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Pete and Elaine's Travels

Hello all,
Welcome to our Travel page.
This is where we will try to keep a record of our travels beginning in 2011
-we will update it as often as we have time! Of course we are not continuously travelling, we come home after each journey!!!

Our first itinerary ;-
20th January to 23rd January, San Francisco
23rd January to 19th February, touring north and south islands of New Zealand
19th February fly to Sydney, Australia where we will be staying until 25th February,
26th February, land at Heathrow airport

Second journey;-
We took the caravan through Belgium, Switzerland and Italy, when we did lots of walking, sight seeing, painting and reading.

Third itinerary;-
To celebrate our Ruby wedding anniversary, on Wednesday September 7th 2011, we fly direct to China, with a short stopover in Dubai. On arrival in Beijing, we join the tour with Wendy Wu, spending the next month travelling the length and breadth of China.
We finish off the holiday with a couple of days in Dubai, returning home on October 7th.

Fourth journey;-
29th January to 16th February, South Africa
16th February to 20th February, Zambia

fifth journey:-
USA, September 4th to October 7th 2012

sixth journey:-
Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, flying January 19th 2013

Seventh journey:-
India and Nepal, flying November 21st and returning December 5th

Eighth journey
Chile, flying January 22nd and returning 4th February

Ninth journey
Namibia, flying on July 24th and returning on August 11th

10th journey
would you believe it, the 10th and off to Western Australia on July 6th finishing off in Singapore on the way back

And so to the 11th adventure, Secret Lapland, January 20th to Monday 25th January 2016

Well unbelievably the twelfth journey, we fly 18th March to Myanmar via Bangkok, and cruise on the Irrawaddy until April 3rd

And onto journey 13, from October 7th to October 18th, the Silk Road in Uzbekistan.

Journey 14 begins on Monday 6th March, 2017 when we travel to Southern India.

Diary Entries

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Location: Kochi, India

We set off by bus to explore the heritage site of Kochi fort( now just an area of Kochi ) with an excellent local guide.

It is an interesting place built on a natural harbour and full of a mixture of architectural styles emanating from its occupancy by the Portuguse, then the Dutch and then the British.

The bus dropped us off near the Dhobi Ghats, the 100 year old washing vats. We passed a shop which was the government's Food distribution Centre. Locals queue for food and are given supplies on producing their ID card. Everyone now has an ID card which is the first step to increasing the payment of tax, currently running at 3.8 per cent.

Next door was the pharmacy where you can get anything over the counter without a prescription.

We wandered on down the narrow street to the vats, passing several goats. These roam the streets of old Kochi. They are owned by the locals but the owners are mysteriously absent. Some 1500 are released each morning to scavenge as they please and every evening, they simply return home, just like that. Typical of India.

We arrived at the Dhobi vats. Laundromat is just not the right word to use for the place. It was a must see experience. There are no electric washers involved in laundering clothes, hotel sheets and restaurant napkins. Everything imaginable is dropped off daily in the mornings to be manually scrubbed clean in giant cement vats. There are about twenty cement stalls of not not so clean looking water which is ready and waiting for the next piece of laundry. It must be one of India's mysteries how the clothes get to be so clean. The workers are untouchables who charge about twenty five rupees, twenty pence, to launder for example a shirt.
People here look much too old to be labouring and they ignore our presence as we poke around.
The washing is twisted tightly to remove as much moisture as possible, than hung out to dry in a neighbouring yard where rope is strung between bamboo poles. Once dry, a very hefty iron filled with burning coconut shells is used to impressively press the clothes. Forget electricity. Coconut and arm muscle work just fine here but it's definitely not for me!

We continued to wander through the streets full of hawkers, until at last we found ourselves at the waters's edge where the famous Chinese fishing nets hover over the sea like scrawny aliens. We picked our way through the garbage and the tacky stalls lining the shoreline until we got out onto a rickety wooden dock. Several members of the group hauled on the ropes to lower the heavy stones which raised and lowered the sprawling nets into the water, and all for three fish!

We boarded the bus again to drive to the church of St Francis, the oldest Christian church in India. It was here that Vasco de Gama was originally buried before his sons moved his bones to Lisbon. His original tomb is still there.
And next door, atreat, the hotel where the Real MRigold Hotel was filmed. We were all delighted to find it.

