samnstew

29 Nov – 12 December: In limbo in Fort Cochin, not knowing if we’d make it home for Christmas

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After breakfast we got ourselves ready to set off in search of the shipping agent contact we had – Mr Joshua Vinay, and Aspinwall and CO, on Willingdon Island. We took the laptop, with all the information, the documents we had, and our passports, as well as our books and a bottle of water, all in the back pack. We just weren’t sure how we’d get on, and wanted to be prepared if we had a long wait, And we’d decided to take the passenger ferry and walk, as it didn’t seem too far, and definitely shorter than going by road.

We were so pleasantly surprised by the whole place – still rather languid and laid back. The small ancient ferry cost us 4 rp each, as we boarded with a few locals, some with bicycles and a couple more tourists. It was only a 10 minute crossing, and even though the waters were grubby shipping lanes, and the visibility still a milky haze, it was nice to get a different view of the lay of the land.

The port area had really only been developed from the 1940’s, and it was on a well laid out grid, with buildings, residences, offices and bungalows on spacious grounds. It wasn’t crowded at all, compared with all the built up Indian cities. We wandered along, getting touted for tut-tut rides – asking $5 USD, for city tour! Here prices are driven by the luxury cruise liners that come into port. We could see one moored up nearby! We politely declined and walked on, pretty much knowing where we were headed.

We found the place pretty easy after asking at the company weigh bridge, and as we entered the very cool (AC) offices, Mr Vinay came out to greet us, with Mr. Paul (and later we met Iden too). So amazingly, things seemed to be in progress…..so no real issues (only we didn’t have an export permit from Oz, and into India – but we explained our situation). Though we really couldn’t be certain what would happen with the crating – they would just pack round the bike, but we had a couple of photos to show, and said we wanted it packing down to 2.5 m3 (to reduce costs). They said they would find out, if Stew could work on the packing at the warehouse. For now they told us it was 2 -3 days to clear the paperwork (Well, that turned out to be more like 12 days!!), so there was nothing more we could do. Hopefully news by Friday – they had our email, knew where we were staying in Fort Kochi (Casa Linda), and Iden said he would come to the guesthouse if they needed any more paperwork from us. With hand shakes, we said our thanks, and we’d wait to hear from them – and headed back onto the street.

We wandered up to the old port buildings and found a small heritage museum, and went in for a look (only 10 rp). It was the old engineers quarters from the 1940’s when Sir Robert Bairstow laid out the plan to build the Kochi port, reclaiming a lot of land to establish Willingdon Island. It wasn’t big, but there were some nice old photos, a couple of clocking in clocks like we have at home, and a nice collection of lamps.

From there we got a return ferry, just as we walked onto the jetty, and made our way back to the hotel. It was already midday and we were ready for a nice cuppa, relaxing a couple of hours. We headed out walk about again around 2.30pm, this time heading to the Jewish Quarters – where there were supposed to be some second hand shops. It was an amazing road to wander, like walking back 100 years – with all the small import places for rice, spice and other goods. I spotted one small local place selling samosas, so Stew went in to get a couple. They were really good. The whole area was such a mix of dereliction and re-construction.

It ended up a much longer walk than we anticipated, heading right across the penninsula. We stopped once on the water front for a nice cold lemon soda. It was a lovely old place being renovated and a great place to sit.

and then again at a larger supermarket – where we got some fruit, yoghurt, chocolate, and a cleaning brush for the bike – and Stew got a magnum ice cream to walk out with. I didn’t fancy one. It was twilight by the time we made it back up to the Fort Kochi area, and as we were passing the only bar (near our digs), we went in for a well earned cold beer. My feet were red hot and throbbing, and we both headed for a cold shower when we made it back to our room around 6pm.

It was so nice to freshen up, and get our feet up for an hour. And then we ventured out again to see what we could find to eat. Neither of us fancied the bar we’d eaten at yesterday, but we just called in for a beer and nattered a while, sort of planning what we needed to be doing over the next few days. And after just the one beer, we headed off in the direction of the waterfront, where we’d seen market stalls, and street food earlier. We looked at a couple, and it did look pretty decent. So we decided to go for it…Stew got fish fry, while I had chicken, with some sweet potato and paratha, it made a decent meal for 200 rp.

We then wandered onto the wharf watching a the activities of the boats on water, for a while before we headed back to our digs. A bit more screen time, though Stew was getting frustrated with the iPad virus (Malware), and not being able to load Netflix either, and gave up in the end resorting to readings his book. I wanted to write a few diary notes, and then joined him reading, before we put music over the headphones to drift off to sleep.

Stew said he had a pretty rough night: up at midnight still not sleeping, with a tickly throat. I never heard him, the long walk had me totally zonked. It was the morning tropical birds, and the mosque call that woke me, and I got up to draw the curtains as it was getting light. I dozed on while Stew slept soundly till after 8.30am, when the school yard noises were building as well as the traffic. The room was nice and cool, and I opened the door to let more cool fresh air in, as I made us some tea.

Breakfast we even more of a dissapointment – same platter, but the omelette and pancake were stone cold. I had the yoghurt and apple in my bag, so made made a dish chopping up the apple and pineapple, together with some oats – and enjoyed my museli. I let Stew have all the toast, with butter and jam. At least the coffee was hot! We headed off for the morning on the ferry to Ernakulum – the busier town side of the estuary.

