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Friday, May 12th, 2006

Time Event
Hard day
I went out to the Chennai airport an hour early to take advantage of the
free WiFi there, and did so successfully. But when it came time to get
my bag inspected (the sequence is: get your checked baggage scanned,
then go to the airline desk with it), I was told the flight was delayed,
so the scanning was delayed. An hour later, they scanned it, and I was
able to check in for the flight (although in the process of telling the
scanner operator what those things were in my baggage, either I didn't
get a clearance sticker, or it got lost, so I had to retrace my path
(this was facilitated by the Air Deccan baggage person who remembered me
from my vain attempts to get my baggage scanned, and knew that it had
been scanned)). And I couldn't even play on ther internet, since the system there was showing no connectivity for the rest of the afternoon.

So the flight was 3 hours late, and then I got a taxi driver who didn't know where either destination was, on a hot Saturday night. It took 2+ hours to get to the hotel, including finding that the office where I needed to pick up my boat ticket and clearance papers was closed. One
of the people hanging out there contacted the proprietor, who told me to show up at 9 the next morning. Given the awful traffic getting there, I opted to be conservative so got an early breakfast and 8AM taxi. Of course, on Sunday morning, it was all very easy and quick, and I was on board by 9:30AM. And of course, I'd been told to be at the dock at 10:30, but the last passengers arrived at 11:30 and we sailed shortly after noon.

The boat is pretty comfortable, except for the ubiquitous and loud televisions. I had to cause a hassle to get moved from directly (2 feet) in front of one that was very loud. The sound is still there, but is now almost background level.

What is it about television? I've been tortured by it at breakfast every morning (and at the hotel in Chennai, the staff channel surfed continuously, and got very blank when I asked if it could be turned down or off). I met my German friends for dinner at a restaurant that Frank remembered as being very nice and quiet, only to discover that they'd installed a large television and showed Indian music videos throughout the meal. My guidebook says that it had Indian classical music playing in the evening. Just to top it off, I had the stringiest bhindi (okra or lady fingers) that I've ever had. We were all disappointed.

The hotel, Fort House in Fort Kochi, in spite of my driver's difficulty in finding it, seems to be perfect. It's actually on the water, between the ferry stops, and they serve good food on their own jetty. They were very good about helping me organize things last night, and will book both the backwaters tour I want and performances at the Kathakali Centre which is actually just down the street. So I have that to look forward to.

It turns out, I'm going to Lakshadweep on the tail end of the shoulder season so the cost would be cut in half next week. And I've been given a badge to wear around my neck that identifies me as a tourist from the Agatti Island Beach Resort when in the islands.

Our carefully composed emails to the various DX foundations garnered promises of grants of a substantial portion of the cost of the radio that he had, so he left it at the Polytehcnic in Port Blair. I donated an antenna, and will just see if I can beg a good deal on the replacement from the manufacturer.

I calculated that I have 9 flights and four boat rides on this trip.
That's not my record for flights though.
Lakshadweep and back
Written Thursday afternoon and evening, 11 May.
I still have no idea when I'll be able to actually post this. I'm hopeful about a cybercafe in Fort Cochin, or maybe I can make the dialup work from the hotel.

I'm currently on the ship back to Cochin. The ship ride really isn't
too bad, in fact, and since I made friends with the Indian tourists who
were also at the resort, and are also on the ship, I'm among friends. There's an enclave of about 16 of us all seated together on the ship, which has been most useful when there have been some problems with seat assignments.

The Agatti Island Beach Resort is actually exactly what a beach resort
should be, I think, given it's on the far side of the world.
The rooms are clean and quite comfortable, only missing the bedside
reading light to be ideal. It is India, so there's no hot water, but
it's hot enough so that doesn't matter. Energy is a problem here,
with electricity being supplied by a noisy diesel plant (well up the
road) and a 100KW solar array. And you pay for that energy- an air-conditioned room costs 50% more than the same room with the AC unavailable.

The diving was pretty good, with much better visibility than I found in the Andamans, but I was the only tourist diver, so I was
diving with the dive master, Willy (originally from Edinburgh) and his 13 year old daughter, Zenobia. He lives in Goa during the off season <goadivin@sancharnet.in>, (starting tomorrow, apparently) and Zen goes to school during the monsoon. Apparently largely because of my enthusiasm, several of the Indians did the lagoon dive, and because some of them were very inexperienced in the water, I ended up leading one around, showing many of the sights in the lagoon very successfully. There was lots of interesting stuff to see near beach, for a maximum depth on that dive of 1.9 meters. The more conventional dives produced sightings of many turtles, several rays, lobsters, some amazingly colored puffer fish, several moray eels, a shark, a lion fish, a BIG grouper and many small reef fish, as well as a lot of good hard corals.

I borrowed a bicycle,and rode the 7 km length of the island and back,
visiting the pier and the village on the way. My right arm got tired
from waving at everyone as we exchanged greetings. I found the local bike shop, and if we get back here on a VU7 DXpedition, I'll probably buy a bike.

I'd picked up William McCall Smith`s book, _44 Scotland Street_, set in
Edinburgh, because it was published in The Scotsman as a daily serial,
after a conversation Smith had with Armistad Maupin about _Tales of The
City_. I'd enjoyed that the Chronicle when it came out, but don't
really think it held up to the rereading. This book reminded me a lot of _Tales of the City_, but the surprising bit was when one of the major
characters, a woman from and living in Edinburgh, had lived in Cochin
and some of her story was told. I left the book with Willie,
obviously. I'm now reading _The Moor's Last Sigh_ but I knew that was
set in Cochin. It has made a bit of difference in my sightseeing plans, too.

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