We went onto Mandicherry Palace, now a museum but the richly decorated murals depicting religious scenes which adorned the walls were a joy to see.

Nestling in the heart of the old city in a cul de sac at the end of a narrow lane is India's oldest synagogue. Here is a superbly decorated crafted brass pulpit and the floor tiles were from Stoke on Trent.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Location: Kochi, India

We left the lovely Coconut Lagoon this morning for the short drive to Kochi and the Marriot Hotel.

Kochi is a large cosmopolitan city. The European influence was evident as passed Porsche, Ducati, and the like on our way to the hotel.
We stopped at a government wine shop before reaching the hotel only to find that they had sold out of wine and beer. Brandy lovers were in luck however.

The Marriot hotel has bizarrely no licence for alcohol on its premises, hence the consternation. Nevertheless, it is a lovely hotel, very modern but gone is the Indian and in has come 'the anywhere in the world feel' in deed at dinner, this is the first time that we have found international cuisine in the restaurant.

The hotel has a vintage style buggy for the use of its residents which takes them to the nearby Lulu shopping mall, the biggest in India. Even though the entrance to the mall is only five minutes walk, we had to try the buggy. But again in the mall you could be anywhere in the world, except that it is spotlessly clean, except for the dire toilets ...and full of every brand shop you could name. Security was very tight, with scanners to get in as into every hotel we have been in plus numerous security guards in and out side of the shops patrolling round keeping an eye open, The hypermarket had a fantastic array of food however. We did notice how many Muslim people there were here so of course the supermarket catered for their culture.

Tonight before dinner we were taken to the Cultural Centre at Ernakalum, seven miles east of Kochi to learn about the 400 year old Kathakali which literally means story play. We had seen a sample of this creative art a couple of nights ago but tonight we were given a greater insight into this stylised art form. With painted faces and splendidly vivid costumes, two characters from Indian epics danced the story accompanied by a percussionist.
It is not everyone's cup of tea, Pete being one of them, but I thought it was fascinating. Apparently dancers often perform at festivals in the temples. The show is a lengthy process starting at 9pm and going on until 6 in the morning. I don't think I could have lasted that long but an hour's performance was fine.

The evening was in three parts. Firstly we watched the actors mixing natural pigments to turn themselves into mythical beings, step by step. Add the brilliant head gear and voluminous costumes and you get a fabulous scene in front of you.
Next came a demonstration and explanation of the eye movements and gestures followed by an outline of the story to give the audience an insight into the drama. This performance followed tradition by having a male actor playing a female part.

After watching all of this, I can now understand why it takes an actor years to train!

Monday, 20 March 2017

Location: Kerala, India

Early morning yoga on the lake side this morning, was a real treat. It was a very special experience on a dais on the lake shore but one which Pete declined!

Later in the morning, we joined our group for a walk in the neighbouring village. It was supposed to be through the paddy fields but these had been harvested and were as dry as could be. Everyone is waiting for the rains and praying for a good monsoon, something which they have not had for some years. Nevertheless, the walk was very enjoyable and it gave us chance to meet the locals at first hand and again remarkied at how happy and free from temper and tantrums the children were.The houses, some small some palatial, were set amongst the coconut groves and paddy fields. In the centre was the small temple. There was even the tuk tuk laden with goods which was the mobile shop.

Every house has its canoe. Essential for transporting people and goods. Several locals undertake shell mining.......25000 tonnes of black clams are harvested each year from the lake. The contents are a speciality and eaten as a source of protein whilst the shells are sold for industrial use.

There is much activity reinforcing the canal and river sides in preparation for the monsoon, sometimes with concrete, other times with silt. We watched the grim task of the men diving down to the bottom of the canals to scrape up the silt with bare hands, bring it to the surface and pile it up on the side of the water to create a higher bank. It also helps to dredge the waterways.

We were also able to get a closer look at the Kerala house boats. Traditionally they are made from wood and coir rope and not a single nail is used in their construction. The finished boat is coated with a resin made from boiled cashew nut shells. Many are now motorised but it is still possible to find those powered by a skilful chappie equipped only with along and stout bamboo pole...and there is no shortage of bamboo.