And we were off for 4 hours again – so must have walked 10 km. Thankfully it wasn’t too hot, though the traffic and noise on the main MG (Mahatma Ghandi) road was terrible. We did find a decent (Old fashioned, filled to the rafters) hardware store, but could hardly make ourselves heard. Even so we managed to get a reasonable haul of things Stew wanted to get, if we were going to be doing work making the bike crate ourselves (Wood saw, hammer, nails, cable ties, and tape measure, as well as some aerosol cleaner .- 700 rp). Oh, we had to join ATM queues again, and ended up at two different spots to make withdrawals, as the first one only let us have 2000 rp. And I’d written another last postcard from India for the girls and we posted it right outside the main post office, so hopefully that one will arrive. We found little in the way of anything much to buy on this side – the usual big jewelers and silk places aimed at the local wedding market. And apart from that it was all shoes, bags and tacky western clothes. We made our way back, Stew picking up a couple of samosas on the way, and we had a nice lemon soda at the ferry jetty ticket office. The best bit about the days excursion was the 4 rp harbour cruise (on the incredibly rickety ferries:)

It was already 2.30pm by the time we got back to the room, and ready for a nice cuppa and a couple of biscuits. There was no email yet from the shipping agent, so we had time to work on the bike tomorrow. Stew checked facebook and found Soph and Craig’s baby daughter, Pippa, had finally arrived all good, late last night – (about 9 days late!, and Gill getting worried she wouldn’t see here granddaughter before she had to fly back to the UK) – I sent them a couple of messages. Stew then set about gear sorting in the room, starting with his tank bag – after that I soon joined in, and over the next couple of hours we had pretty much got all our gear sorted into piles – stuff for crating and shipping, stuff we wanted to take home on the airplane and stuff we just wanted to dispose of. We’d also washed down and cleaned everything as well as we could – Stew even scrubbing his bike jacket in the shower with a kitchen dish brush and soap. It was filthy!! By the time we’d done it was already heading on for 5pm, so that was enough for today.

We waited till after dark before heading out, to avoid the most of the mozzies. And this evening we went for a couple of beers at the restaurant next door to the ‘hotel bar’ we’d been for the past couple of night. The place was definitely more upmarket, with a decent looking hotel accommodation at the back ‘Killians’. The restaurant furniture was really lovely, solid and heavy wood – and just to remind us, there were even Xmas decorations around. It was a nice place to sit and read an hour. We checked over the menu too – definitely a bit more expensive at 450 – 4000 rp for a curry, so we decided to eat elsewhere. We walked onto the waterfront by the Vypin ferry jetty, but didn’t fancy the street food again, so went to the upstairs Marine View place. It was open air, with a great view over the waterfront. Even though it was pitch black, we could see all the lights across the water, the various cargo activities going on, as well and the passing boats. Definitely a nice place to sit. We ordered a spicy butter chicken and dal, with rice and chappatis. The food was declicious and portions twice the size we’d been given at the ‘hotel bar’. We paid up the 450 rp with a 50 rp tip, thanks, and I’m sure we’ll be back to eat again here before we leave. So feeling quite pogged, we didn’t last long when we got back to the room, before we turned in for the night.

Stew slept better, and was up by 8am making some tea. Brekkie was the same as the past few, but at least we were given hot omelette today and I had my yoghurt, with the pineapple and some oats. We got a second cup of coffee, scanning the internet before heading back to our room. We spent the morning washing and scrubbing Fritz for over 2 hrs, with a bit of an audience from the young lad in reception. As well as some local goats. And on draining some of the petrol from the tank into litre plastic bottles, Stew was able to gift some to a couple of guys who came to the hotel on small bikes. The cleaning stuff and scrubbing brushes worked pretty well, and though not quite squeeky clean, Fritz was looking decidedly tidier by the time we’d finished.

But by then we were pretty grubby and had to go scrub ourselves up too!! And after we made a brew and biccies, before heading off walk about to Jewish quarter. Soaking up the sights again. There are all the usual Indian goods; shirts, pants and skirts, bags, jewelery and wooden nik-naks – BUT its so hard work to haggle for everything. There are cruise ships coming into port, so everyone asks silly prices in US dollars! But we did come away with what we needed – another cleaning brush, some rope (for securing the bike), a roll of packing tape, and a large holdall bag (Buying from the hardware store is so much less hassle). I also haggled for a sheet of old Indian stamps and a couple of cheaper elephant bracelets.

And from there we headed back to the hotel. We had no news from the shipping agent, so I sent off an email. There was a quick reply saying Iden would come to hotel for some documents signing later, and we agreed a time of 8.30pm. We got ready to go out in long pants and went out for dinner around 7pm. It was raining a bit, so decided we’d try the small restaurant at top of road (only seating space for 20). It was lovely food again, and doing lots of take away trade too.

Back at the hotel Iden arrived not long after 8.30pm – the news was not that good. A customs official was not around till Monday – so we wouldn’t take the bike to the CFS (container freight service) area till then, where it needs to pass inspection – then maybe we could do the crating on Wednesday!! Iden saying it should all be done by next Friday! Well not a lot we could do. He left us his phone number, and said he be in touch by the weekend. I said I’d send him a pack list, and photo of the bike crate. Which I did straight away.

