I have to admit this part of the trip happened to be much more interesting than what we expected in terms of sociology. We went from our hotel room in a super popular neighborhood of Mumbai, with rats and garbage, to a shiny cruise boat, full with fat Western tourists and where our towels were changed every day.
In Mumbai, people would sometimes ask us some food. On the boat, food was free (well it’s been paid in your cruise rate). And people wasted it. A lot. People with fat bellies, red skin, and no clue that taking a plate full of food and leaving it to take another one is just unbearable and unethical. While the boat was in India, they stayed on board and spent most of their time burning under the sun, eating Western food, taking Latin dance classes with the crew… We wondered what travel meant to them… It made us think about the definition of travel. Alex came out with a definition of what travel is for us: travelling is understanding the places where we go. We’d be interested to know what yours is! For them I guess it was: travelling is having fun and forgetting about daily life tasks. But then what’s the point of being in India if you act as you hadn’t left Europe? It’s contrary to sustainable tourism which should be travellers major priority in today’s world.
On the positive side, the cruise helped us to get back to the gym, and to a balanced food diet. There is a good variety of food which just needs to be eaten in a reasonable way… As engineers we also wondered about the best practices to establish in order for a cruise company like Costa to avoid such waste of food on board…
But don’t get us wrong, even if the majority of people was as we described, and even if we were the youngest ones on board (by far), we also met lovely French people that felt the same as us. The French ship attendant was adorable and we wish we could have asked her more about her work: several months non stop on the boat (no weekends) and then a break. We also met friendly retired people. I guess they were here because a cruise is still a nice way to go from point A to B in a comfortable and fun environment. Not everyone should break their comfort zone as long as they are happy with it.
But let’s go back in India for the last time. After leaving Mumbai we had one day at sea and then we made a first stop in Mangalore. The boat arrived in New Mangalore Port that looked quite away from the city. We disembarked and headed to the exit of the port. We passed several big coaches, reserved for passengers doing excursions with the company. Excursions must be the way for the company to make profits during cruises. The visit of Mangalore was priced at 50 euros per person. We decided to play a game and see how much it would cost to us. When exiting the port, we were literally harassed by taxi and tuktuk drivers asking us to pay 20 euros to go to the city centre. We run away from them. We arrived on a highway leading directly to the centre of Mangalore so we took our chance and jumped on the first bus we saw that looked like a public bus. After a moment when we did not know where we were going, we asked for some help and passengers indicated us we were on the right bus to go to the city. Cost of the ride: less than 1 euro for two. In the city centre, we found the passengers from the excursions and we even could listen to their tourist guides. We visited Gokarnanath Temple, walked to a smaller temple where we were alone and walked to the beautiful Saint Aloysius Church.
Then we found another bus to go to Mandala Devi temple where we ended up to be the only tourists in the middle of hundreds of Indian people praying in a trance. There was a big gathering inside the temple. It was hot and women pressed against each other pushed me to see a ceremony with the deity. Everyone streched their neck to see something. People started to play music. It was intense!
After that, we had the chance to find another bus in front of the temple that brought us back directly to the port. We really had a great time visiting Mangalore. People were very friendly, especially on the bus. We lived a great experience in the temple. The cost of this day was only 1.5 euros per person… far from the 50 euros people paid to do an excursion in the city! The price for staying in one’s comfort zone.
Our second stop was Cochin or Kochi, a beautiful town with Portuguese influence. By chance, the boat was next to the little ferry terminal providing services to Fort Kochi and Mantcherry. So we took the ferry to go to Fort Kochi where all the beautiful colonial architecture can be seen. We wandered along the sea, admiring the Chinese fish nests. We visited Saint Francis Church where Vasco de Gama was buried before his rests were taken back to Portugal. We walked along the nice colored streets.
We enjoyed our last moments in India with a friendly group of young Indians. When boarding the boat, we felt a bit nostalgic. However we quickly had to forget our melancholic mood. Once on the boat, we could see from the crew that there was an issue with us. The crew asked us to wait because the Indian immigration wanted to ask us some questions… We felt a bit nervous. Booking the cruise had not been easy because of our single entry Indian visa. With all this hassle with the Indian rules, we wondered if there was an issue because we came by land from Pakistan. Then things got worse. We were disembarked and got onto a car to be driven to the immigration office in the port. There, we were lead to the office of the Immigration chief officer, a lady who invited us to sit down with a firm tone. She started to ask us tons of rapid questions. She seemed to know a lot about us, that we lived in Singapore, that we had come twice to Pakistan. She was aiming at knowing why we had come to Pakistan. We answered her questions, told her we were travellers, we had a travel blog and we had this challenge to travel without taking any flight. After a few minutes, she must have realized we were not spies so the questioning evolved to a more normal conversation. She changed her speech and wanted to know more about our feelings about Pakistan and India as travellers. Finally she told us she wanted to see us at first because of the “big amount of stamps in [y]our passports”. The conversation ended in a quite friendly way and she told us to come back again to India. For sure we will!
That time we really left India and boarded on our ship. A few hours later we left the port of Kochi, ready for our next adventure… And guess what, our cruise’s next stop was in the Maldives!