ‘cubical’ is an individual businessman rather than part of a larger company.

DSC09301rEven in the monsoon season people were optimistic enough to hang washing out. The washing was not held on the line with pegs – the washing line was made from twisted coconut fibre and a couple of lines were platted so that the clothes could be poked through the platted line and strung between the ‘A’ frame poles.DSC09302r   Behind me is the garden where the clotheslines are located, to my left is the ironing room and on the right is the washing area where people in each cubical / section beat the dirt out of clothes – see below – I should have used a flash.

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DSC09306rFlip flop time – it is still raining – I changed shoes after which I didn’t care whether my feet got wet or not.

In our tuk tuk Maureen sat on the right & I was on the left. The right hand side had a heavy plastic sheet to keep the passenger dry from rain & spray of the traffic. The left hand side was the entry / exit point for the passengers so it didn’t have a plastic sheet, but our driver used his customer service skills and obtained an umbrella for me to hold open, while he drove, to try and stop the rain coming in to the cab area and wetting his passengers. I was always concerned that when it was up I couldn’t see what was ahead of us, or if I was going to belt a pedestrian or scratch a car / truck. ‘Elf & safety . . . . wots dat?

DSC09310r.jpgSanta Cruz Cathedral Basilica.

Maureen & I and our friends were not in to sight seeing churches, temples or mosques, but at times a particular place of worship has strong historical link.

 It was built by the Portuguese and became a Cathedral in 1558. When the Dutch arrived  they destroyed many catholic churches, but not this one. When the British arrived in 1795 they demolished the old building (the church), because the Dutch had been using it as a store for their arms.
In 1887 a new building was started on the old site and this was consecrated in 1905, and Pope John Paul 11 proclaimed it a Basilica in 1984.

The day we visited I expected to see Noah gathering the animals because the rain was so heavy.

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DSC09312rInside the church – I found the painting in the ceiling interesting, they depict the 12 stations of the cross.

chinese-fishing-netI’d been telling our friends of the Chinese fishing nets, and how unusual there are, but I should have warned them that not everything is as it should be – the above is from an advert.

DSC09316rI took the above in heavy rain while trying to keep my umbrella from blowing away. The rubbish on the beach devalued the whole image.

DSC09317rThe stalls selling fresh fish were also a disappointment, due to lack of shoppers and the miserable weather.

DSC09318rSt Francis was the first European church to be built in India, originally of wood and then of stone in about 1516. Being a church for the Portuguese it was catholic, until the Dutch arrived in 1663 when it was reconditioned and converted to a protestant church. It remained a Dutch church even after the British had captured Cochin in 1795. It was given, by the Dutch, to the British Anglican community in 1804.

Vasco de Gama, the famous Portuguese navigator, died in Cochin in 1524 and was laid to rest in this church. Fourteen years later in 1538, his remains were removed to Portugal and he was reburied in Lisbon.

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For those interested in researching their family history this church has the Doop Book, which is a record of baptisms and weddings from 1751 to 1804. Many Dutch who are interested in their family history visit the church, because visitors are able to study the Doop Book records. The original book was sent to London in 1932 to be repaired by experts, and rebound in the original way. Due to the importance of the original book the copy available for research is a facsimile.

The Minister or Predikant of the church, Peter Cornelius kept the Doop Book up to date in his own hand writing for forty years.

The Church of South India, which has 22 dioceses across four States of southern India, and Sri Lanka, currently owns the St Francis Church in Cochin (Kochi). The church holds regular services each Sunday, and is open the other six days for tourists and visitors.

DSC09324rSince the arrival in Cochin of the Portuguese the reason the trade began was due to spices, and it hasn’t changed in centuries.

DSC09325r.jpgThe latest trader was Maureen as she bargained for a bag of cinnamon – it was offered at USD $7, we offered $5 and they were happy. Considering the price in Sydney USD $5 was cheap, but the transport from Cochin to Sydney was free :-o)
Australian quarantine checked the bag and its contents, before returning it to Maureen, and allowing it in to the country.

DSC09326rThe smell of the spices was pure magic – I did ask about the small brown seeds that can bee seen, but can not remember the answer.