So feeling rather glum with our predicament, and not much we could do, we just managed another hour of screen time before turning in for the night. Stew slept much better again, still blowing zeds well after I woke. I pulled the curtains on even further, to keep the room dark. It was nearly 8am before I got up to make us some tea. I opened up the door and window, to a brighter and little cooler day. We had internet for about an hour and then the electricity went off – there was a backup for some lighting, but that went off for a couple of hours too. We were both a bit lethargic, coming to terms with the limbo we were in, and not really much we could do – except wait for things to get processed (it just takes days and days here in India, and now with the weekend looming we were pretty stuck till Monday). As we were getting up, I said I reckon we should put a target on doing some morning excercises, given we were here for maybe another week!! – Stew said he was thinking the same thing – but for now we dressed and went for brekkie around 9am. We were the only guests eating, so took the same window seat – seeing another couple of western guest just heading walkabout. The breakfast was same-same (its going to be tough for another 4 days at least!) – but today I took the HP sauce and vegemite. Thankfully the coffee was good, and the omelette and pancakes were warm (I still didn’t eat the pancake – too stodgy). I smeared HP sauce on a slice of toast, and put the small omlette on top – nice and tasty. Then I had another slice of toast with vegemite – also good. Stew was doing OK with the omelette, and added jam and pineapple to the pancake, finishing off with his marmalade on toast. We needed to sort things in reception and I said I see if we could do anything different for breakfast.

Stew headed back to the room for an hour reading and I went to get things things sorted in reception. There was only one of the friendly female receptionists about, but she spoke pretty good English – and she was able to phone and talk to the owner. It was no problem for us to stay another 4 – 6 days, and we could pay the rest when we leave. I then asked if we could get anything different for breakfast, saying we like Indian breakfast; paratha, curd, dosai – She said it should be no problem, and she’d check with the owner later. I also asked for clean sheets and towels tomorrow, and some more toilet paper now (again all fine). She also told me there was no power, so no wifi till 1pm. So at least that was something sorted. Stew was definitely feeling sleepy today, and half dozing and reading, saying he’d do excercises later. As we weren’t rushing to go out, and already dressed in my sports gear, I set about doing a good half hour. There is enough space in the room to do a whole range of floor excercises and stretching, as well as using the chairs for dips and stretches too. The floor was too hard for sit-ups, so I managed to do a load on the bed. I pushed it a bit for the first session in ages, but managed to do 100. So I’ll be working up to 200 in the next week. Thankfully the backup power was on by the time I’d finished – so we could put the fan on (but no wifi), and make a brew, and I had a quick rinse in the shower to freshen up.

Stew flicked the TV and I managed to do some more on the diary. Even though there was a huge backdrop of ‘India’s got talent’ blasting out from the school yard across the street. We’d already kind of been talking over what we could do passing yet more time here in Cochin, and we had come up with a small list – but we did need some internet, just to look at what things were in the near vicinity, if we took the ferries again. So we were still waiting on the main power supply. We could do:-

a) More ferry trips – walks

b) Find a decent bicycle hire (the little shop up the road, only had really delapidated ones)

c) The Maritime museum (walking distance)

d) The Dutch Palace (walking distance – just not when the cruise tourist buses are there!)

The power went off again, so that got us out walkabout. We took our books, and headed off to the Maritime Museum – it was a good 45 min walk, along the beach side an esplanade beyond the Chinese fishing nets. And then beyond, passed the restricted beach side military area and huge Banyan tree. The bit of rain last night had actually cleared the skies, so everything was not quite as gloomy. We had to pay 80 rp to get into the museum – and even though it was well set up, it wasn’t so interesting to see.

It was more like a history timeline, mostly set up in written panels, and artist depictions – so not much in the way of artifacts. It was interesting to read some of the early history, of the sea fayring Zoroastans and then how Vasco de Gama first landed in the already establish port of Calicut (north of Cochin), in 1498 (I think). The best thing was an out of service navy helicopter that we could see over the wall (It was out of bounds – and would have been nice to have a nosy in). There were a few guns, torpedoes, and bombs to keep Stew browsing a while – And there was a really nice WWII Japanese sword, presented to the Indian navy. We pretty much timed it well, making an exit as a large school party were just coming in.

We wandered back up the beachside, and went to sit on the first floor terrace of the Marine Face restaurant – just for a cold lemon soda and watch all the activities on the water, and read for a while.

We were back at the hotel by twilight and the descent of the mozzies. Stew flicked some TV for an hour while I was trying to finish the blog upload for the Pune chapter. I’d finished the draft when we were ready to head out for the evening, so we took the laptop with us and Stew could browse the pages while I finished my book. Thankfully beer was available this evening, and we went to sit in the more upmarket place – next to the ‘hotel Fort Cochin’. Even though it was only 6.30pm it was quite busy – it looked like another cruise ship had pulled in for a few days. Stew enjoyed going through the blog chapter and me too, finishing the book, while enjoying some cold beer. The blog was much longer than Stew expected, and we were comfy, so decided we’d stay and eat dinner here. I was ordering, and so just got the local Kerala chicken coconut curry, with rice and chappaties (nowhere near as good value as the places we’d eaten the last 3 night) – but it was tasty and definitely better than what we were presented just next door on our first night. Though here again the curry consisted of only two pieces of chicken. The rice portion was generous and the fresh chappaties were really nice too. The place has a nice atmosphere, décor and staff. The open air kitchen as you walk in the place, is always good to see. Other customers were selecting fresh fish, and watching the meals being prepared. It was also nice to see a couple of young Indian ladies come in too, and share a sizzling platter. Its strange watching people though, so many sat opposite each other and just engrossed with their smart phones. We paid up and walked back under a spatter of rain again – so hopefully this would freshen the morning air. We managed another hour of screen time, before turning in to some music over our earphones.