It is certainly a lovely area. According to legend, Parasurama, the sixth incarnation of Vishnu created Kerala by throwing his axe into the sea. The abundance of idyllic canals and lagoons and lakes in the state seem to reinforce this legend of land born from the sea.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Location: Lake Vembanadu, India

The Coconut Lagoon is an idyllic place. Everything seems unhurried here. Indeed the heat and humidity make it impossible to rush around.
Our outdoor bathroom is a godsend and is in its own enclosure is rather nice having a shower in the open air.

We were up and out by 7 this morning to go on a bird watching tour. The ranger was excellent spotting over thirty species of birds in the grounds, along the lakeside and in the nearby paddy fields where we also came across water buffaloes enjoying the water. A fabulous way to spend a couple of hours.

Later we set off on a Kerala Reed boat for a cruise across the lake and along the backwaters. Lunch on board left a lot to be desired as did the trip across the lake as there was little to see but things improved as we got into the canals, particularly when we came to a village. The houses are alongside the river so annually in the monsoon they get flooded and wiped out. We got off the boat at one point and walked along past the houses.

There is quite a network of rivers and canals opening into the lake.....In the past it was the main means of transport for the transportation of Southern Indian spices to the distant shores of European countries. The area became known as the land of the short people as the Europeans first saw the locals knee deep in paddy fields and thought that they were little people!

It is a lovely place where life seems to have its own rhythm.

A surprise tonight, we were treated at dinner, to a performance of Kathakali, Kerala's 400 year old classical dance drama, where the actors wear very heavy mask like make up and colourful voluminous skirts, enhanced by elaborate headdresses and heavy jewellery. The dance enacts stories from the epics through fantastic facial movements which conveys emotions and dialogue.

And a bonus.....
We have another performance to look forward to in a few days time.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Location: Kumarakom, India

Today's ride was a real treat travelling up and over the hilly area of Kerala. The region is in stark contrast to the abject poverty of many areas of Tamil Nadu in the east. Back street garages and roadside stalls have been replaced by modern shops selling everything you would need from furniture to electrical goods with many recognisable brand names. Three are vast houses set amongst plantations of coconut, rubber, spices, cocoa and tea. There is huge wealth here. Many of the most beautiful villas are owned by Europeans who enjoy the more temperate climate. Many owners work in the Middle East and plough money back into the economy of Kerala. Hence the large mansions, the up market shops and the rich church buildings. Money was also ploughed into education and most people in the state can read and write.

The people here are just as warm and welcoming. We stopped by the roadside to watch the women picking tea on a plantation and then later on at a rubber plantation.

One of the funniest things we did on the journey was to search for alcohol. There are very strict alcohol rules in Kerala. The wine shops are only open at government regulated times because years ago people were becoming addicted to alcohol and there was a serious problem.
We stopped not far from our hotel and we walked along a very narrow back street until we came to what looked like two derelict lock ups.
Those of you who have watched the Real Marigold hotel will have seen Bill Oddy and chums taken to buy wine. Well this was such a place, a real experience. There were long queues of men waiting in front of a grill, and here you pay at one window, and move along to collect it from another. The trouble is you have no idea what you are buying as you cannot see into the gloom and we had no idea what was being sold, so we played safe and bought a couple of beers. And all the while the queue of men watched as we all jumped the queue. It was aright free for all.

Our final destination was seven miles west of Kottayam. We arrived at the bird sanctuary at Kumarakom, where we got off the bus and loaded cases and people onto a boat to be taken to our hotel, The Coconut Lagoon on an island on the edge of Vembaned Lake.

This is fabulous hotel in a beautiful setting and we are housed in lodges by the side of a network of canals and waterways. The grounds are home to a profusion of tree and plant species which attract all manner of birds.

Before dinner we were taken out into the lake to sit and watch the sunset.

Another loveliest of places.

Friday, 17 March 2017

Location: Thekkady, India

Kerala itself nestles between the western ghats and the Arabian Sea. It is a lovely place made up of a mosaic of coconut groves, paddy fields, verdant hills and rainforests. The ghats are covered with teak, sandalwood and rose wood and in the monsoon period there are a wide gariety of orchids.

The construction of the Mullaperiyar Dam across the Periyar River in 1895 submerged large tracts of land but made the British engineer a hero. A large lake was created with hydro electric power. The lake covered an area of 10 square miles but it is only full in monsoon months. The surrounding area was declared a wildlife sanctuary. It is the current community which respects and preserves the ecosystem which has been set up here. This today extends to an area of 300 sq miles. In 1978 the sanctuary was declared a tiger reserve.