DSC09327rHow about spices in liquid form.

DSC09328ror powder form – your choice.

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The Jews in the early days had a lot to do with the trading.

DSC09332rJew – Town Road

DSC09343rInteresting shops from jewellery to clothing to souvenirs and more colours than you can shake a stick at  . . .

DSC09337rPerhaps for the festival of Holi – which is The Festival of Colours – Lord Krishna is thought to have loved jokes and would drench girls in water and colour.
fesitval of colourI obtained the above & below pictures off the net

ladiesThe dhobi wallah must love this ceremony.

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 We were never too far from spices

DSC09341r Even elephants had to have a doze in the monsoons season.

Back to the ship for a late lunch and a dry wine – the only dry bit of the whole tour.

 

 

 

Peace & quiet

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Hollywood Pool Club – I took these pictures during our time at anchor just off Santorini in Greece. The bulk of the passengers were still ashore so Maureen & I had the place mainly to ourselves. If you look closely at the green figures above, you can see someone hiding as I took the picture.

DSC08678rQuiet and peaceful and only at night does it come alive as a nightclub. The roof over the pool keeps the temperature steady, regardless of the outside temperature.

DSC08679rIn addition to the swimming pool there are hot tubs, and quiet spots over looking the ocean.

DSC08681r Peace & quiet

DSC08682rThere is also a bar, but most people just sat & read during the day.

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If you wish to watch TV in a quiet private alcove – you are able to pull a curtain over to make it more private.
Picture below is the other end of the same private alcove.

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Maureen tried different sized xylophones to practise her musical talent.

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Being tone deaf, I was more interested in a game of chess.

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Cane basket chairs and a good book . . .

DSC08692rOr one could sit just outside to add to the suntan – waiter service for a cold beer, I didn’t want to break out in to a sweat after all . . .

DSC08556rFor those who trusted the ‘see through’ floors (decks) on the Skywalk, you could watch the water flow under your feet. Your brain told you that it would be safe, but many still walked with one foot on each side of the reinforced glass area.

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The main pool area was always popular, and during an Australian sporting match that was broadcast via satellite from Australia, many passengers just floated in the pool with drinks in hand, and watched & listened to the large screen broadcast. For such a large screen I didn’t notice any problems due to sunlight or distortion. Obviously the sound was quite loud, but once we moved from the pool area it fell away and didn’t bother us.

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Being a shore day the pool was relatively empty.

DSC09248rWhen we sailed close to the Indian coast, on our way to Cochin (Kochi), we experienced a heavy downpour, due to it being the monsoon season, which cleared everyone from the pool area.
Odd really that people left the pool because they were getting wet due to the rain . . . :-o)

 

Don’t eat the plate . . .

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I’d been out East for just over a year and the Company decided that I should start making my way home.

Chanda

I signed off the Chanda (black & white picture above) and made my way to a hotel in Karachi  called the Beach Luxury Hotel.beach

This hotel was much better than the Bristol Hotel in Kuwait; at least I could buy a beer. It also held floorshows in the evening. I’d never seen a real floor show in a hotel or restaurant, except via the cinema, curtesy of Hollywood. The nightly show guaranteed at least one person in the audience.

I was to await my next ship the Chakdara, (top coloured photograph), which was a ‘home-line’ vessel i.e she was based in London rather than Bombay or Singapore, and did the UK to India run. I waited eighteen days in Karachi before signing on Chakdara.

The two things that I do remember about Karachi in 1964 was a three-legged jackal in the Karachi zoo, and visiting a horse racing meet and watching a horse called Solomon Star, and in brackets (formally Woodland Star). Never having been very good at gambling I thought the last horse to bet on would be an animal linked to me – so I didn’t bet on Solomon Star, but of course it romped home, thus confirming my lack of skill at gambling.

Fortunately I didn’t receive the same welcome that Paul McCartney received a week or so before my arrival. He’d been mobbed at Karachi Airport and police had to protect him from screaming girls. The Beatles were on the way to Hong Kong for a concert as part of their world tour. I think their transit stop at Karachi airport was supposed to be a secret . . . .