We were sleeping quite soundly, and I didn’t wake till the mosque call began in the early hours. It seemed louder this morning – and I rolled out of bed to close the curtains, and then laid back, falling asleep once the wailing finished. The room was still dark, as the bird song began (quite a mix of tropical as well as the cawing crows!) and traffic noise started building. I made us some tea, before we went for brekkie – another dissapointment, COLD omelette and pancake (we were hoping for something different!). We did send them back today – and got fresh hot ones, which were better, and with some vegemite and marmalade on toast it wasn’t too bad. We thought we’d head on the ferry to Ernakulum for the day. Stew reckoned there was a MacDonalds, and an Apple shops – so we could take his iPad and see if they can sort out the auto-routing when web browsing! And marked the location on our map – the opposite direction to where we walked previously. First though, it was morning exercise. I’m not really bullying Stew, he recons he does want to do some, just slower getting round to it. I managed to do a half hour again, pretty much like yesterday – and good, as the muscles were complaining not being used for a while. I need to keep the stretching and press’s going, and another 100 situps. Stew did a load of stretches and got out his rubber band – and I was teasing him that he had to make up for not doing any yesterday, and so he actually did 60 situps. I said he’d be up to 100 before the end of the week!

We both showered to freshen up, then put a few things in the back pack and headed out. We stopped by reception, to leave the key, so we could get clean sheets and towels today, and I asked again if we could have Indian breakfast tomorrow. The lady said yes – so we’ll just have to see. We had a really nice day out. The ferries are always a treat, and good to people watch too. They are so well used by the locals, and with a regular service you don’t spend too much time waiting.

Then following Stew’s map we headed out passed the hospital. There was a book sale warehouse just after the post office, and since I’d just finished a book, we went in for a browse. Everything was a bit dusty, so our hands were black by the time we’d skimmed a few. There were all kinds of popular novels, but mostly authors we’re not too interested in. Stew found one Alastair Reynalds Sci-Fi ‘Blue remembered Earth’, which looked good. But we just couldn’t find another one. Stew did have one more book to read he’d picked up at the last guesthouse, but it wasn’t too interesting. So we kept browsing, and in the end he decided to get – ‘10th Anniversary’, by James Patterson. They were a good price at 150 rp each. We then made our way onto the main MG road, turning left and walking under the huge elevated metro construction – definitely work in progress! And it was so noisy with all the traffic again. The big shopping centre appeared not far beyond the big Maharajas College Sports ground, and stepping inside was like stepping in another world. Like being transported to a typical shopping centre anywhere in the world, with all the usual suspects; Body Shop, Beneton, Nike etc. The Navy had a photo display in the main foyer, and the band was playing a few numbers (It was so loud too).

Stew spotted the Apple Store near where the band were playing so we went in. The guy was really helpful, even though we could hardly hear us speaking. Stew pulled out the iPad and showed him what it was doing. He said someone came in with the same problem yesterday, and they put it down to the hotel wifi. He connected the iPad to their system, did the clear history and a hard re-start, as we had done – and then checking Stew’s history website, it actually looked ok!! We’d have to check again when we got back. The mall was pretty big and over several floors, and not much interest of shopping for us – but there was a cinema complex and food hall on the top floor. We went to see if there were any English spoken movies on show. We found ‘Arrival’ and ‘Dr. Strange’ – and both decided we’d prefer the SciFi rather than the Marvel option. Tickets were pretty cheap 103 rp each !! and the film started at 1.40pm. This gave us time for a food hall lunch. Then into the movie – it was freezing with the aircon (We’ll be prepared with a jumper if we end up back here again in a few days). The movie was really good – and we both enjoyed it. Quite a play on time and life, and you didn’t get to know everything till the end. ONLY in India though……..the audience had to stand for the national anthem played before the movie started, and then suddenly half way through the lights came on and the movie was paused for an 18 min INTERMISSION! By the time we got out it was already 4 pm, so we decided we’d just make our way back. The streets were packed with people and traffic, definitely heading to rush hour. We just missed a ferry and they were packed too, and it was nice out on the water, with a fresh breeze and sinking sun. It was mozzie time, so we relaxed in the room till gone 7pm, before we headed out again.

We had beers at the Killians Boutique restaurant, and then walked to the Marine Face restaurant. Such a lovely setting over the water, and catches a nice breeze too (and a few mozzies, but we did had repellant cream on). I really wasn’t too hungry – so we just ordered one spicy butter chicken, rice and 3 paratha (only one for me), even then we didn’t quite eat it all. We’d already decided we wanted to eat something different tomorrow – just not sure what – the Chinese, pastas, pizas and salads really don’t have much appeal here. Even so we still enjoyed the meal – it was quite delicious, and then also glad of the walk, even though short, back to the digs.

We had a good sleep, but up early with the mosque wailing and the birds!! I’d also left the curtains a little open, so we were both awake earlier, and having cuppa tea by 7.30am. And we did half hour morning exercise (Stew did 70 situps), before heading to breakfast. Surprise, surprise – we got a Kerala breakfast this morning. It made such a nice change; a pohan light rice, with bowls of bean curry sauce and fried papadums.