This morning, we were off at 6.30a.m. to go trekking along the shores and then on into the rainforest.
We are only a few minutes from the park so it was a short journey by bus.
Before we could set off, we were kitted out in boot like gaiters which fitted over our socks and inside the shoes to prevent leeches from accessing our feet. We did think that this was a little extreme until on our return we found the said creatures inside our shoes!
We were in groups of five for our trek and we really enjoyed it, although we didn't see much. The tourists have unwittingly shifted the animal population to more remote area. We did see evidence that they had been in the area overnight, lots of the dung of elephants, porcupine, blackbuck deer. We also saw two day old tiger paws which caused great excitement with our guide. We did see a lovely mongoose and an elephant and plenty of Langur and Macaque monkeys, plus a variety of birds. There are currently 63 mammals living in the park including pumas and wild dogs and boar. On the last count there were 42 tigers left and a 1000 elephants.

There is little problem with poaching now as the community protect its own, better late than never.

Before dinner we watched dancers who performed traditional sequences to the classical music of Southern India known as Carnatic music. It uses a combination of instruments and percussion. This is Bharat Natyam traditional dancing from Tamil Nadu. The music is based on the concepts of rhythm and melody. It is devotional in character originating from a form of worship. The dance movements are chiselled and the stances regularly symmetrical. Hands and feet are coloured red to draw attention to the intricate movements. The eye and hand movements are very eloquent and these are enhanced by the beautifully brightly coloured dresses. Elaborate jewellery is worn and fresh flowers adorn the hair.
All very lovely. A perfect way to end a day.

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Recent Messages

From Mike and Anne
Hi glad your holiday is going well. Enjoying reading your blog interesting as ever. Looking on the bright side a 'dry' March will help with the medication xx
Response: Dry and searing heat, but much better than rain although there was a terrific downpour in the night. Hope all,is well
From Sister
Maybe it is really me, accompanying you surreptitiously to keep an eye on you. I have never been called 'scary' before, even by students. X
Response: Mmm, how do you know that!!
From sister
Looking forward, as always, to accompanying you on your journey. XX
Response: We have an Aunty Dotty look alike with us in the group, mannerisms the lot! How scary is that!!!!!!
From Sister
Delighted to be back on my vicarious travels. Sounds fascinating already. XX
Response: It all seems a bit surreal to be standing in these historic places dating back to the first century BC!
From Kathy & Ken
So jealous - looks like you had another amazing adventure x
Response: Keep stashing away the money whilst you work!!!!!
From Angela and Gilbert
What an experience, can't wait to view the pictures
Response: It was indeed! Now waiting at Bangkok airport for the flight home
From KB
Hola parents,