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I joined the Chakdara for the voyage back to the UK. She was more modern than my two previous ships, having been built in 1951. She had a very different ‘feel’ to her because she was a ‘home line’ ship, and she carried twelve passengers. She would receive visits from Head Office, whereas the Eastern line vessels never came in contact with HO, and so the onboard atmosphere was a little more relaxed on Eastern line vessels..

We sailed to Ceylon, as it was then – Ceylon didn’t become Sri Lanka until 1972. After which we sailed to our first Indian port of Madras (now called Chennai).

The day after arrival in Madras, I and another cadet were allowed ashore. We were under strict instructions that we had to be back on board no later than 6.00 am the following day, at which time we would sail for Calcutta.

Madras was a pleasant place, but it could not hold our interest until 6.00 am the following morning, so we decided to return to the ship around 11.30 pm.
On entering the dock area we noticed that our ship was no longer at the same berth as she was a few hours earlier. We looked along the quay thinking that she had been moved to a fresh berth – we couldn’t see her.
On reaching the original berth a well-dressed Indian stepped out of the shadows and asked if we were cadets from the Chakdara, with him was an armed soldier.
We agreed that we were from the Chakdara and asked where our ship was berthed. He pointed to a vessel turning in the outer harbour.
‘You are booked on the next train to Calcutta, and an armed guard will accompany you’ said the agent.
‘How were we to know she was going to sail early?’
He shrugged his shoulders and spoke to the guard, who moved towards us to make sure we were not illegal immigrants trying to enter India.

As he did so we noticed a small rowing boat passing near the steps that led from the quay to the water, and we both ran down and jumped in to this boat. The dozing boatman was suddenly wide-awake.
We waved money at him and pointed to our ship in the outer harbour, and we set off in hot pursuit. Behind us the armed guard was not at all happy at losing his prisoners, but at least he didn’t fire at us.

Our ship was turning very slowly in the harbour, and the boatman was pulling on his oars like mad, in an effort to catch the Chakdara. While the boatman rowed, my friend and I stood in the stern shouting and waving like demented fools, in an effort to attract attention.

The ship completed her turn and was now pointing out to sea through the harbour entrance. We could see the white disturbance of the water caused by her propellers as she began to move ahead.
Suddenly the disturbance stopped and a Jacob’s ladder was lowered down to the water’s edge – they’d seen or heard us. The harbour and the quay were all brightly lit so perhaps someone was keeping an eye out, just in case.
We paid off the boatman and began the climb up the steep side of the ship, via the ladder.

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The picture shows Chakdara with the Jacob’s ladder hanging over the side – our problem was that it was half past midnight – not daylight as in the photograph. At least the deck crew shone a light over the side to assist our climb.

On nearing the top of the ladder the sound of the engines could be heard as half ahead was rung on the telegraph. Time was money.
As the senior cadet I was ordered to report to the Captain, to explain our lateness.
Even though I’d been told that we were not due to sail until after 6.00 am the following day, I was told that I should have known that we would have sailed early. At that comment from the Captain, I kept my mouth shut – I was not sure if he was joking or blaming us.

Next port was Calcutta.

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It was not a long voyage from Madras to Calcutta, but the river transit of the Hooghly was interesting due to the constant changing of the sandbanks. The distance from the sea to the docks is about 126 miles (203 km). We anchored at night and completed the river journey the following day.

riverfront-of-calcutta-in-1960sTwo BI ships working cargo from barges.

Once along side we began to work cargo. The problem was the monsoon season. We had to contend with heavy rain that stopped after about an hour allowing work to resume, and then perhaps half an hour later the rain would start again. We had a system of tarpaulin tents attached to the ship’s derricks and as soon as the rain started the tent was hauled up to cover each of the hatches to protect the cargo. Our time in Calcutta should have been for a few days, but turned in to more like a fortnight, all due to the monsoons. Even visiting Calcutta itself was no longer a pleasure, due to flooding and heavy rain.