Stew was happy to veg a while, so I spent about 4 hrs going through Felix’s latest manuscript draft – it really is so good. The context so well put, that I can really only add polishing comments – but that did come to 5 pages. We were both ready for a break, and got our shopping heads on. Today haggling for brass door knockers – so hard to bargain. Then Stew didn’t want to use our 100 rp notes, so we had a wander round the town ATM’s – they were empty or only dishing out a single 2000 rp note ($40 AUD costing us an additional $8 AUD in charges – no way). SO a simple job turned into quite a mission – In the end we negotiated the 4 pieces 3800 rp, with a 2% charge (76 rp), to use the card – Success. We celebrated going for fresh lime sodas at the Marine Face restaurant – and were treated to watching 2 dolphins passing, making their way out to sea. I wasn’t quick enough to get a photo, but they were unusual in their colouring, all pink in their extremities. One of them breached so high a couple of times, but I still didn’t get a photo!…only of the view

Such a great place to spend an hour watching and reading. I couldn’t believe a local family sat next to us with a couple of young kids. They let the girl (about 3 years old) tear up serviettes, and drop all the pieces on the floor – without any comment!! no wonder the places is swamped by rubbish……

We walked back to the hotel room, and I wrote a reply to Felix and sent off the comments, while Stew was watching the latter half of the movie ‘Lucy’. I then got onto facebook, to send a few replies……Lacey was online, and we soon set up skype, and had a lovely half hour natter (even with the dodgy wifi). They had just been on skype with Jason, grandad and grandma too – and all getting excited to be setting off in a weeks time. Just hope we can make it too!! They had a really good weekend in Busselton, the Ironman volunteering and camp sounded great. We filled them in on what was NOT happening here, but would let them know as soon as we knew anything more. The bad connection had us signing off, and then I had a quick shower, and washed through a few clothes before we headed out for the evening.

We walked to the minisuper market first, to get a large spray can of anti- mozzie stuff, and a pack of chips and a pot of yoghurt, and then made our way to the beer parlours. It was much quieter than last night, and after a couple of beers and getting into our books, we decided to eat here too – but something a bit different off the menu. Stew went for battered fish and chips, while I ordered a veg biryani. It wasn’t quite what we expected – the fish and chips less so, (quite a small portion) and the biryani more so; a large portion with raita, lime pickle and fried papadums. So together it made a pretty decent meal, which we couldn’t quite finish. Dinner and drinks finished we were soon back in our room, finishing off the evening with an hour of screen time, before bedding down, on another hot sticky night, with music over our earphones.

We didn’t sleep too well, I think our minds are just tumbling with all the uncertainty getting the bike shipping sorted!! – as well as the noisy disturbances. The mosque seemed particularly loud at 5am. I got up first and made tea today, and switching on the computer I pinged off and email to Iden (both email addresses), to try find out what was happening today – not really expecting much. After tea we set about the morning exercises, managing 40 mins today. Stew upped his situp count again to 80 – while I dug in and continued up to 150. It sure feels good to get a bit of a work out before the day gets too hot, and just work and stretch a few muscles we wouldn’t otherwise. It certainly sets you up for some brekkie too, after a nice refreshing shower. Still nothing back on the email. We were kind of expecting the same for brekkie again, and so were pleasantly surprised when we got plates of dosai (lovely light pancakes compared to the stodgy sweet ones), and a dish of sambar and coconut chutney – yum. It was 10am before we were back in our room, and I was checking email again. Now we got an email from Joshua, asking if the bike was going to CFS this morning. I replied said we were waiting for directions from Iden. He emailed back, and said bring the bike to the Aspinwall office, and we’d work from there. Well, surprise, surprise – but not a whole lot happened, just a tiny step in the right direction. It took us a good half hour to get all the gear finalised, and strapped back on the bike, with the young lad in reception looking on enthusiastically. Stew had given him his fishing rod this morning too.

I got him to take a photo of us on the bike as we were setting off. So this was the last few kilometers on the road – a typical chaotic drive through the small streets of Cochin. I managed to get a bit of video and photos, and by 11 am we were back at the Aspinwall office.

Joshua greeted us, but we still weren’t sure what was happening, as Iden was with customs and on his way back. We were around a couple of hours, as they worked to get the bike into CFS – with Stew. Which first needed a stamped paper with permission for Stew to enter the compound. So more passport forms and signatures. They really didn’t want me to go along – just more complicated and not necessary. So Stew headed off following Iden on his moped.

I sat in the cool reception a good while, glad we’d remembered to put our books in. They were back around 1pm, though not a long way ahead. It still looked like a customs tracking number had not yet been obtained (maybe this evening), and that the customs inspection wouldn’t take place till Thursday !! – I’ll try emailing again later and press for Wednesday. It was still not plain sailing – we had to get through the customs hoop, and the crating – and any step could be held up for whatever reason! We weren’t confident at all – and getting a flight back for xmas was slowly vanishing from our grasp. Well, nothing more we could do today – we thanked them and said we’d wait for them to contact us again. Stew needed to go back to the CFS with Iden, to be present for the customs inspection. We were happy just to dawdle back, walking to the Embarcation (Willingdon Island) ferry jetty, and then back to our hotel. Stew did stop off for a couple of samosas on the way back. It was quite hot and sticky, so we sat in the hotel first floor dining area, to catch the breeze at the open window and get a cold lemon soda.

I was feeling a bit weary, think I’m coming down with a few bugs – a tickly throat and bunged head. The heat doesn’t help and the uncertainty in our plans! Stew resorted to the TV, as the iPad is still playing up with web browsing (and also very frustrating). I spent a couple of hours with the external HD; and making backups of the GoPro video and recent photos. We didn’t need to rush to do anything – and the day was already drawing to the yard arm. We’d have a full free day tomorrow, and thought we’d head to Ernakulum with a return to the cinema in the afternoon, so for now we were happy to just chill and relax.