You look like are having a fab time. Just catching up on your blog. Keep safe xx
Response: Hello babbie
Am trying to get blog up to date, wifi very iffy, hope you had a good easter
From Sue Brockwell
Happy Easter. Sounds a fascinating hol. Now in Isle of Man. House with lovely views out to sea. Drive across island and lunch out next plan. X
Response: Ooh, we liked the Isle of Man, it was like going back in timehope the sun shines for you. It has been forty plus degrees here and feels hotter!
From Sister
Fascinating. Look forward to seeing the photographs. I think I would have been annoyed at being kept back because I was a girl, though. That would have gone against the grain. However, we have to respect cultural differences if we are visitors! XX
Response: Fascinating is the right word to use. Something to see at every turn
From Sue and Les
We are having a BBQ tonight a bit nearer home in the illustrious Padstow. We now have full family complement so not a dull moment. Glad you are having a great time. We are enjoying reading the updates.
Response: I hope it's Aussie style BBQ with plenty of steak and fish. Hope the weather is staying kind for you all, you must be well into the school holidays by now, looking forward to seeing you when we get home.
From JB
Brilliant story on 29th July Mother; did Nana never teach you not to get in cars with strangers (particularly naked ones)!
Response: Nan never knew any naked men I am sure!! I can just imaging her comment!!!! And
Well, I wouldn't have minded but he was over seventy and every inch of skin was a chocolate brown colour! When he got out of the car when we got to dad, his comment' I hope you don't mind your wife travelling in a car with a naked man' Father's comment..'No'
You will be pleased to know that your father has tried to outdo you with the hobo look, as he refused to shave, except he didn't look suave, just a slim version of Santa Claus in the making. Once it got hot, it started to itch and it all came off!!!!'no staying power
From Sandra/Dave
Pleased to read you are enjoying yourselves. Nipped round to yours, everything fine, lawn green and neatly trimmed. Weather here not good at the moment, rained most of yesterday, slightly better today. X
Response: Ouch, rain not good, we are now in the heat, 35 degrees, this has been quite an adventure with lots of stories to tell!!! Off,East tomorrow, we are finding that Australia doen't like yahoo so we are finding it difficult to get and send emails. Thank you so much for popping round to the house.
From Anne & Mike
Enjoying your blog. Glad your having a good time xx
Response: Hello both, tried to ring you before we came away but I guess you had not returned from your travels..hope you had a great time. We are now in Exmouth, wifi very difficult, am sitting in the visitors centre with 30 mins free wifi, will try to update blog when I can, all good here, have had a problem with a broken windscreen, stone from a road train didn't like us, all taped up, trying to get to Broome to sort it out...britz tried to send us to the nearest repair place which was 500 miles from here in the other direction! Just going to book a glass bottomed boat trip over the reef, they are trying to get us to go snorkelling but we wouldn't look cool with the woggle under our arms as we are not that confident swimmers
From Lynne
Looks like you are having a great time. It all sounds amazing. We look forward to reading some more! Continue to enjoy x it was lovely to see Christine and Charles We had a good catch up xx
Response: Are your jaws aching then???
You would also like it here! Just finished the first leg of the holiday, now for the northern bit and the heat. Ironic to be away in the British heatwave!
From Sister
Sounds fascinating. Interesting that Elaine's ancestors may have been among the earliest emigrants-albeit compulsory ones. XX
Response: I think compulsory might have been right, dodgy stock as Pete says!!
From Clare & Mart
Enjoy!! xx
Response: A fab place, you would both love this lifestyle. We'll let you know what the Motorhome holds in store for us!
From Sister
Sounds fascinating! Hope you find a woolly jumper shop! XX
Response: Yep, entrance to fish river canyon sold a fleece, weather now much warmer!!!!!!
From sister
Was there no room in your luggage allowance for me to curl up in a suitcase? Lovely to follow your travels again, anyway. XX
Response: Sorry, no room. It looks as if we shall have some splendid places to visit in the coming days.
From Mollie and Lindsay
Congratulations Elaine and Pete.
What a marvellous account of our wonderful holiday in India and Nepal. Greatly appreciated.
Tummy back to normal at last.
Many thanks for your hard work.
Mollie and Lindsay
Response: Nice to know that it brought back memories, mostly good ones I hope
From Doris
Glad to be back to my vicarious travelling-always fascinating and instructive. XX
Response: Vicarious might be the right word, this is a fascinating place...and tomorrow we leave India and are off to Nepal
From Barbara Keen
Hi Elaine& Pete

Read your log today, and it is a very good reminder of all we did and what we saw during our adventure.

Best Wishes Barbara&Reg Keen.xx
hope I got it right then!
From Sister
Hope the Cambodians are celebrating Pete's birthday in a traditional manner-whatever that may be. Happy Birthday! XXX
Response: Nope they do not celebrate birthdays, but the group have remembered him, very kind of them!
From Mike and Anne
Happy Birthday Pete don't let your advancing years spoil the rest of your holiday! Enjoy:-)
Response: Thank you both, he's had many comments on his advancing years, let's hope there are many more! Hope you are not too snowed in And all is well. Very hot indeed here, will be a shock to get home!!
From sister
Hope you bought me a North Face coat for £35- a nice long one preferably! XXXX
Response: Sorry can't carry more than one, had enough trouble haggling for that one
From Sister
Particularly enjoying the usual vicarious travel as it is snowy and icy here. Thank goodness for online groceries! Fascinating, as usual. I am sure I could have curled up small in your luggage. XXXX
Response: This holiday is again very different as we knew it would be .. The biggest surprise is the food which is delicious.. Many extra pounds will be gained I fear. So no online ordering for us when we get back.