After a good few days in Munnar checking out some really amazing landscape, we decided to move on to Alleppey (also called Alappuzha). We had booked the driver from the day before, though mysteriously, some other driver showed up. We attempted to confirm the price with him before he left – which is when we realized that the guy did not speak English or Hindi , so we were unable to communicate with him. We’d booked the ride through our contact at the homestay, so it was okay (at first). He stopped off at the gas station in town before heading out. At the gas station, we saw a person walking away with a water bottle filled with an apple juice colored liquid, which we quickly realized was gasoline. No “approved containers” are necessary in India, I guess. Must’ve run out of gas and needed to fill up, so he took whatever container he had. Will keep in mind the next time I run out of gas!
On the way to Alleppey, our driver decided he wanted to get there as fast as possible, so he kept trying to overtake people (on the two-lane road). This led to several close calls. In addition, Munnar is in the hills, so he was essentially going down the mountain, which meant lots of windy, curvy roads. Rachel started feeling sick again, so she laid down in my lap, while we were driving, though we alternated laying down when I started feeling sleepy. The driver’s propensity to overtake all vehicles at any speed led to … a car accident! The driver was going around a curve, couldn’t see well, was trying to overtake a big commuter bus, realized he couldn’t make it because of oncoming traffic, but couldn’t slow down fast enough to get back over – so he clipped the rear fender of the bus.
He pulls over and quickly gets out of the car. The conductor on the bus, and several passengers get off. They all start milling around our car and the driver. We’re confused about what to do, so we eventually get out and stand there. Random drivers on the road periodically pulled off, got out to talk to the crowd, pretended to look all serious at us like we were horrible people, and then drove off. The inner mob mentality was sort of funny to watch.
After some 15 minutes or so, the driver comes up to us and asks for 200 rupees. He said the bus driver was letting him off the hook with a quick payoff of 400 rupees, though he was short some. So we pay up, he pays the bus driver, and all is well.
Continuing on through the journey, we realize that the driver has no idea where he is going. He stops several times to ask for directions. Once we get to Alleppey, he stopped at least 4 times to ask for directions. We didn’t even speak the local language, yet we understood when someone said go straight…right…right…left… The driver would go straight, turn right – and then ask for directions again. He eventually gets us there, approximately 5-1/2 hours later. We pay him the remainder of the fee (the original minus the 200 rupees for the accident), but he just stands there expecting a tip. He gets into a car accident, didn’t even know how to get to the city in the first place before he even agreed to take the fare, took longer than he said – and he wants a tip?
So we pulled up to the homestay in Alleppey. From the outside, it looked extremely shady. Down a very narrow alley (about 8 feet wide), and protected by a large metal gate. We walk in though, and breathe a sigh of relief. Freshly painted with lots of wicker furniture and looking well-maintained. The receptionist (and maybe owner?) Uma spoke English very well and was very helpful, answering each of our questions. Through her, we booked our houseboat for the following day, and got directions to a few places in town. We checked in to the large, clean, air-conditioned room, took a quick nap, and then headed out. We decided that we were a bit low on funds, so we started walking the 3 kilometers to the beach. After what felt like 3 kilometers, and realizing we still couldn’t see where the beach was, we turned back. We’d read a review online of a restaurant called “Thaff” that was supposed to have some Arabian-influenced food. Nope. Just another generic Indian restaurant. And just like Rapsy’s in Munnar – cooked, but boring/bland.
The Ashtamudi homestay had an upstairs area that is covered in bamboo husked walls, though it has no air conditioning in any of the rooms up there. Lots of chairs, tables, lounge chairs and even a karem board made it very inviting and friendly. There were two older gentlemen there whom we struck up a conversation with – Udo (a retired customs officer from Germany on a solo backpacking trip without his wife) and Peter (a British charity founder here on some charity work funded by the British government). The two of them had each just arrived in the week before us, but had apparently stayed at the same homestay in the past, at the same time, and so they were familiar with each other. We swapped stories, shared some laughs and thoughts about passports, visas, and the local effects of tourism. After talking for an hour and a half or so, we turned in for the night. Overall, our stay at the Ashtamudi homestay was a great experience and we could understand why Peter and Udo came there over and over again.