Stew managed to watch some TV, while by 5pm I just needed to zone out for a while. Not really sleeping just, drifting to recharge the batteries. It was twilight when we were ready to head out for an evening wander. We daubed mozzie repellent cream on and dressed in long pants.,….. it was definitely warm as we headed out. We wandered a few different streets tonight, heading off in the opposite direction to the water front ‘Fort Cochin hotel’ bar. As the daylight was fading and all the night lights coming on, it looked so different and quite attractive, and we saw so many different eating places. We thought we’d wander a while, and return to and upstairs place we spotted on the street corner opposite the Tibet shop, and Basillica. We wandered on streets we hadn’t yet been on, and came across the ‘Rose Street’ upstairs beer parlour. Mostly a male domain, but it was friendly, cosy, and playing better background music than what we’d been used to. It was an old place, and only looked cosy because of the dim lighting (much like the old Turks Head!), but we found a nice window seat, getting a bit of fresh air, and sat sharing beers and reading our books for a good hour. When we got the bill, it was nice to find the price at 190 rp a bottle, so also the cheapest place we had so far found in town. By 8.30pm we were both getting hungry so headed to the upstairs restaurant, we’d picked out earlier. We were the only customers on the upstairs veranda, an old rickety wooden place – with a large empty wooden hall inside, decked with xmas trimings and lights, and xmas music playing in the background. They had a decent Indian menu, and we opted for veggie tonight, getting aloo gobi, dall, rice and chappatis – and a really good feed for 350rp. After that we headed back to our room – it was stifling hot tonight, so we’d soon stripped off the cool down under the straining ceiling fan. And drifting off to sleep with music over our earphones.

Already Day 9 in Cochin!

It was a very hot sticky night, I just couldn’t cool down till the very early hours of the morning. So I didn’t sleep well at all. My head bugs are developing, and I woke with a thick head, and croaky throat. Stew slept much better, but I don’t think he’s harbouring the bugs (yet!). The situation with the bike shipping just doesn’t bring you into conciousness in a bouyant mood anticipating a good day. We both feel quite deflated at the moment.

It so feels like we are living in treacle time, and its getting even more sluggish as so little seems to be happening. Can’t believe we got the bike into CFS yesterday, and they still can’t get the customs inspection till Thursday!

So there was no rush to the day, and by the time we finished our morning tea it was already 9am – so we thought we’d better go for brekkie before exercise this morning. Looks like a few other guests had already eaten, and we were the last. Today we got idli patties (5 small ones each – a bit much really), and some tasty sambar, with hot milk coffee, so at least the breakfasts have improved.

I did a few emails while Stew was getting his news and online browsing fix. I was feeling a bit more awake, and wanted to do the morning excersises before we headed off for the day, and Stew soon joined in. We did pretty well, around 40 mins, and Stew did 90 situps (under protest), while I pushed on to 170. It was still hot and sticky so nice to have a refreshing shower after. And then we got ready to go out, taking the ferry across to Ernakulum. We had a full on day, walking to the locals markets (not much interesting there), and then Mac’s for lunch. Stew got a veggie burger meal, while I had a wrap, and we finished off with ice cream and a coffee, At the bank next door, we even managed to withdraw 10,000 rp. We then headed to the large shopping centre cinema and today got $3 tickets to see the 3D Dr. Strange – and really enjoyed it. The best Marvel movie I’ve seen. It was nearly 5pm when it finished, and then Stew fancied a haircut – it was a decent shop, and good for 300 rp (I can imagine you would get one for 50 rp on the street!). But they took ages!! And then we needed to get a few things from the supermarket: tea, coffee, chips, water and pads.

So it was twilight by the time we made it back to the ferry, and it was really busy with rushhour – thankfully our timing was good, and we managed to nip on the next boat that was just leaving. But then as we walked back to the hotel – the owners were waiting outside for us. They wanted us to move rooms – to their other premises at Casa Bella! The receptionist had totally confused the information on Friday, saying we were fine for as long as we needed, and they only had the room booked from the 16th (But it turned out she meant the 6th!). So not much we could do but oblige – we soon got all our gear stuffed in the bags (a good job we bought the holdall a couple of days ago), and we did leave the coffee table full of gear we didn’t want any longer. The owner was quite grateful we were so compliant, the new guests would be here in a couple of hours, and he took us and all our gear to the other guesthouse. It was all fine – but the room not as spacious, nor with a balcony, or enough power sockets – and it had just been sprayed with mozzie stuff.

We got ourselves organised, onto the internet (nothing new from the shipping agent), and then were in need of a beer. We were further away from the ferry jetty and esplanade, but no further from the Beer Parlour, so we soon made our way there, and relaxed a couple of hours with our books. And then we called at one of the small restaurants on our way back to the new digs for some dinner. It was a small garden family place, and we had a lovely meal of aloo jeera, butter chicken, rice and chapaties. For us it was quite late when we got back to the digs, nearly 10pm – Stew was trying to get on netflix and I just sorted out an email to the shippers, before bedding down to some music over the earphones.

Day 10 Cochin

Stew managed to sleep to 7am, not getting up through the night. I, on the other hand, had a pretty awful night, slept for a while then awake for hours, with my mind churning over this waiting game predicament – so annoying! Just doesn’t lighten my mood at all! Thankfully the guesthouse was on a quieter road, so no traffic disturbances and no mosques or construction site next door. So quite pleasant really. The room brightened with the daylight, and I was up making us tea by 7.15am. With no breakfast on the offing here, it was nice to have a change. We both managed a good exercise session – even in the smaller room there was still enough space for dips, press-ups, lunges and sit-ups on the bed. Stew got to 100 today – (a gold star, and not bad at all), while I managed to get to 200. We did have some aircon in the room, but were still hot and sweaty so showered after to freshen up. Then it was time for a cuppa coffee, and catching up with some email, and whatsap – we got messages from Sairha, Lacey and Jason. While also being online for an hour, we did get an updated message from the shippers – the customs inspection was set for tomorrow, and the crating would be done the same day – YAY 🙂 We just need to know what time to get to the office in the morning, and Iden said he’d email back later in the evening. He did say it still might take till Saturday to get all the paper work completed, so I also set about drafting an email for the whole shipping group (Ice Cargo, Shannon, Perth – ScopeLogistics, Mumbai – Manoj, and Aspinwall, Cochin – Joshua). That done we got ready to go wandering, as Stew was getting a bit hungry, and we thought we’d try get some xmas shopping done too – mainly back in the Tibet shop. She is a hard lady to bargain with, but we managed to buy the dragon bangle and another brass door knocker for 3300 rp. They also had a table of cheaper items, and the hair pins looked really nice, so we got 4, as well as some ankle bracelets, and a stone bracelet for Stew. From there we walked to the esplanade – and tried sitting at one of the cafes in front of the Chinese fishing nets – but it was too Western, with only eggs and pancakes on offer for snacks. It was also pretty packed with a few coaches of tourists getting hassled, so we escaped to the upstairs Marine Face restaurant; not a tourist in sight. Stew decided on the veg thali (120 rp), and we got lime sodas and coffee too.

