8.11.2007

Kerala: Allepey's Nehru Snake Boat Races

At 8am Jessica and I caught the "super fast" bus to Allepey from Ernakulem (just a ferry ride away from where we are staying in Kochin). Like most of India's transportation: it consistently gets the job done but is somewhat of a joke: since at about ~0.7km/min we aren't exactly flying down the coast. This is understandable though given the foot-deep potholes and frequent puddle-lakes. Nevertheless I manage to stand and read for a while and only fly into the man in front of me twice because of the violet braking (no doubt due to a stray cow or swerving scooter rider). Once I get a seat I even manage a bit of a nap. On arrival to Allepey we are greated by traditional Keralan drumming and custumed dancing that launch the day's festivities. We watched the young female dancers with elaborate costumes and makeup as well as teh oversized dancing heads and peacocks that praced around to the beat of the drums. We took a ferry (which we barely arrived on time for) over to the spectator's island near the finish line. Then began the 3 hour waiting period while the boats warmed up and we waited for the appropraite local government dignitaries to arrive. Luckily for us we ended up sitting adjacent to poart of the Allepey home-crowd: specifically about 40, very happy (read intoxicated) men between 20 and 50 singing, eating, yelling and dancing...and it was all too clear that the abundant police presence wouldn't attempt to exert much control over this boisterous bunch. These men continually handed us food and entertained brief conversations in English explainging which teams were favored, which teams had new boats and how much they cost and how the rowers were chosen for each team. The pictures for this day are great and I wil post them as soon as I can. Just imagine a crew team on a 135 foot wooden boat with a crew of 105 men. Most of them rowing, but several positions are reserved for cheerleaders and at least one for bailing water out of the boat during the race. However, perhaps more bailers could have been used on several boats because at least 3 times yesterday we witnessed a long line of heads above the water..they certainly take "going down with the ship" literally - somehow they would manage to maneuver the sunken boats to the river's edge while staying in their original spots. We met some medical and dental students from the UK at the race and had a lovely dinner with them before heading back to the bus station. Lovely, but long day. Today we plan to take it easy...slept in, breakfast at the Kashi art cafe (a little piece of european, starbucks in the Keralan backwaters) and will head over for an Ayurvedic massage after this stint in the internet cafe...and then we'l find a little garden restaurant for lunch :)

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