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Street flooded in Calcutta 1964

Due to our inability to keep dry, when out and about, we entertained ourselves onboard, and of course the entertainment revolved around beer. Each evening around 10.00 pm one of the cadets would go ashore and buy curried suppers for those involved in the entertainment. We used to toss a coin for the first and second nights and after that took it in turns.
I lost the toss on the first night and trudged ashore to the local street stall just outside the dock gates. The food, various curries and rice, was packed in banana leaves, and tied with strong cotton. I hurried back with my load and handed the parcels around, and sat to enjoy my own with another cold beer. Unthinkingly I used the banana leaf as a vegetable. I thought the leaf was edible, forgetting that it was in place of a newspaper wrapping that we used in the UK for fish and chips. Fortunately I didn’t finish too much of the leaf, just enough for me to realise my mistake, but enough to keep me ‘regular’ for the next two days. Of course the others noticed me eating the leaf, but didn’t say anything – friendship?

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During the day it was the cadets’ duty to keep an eye on the loading, and that the cargo was being loaded correctly, and in the right order for discharge. This was well before containerisation.
As you see in the photograph it was all manhandled and loaded via the ship’s derricks. One time I remonstrated with the dockside supervisors about the stacking of the cargo on to the pallet, before the pallet was lifted from the ground to be deposited in the hold.
With indignation the supervisor raised himself to his full height, he came up to my shoulder, and stared in to my eyes, while saying with great dignity in his sing song Indian accent, ‘you think I know damn nothing, when in fact I know damn all!’
I nodded as if in agreement, turned and made my way to the officer’s accommodation where I could no longer hold in the laughter.

Finally, in spite of the rain, we managed to load all our cargo in a dry state, as well as a number of passengers who were returning to the UK. The additional faces in the dinning room and saloon expanded our conversational subjects beyond the sea and ships.

Three nuns joined us on their way home for retirement after they’d spent most of their lives in the hills of northern India as medical assistants, and spreading the gospel. They brought two dogs on board, and intended to pay for the six months quarantine in the UK, and keep them as pets. Part of our duties, as cadets, was to look after these animals, feed them, hose down the deck area that they were allowed to use, and make sure they didn’t fall overboard. The problem was that these dogs were vegetarians because the nuns could not afford to feed them meat during their time at hill station.

We had other passengers, which included a couple of teenage daughters who were around eighteen years of age. It was going to be an interesting voyage.
It was the 4th August before we eventually sailed out of the Hooghly River in to the Bay of Bengal.

For the next few days I was as sick as could be, due to the corkscrewing motion of the ship in the monsoons conditions. I hardly ate anything and would get sick cleaning my teeth. One way of losing weight I suppose, but when one is seasick and you are offered a gun to shoot yourself, you’d thank the gun giver. Seasickness is the most horrible feeling I’ve have ever experienced, because you can not stop the corkscrewing motion of the ship.

It was not until we were close to Ceylon that the ship’s corkscrewing changed to a steady roll, which was much easier on the body, allowing me to get used to an even roll in the ocean swell.
Finally we entered Trincomalee harbour, which is a natural beautiful circular harbor on the north east side of the country. We moored to a buoy and began to load chests of tea from barges, using our own derricks.

tea-chestThe loading was very labour intensive – loading a few chests of tea in to a cargo net, which would be brought on board and lowered in to the hold. A different labour gang would unload the net and then stack the tea chests in the appropriate area of the hold. In the meantime the empty cargo net is sent back for another load. This process started in the cool of the morning until lunchtime. After a lunch break the loading carried on until late afternoon. At night we would rig the cargo tents over the holds just in case of rain.
We were quite happy at the slow loading because it allowed us time to use the lifeboat to go ashore for picnics and a BBQ, along with some of the passengers. The lifeboat was powerful enough for me to be taught to ‘water ski’. I used a cargo pallet from the ship; a long rope from the lifeboat and my friends dragged me around the harbour behind the lifeboat.

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I must admit it was great fun, and it didn’t take me long to find my balance riding the hatch board, and to bounce over the lifeboat’s wake. The next time I tried water skiing would be in Victoria, Australia, twenty years later, so this small introduction at Trincomalee came in handy.

trincomalee-beachA small part of the beautiful beaches at Trinco where we had a BBQ.

Our next port was Madras – again, but this time I didn’t go ashore.