The food was great, and so much of it, that Stew couldn’t eat it all, and I had to help out. We read our books a while, and watched the passing water activities – Chinese net fishing, and a couple of guys were in face masks and doing something underwater on some old pylons near shore! We thought we’d try visit the old jail house, we had passed the other day – but even though we were there in the opening hours, the gate was locked. We did see a cute pink police patrol van though.

And we hadn’t quite done shopping – Stew was still after a rope bracelet, so we called in another shop with some in the window. He wasn’t asking stupid prices – 900 rp, and even though it wasn’t quite what he wanted, Stew did get one and bargained him down to 500 rp (we were pretty much out of ruppees again, but the local ATM was empty and we tried money change, but they didn’t have cash either!). After that it was the supermarket, as I wanted some fresh yoghurt – and the new digs were down the road passed the huge Basillica, and that was open so we went in for a look. We had to sign the guest book, and it really wasn’t too busy. I missed a good photo of an eagle that swooped in before setting back up in one of the tall palm trees.

The church was founded on 1505, and the huge courtyard also housed a convent and school. The main hall was quite cavernous, and colourfully painted – over all the plaster columns, but there wasn’t much of interest to keep us there. So we headed back to the digs for a couple of hours – reading, online, coffees and some yoghurt for me. There was an email back from Iden saying the customs inspection was set for 10am in the morning, so I wrote back saying we would be at the office by 9.30am, so we needed to be up and out of the digs an hour earlier. A power cut, got us out of the afternoon reverie, and we got ready to go out again. It was the twilight hour after 6pm, so we made our way to the beer parlour with our books. It was so much quieter this evening – rather fickle how the tourists come and go, some days so busy and others quiet. With the first beer we nattered so much, on how we were going to get out of this place – possible flight dates, and what we should do – but that wasn’t getting us anywhere, till we really knew what was happening with the bike. So we settled down with the next beer to read our books – before heading off to find something to eat. We ended up on a busy ‘cafe strip’, open air eating places getting close to the esplanade. It was lively and busy with locals and tourists, the most seemed to be going for the pizza. We sat down at the quieter place at the end – and checking the menu decided on a chicken biryani, with dall, raita, and chapaties, and Stew got a banana lassi too. The food was freshly prepared and not too bad, but a bit on the salty side – don’t think we’ll be back to this one. Stew was happy feeding a friendly cat chicken bits and bones under the table too. Restaurant meals all seem to come out at a similar price, as long as you are not eating the fish – so tonight was 450 rp, with a 50 rp tip, the same as we’d paid last night. We didn’t want to wander around late tonight, as we needed to be off pretty early in the morning, so we headed back to the digs, and by 9.30pm were listening to music over the earphones.

Day 11 Cochin – back to the CFS, customs check

Stew said he was tossing and turning through the night – mind on overdrive, with everything we wanted to try get done today, while I infact slept better than the previous night. The dawn chorus is so much more musical at these new digs – no mosque dirge, or cawing crows, just quite a melody of tropical birds. The room was already light when Stew first checked his watch, 7am – so plenty of time for a cool cuddle, before a cuppa tea, and then we needed to set off to walk to the ferry around 8.30am. There is always something to see……

It was a good 25 min walk, and we only stopped by the small kiosks at the ferry jetty for some water, and Stew was after some samosas, but none were cooked this morning, so he got some fried upma (rice cakes). Getting to the dock side, the next ferry to stop at Willingdon didn’t leave till 9.15am, so we had a 10 min wait.

Its a short crossing, and quite packed with workers at this time – but we were pretty much on time to walk into the Aspinwall offices at 9.30am. There was a Merry Christmas plaque on the door, and inside even a Christmas tree and lights – This was evidence enough, that we were just not getting out of here fast enough!!

As is the Indian way, there is always confusion, and miss communications. Joshua came out to meet us and said Iden was on his way. He told us crating could not be done today, as the palette wood treatment had to be done for 48 hrs, before use for shipping to Australia (other countries are 12 hrs) – why this could not have been done days before is quite beyond us? Then the paper work, we were wanting the bill of lading and stamped and released carnet, to take with us. BUT now we were told the bill of lading is only issued when the container is loaded onto the ship (and this should be Monday). We thought we could get the carnet after clearing customs today, and here we were given two differing days – Saturday or Monday. And again they said the carnet is not released until the ‘stuffing’ is done – i.e. when the container is packed. Anticipating the documents would travel with us, Joshua rang Manoj (ScopeLogistics) in Mumbai, and got him to talk to us. So unless we wanted to hang around another 3 days, to just wait for the paperwork – it would be better if Joshua (Aspinwall) passed all the documents to Manoj (ScopeLogistics), who would then forward them to Shannon (Ice Cargo – Fremantle). I said OK, we’d leave the documents, and that I’d send an email to all later today, just to confirm procedures.

So Iden had spent a good 40 minutes running round getting CFS clearances for both me and Stew, supposedly for the packing. Thinking we’d strip down the bike together. Then at 10.30am the front door opened and a tea – walla was delivering hot tea to the office staff. The lady behind reception asked if we’d like tea, which we did. It was a really nice hot massala chai (even though a little sweet). Another guy, Paul, we’d seen the first day, then took us to the CFS warehouse, while Iden went to collect the customs inspector. We had to pass all the security, show our passports sign in, to get to where Stew had left the bike the other day. We had our bag of cleaning stuff and brushes, and set about wiping and brushing the bike down again, as it was already covered in a layer of dirt. I was chatting to Paul, and really the first time he’d seen the bike. He was expecting we’d just take the wheels off and that would be it, so we talked more, saying we needed to make it a lot smaller, and the bike would sit on its engine on the palatte and not in the stand (I had sent photos of the previous crate to Joshua and Iden before too). The forks and fairing had to come off and the boxes. He got the picture (as we had been trying to explain right from day 1 – we are now on day 11) and was soon on the phone to Joshua, saying we really needed to be here for the packing supervising tomorrow. We were happy to come back tomorrow again – BUT now they would need to make new security passes for us again (Another 40 mins work tomorrow), whereas they could have just issued a 2 day pass in the first place!!. Then Iden appeared with the very young customs guy (Looked only around 20 ish) – we shook hands, as he began his works checking the papers, engine and VIN number. Then a slight problem in that the submitted customs papers only said ‘motorbike’ and here we were with all the luggage, riding gear, and camping gear (I had sent Joshua and Iden a crate pack list, including all these items several days before!). The guy did a thorough check of everything, and we had to open up all the side boxes, topbox and saddle bags, so he could get a thorough look at everything. I even had to unroll the packed up wet weather gear. Then as he headed off with Iden, we weren’t really sure if it was all going to be OK? It took us another 5 mins just to get everything re-packed and fastened back on the bike, and then that was as much as we could do today. Paul took us in a taxi back to the office, where I went to retrieve my bag, And heading off we said we’d be back around 10am in the morning, jesting saying, maybe we can get a job here 🙂

The whole system is so frustrating – oh, the people are really nice, but somehow they don’t listen properly, and communications don’t get through, so we really feel like we are treading in treacle, only making the tinniest of progress in the right direction. It was now heading on for midday, and neither of us fancied going further out to Ernakulum, prefering to get back to the digs with the bags, make a brew and a snack to eat, and then try finalize plans and get an email together for the shippers. Its about an hour all up, by the time you’ve got the ferry and then walked the rest of the way. We were pleasantly surprised to see dolphins out fishing in the bay just in front of the jetty too.

It was nice to relax again in the room – still feeling deflated, and still not in a position to make final arrangements and flight bookings. We both had snacks for lunch, Stew munching his rice cakes, while I made some yoghurt, chopped apple and oats. I wrote out an email, to cc all the shipping parties, just to know we were all on the same page with the shipping arrangements. We’d let Joshua handle all original documents, and pass them onto Manoj (Mumbai) and Shannon (Freo) – BUT ask they send us a copy of the stamped carnet and bill of lading, to my email address once they had them (on Monday). I was also checking AirAsia flights, to see if we could still get onboard, and accommodation in KL. We really didn’t want to book a flight out until we knew the crating was completed tomorrow, so I checked this evenings flight (11pm from COK) – it was pretty full, but a few seats available and still able to make the online booking at 4pm (just 7 hrs before the flight was set to depart) – so this looked good for tomorrow. We’d finish at the CFS tomorrow, and as soon as we got back, we’d get the bookings done. We both fancied having coffee and a couple of diggies, and I finished off the bit of peanut butter and choc spread too. I then also checked the AirAsia flights for Friday night to KUL; and then Monday day for PER. Again flights were looking pretty full, but hopefully we’d be able to book tomorrow. We might just be able to pull off a surprise meet up at Perth airport on Monday afternoon – but we just weren’t sure yet. We then lightened up and flicked a bit of TV, trying not to think about the plans too much more. It was around 4.30pm and we just didn’t want to head out for the evening too early. Another power cut around 6pm got us up off the bed and getting ready for the evening. We checked our rupees cash, and reckoned if we were able to get on the flight tomorrow we might just have enough. We put aside 1500 rp to cover the taxi fair to the airport. We had 3000 rp left, enough for dinner tonight and a few more pressies. Then smearing on mozzie cream and dressing in long pants we headed up to the town, with our books in the back pack. We called at the small shop we’d bought Stew’s bracelet yesterday, and today I just got 5 strings of elephant hangers for 400 rp. We could easily buy more, but lets just see if we can get on the flight out of here tomorrow first. We were walking in the direction of the beer parlour, so continued that way – its quite a cosy place, and the cheapest for beer. We relaxed with the cold beer, decent music in the background and reading for over an hour – after talking through the multitude of possibilities, depending on how we’d get on with the crating tomorrow!! Then given it MAY BE our last evening in Cochin we were both in favour of going to the Marine Face restaurant – its the best place to sit over the waterfront, away from all the tourist touts (we hadn’t seen any other westerners eating here), and we both agreed its the best butter chicken curry we’d eaten in Cochin. So we headed off and sat down to enjoy another wonderful meal. We chatted some, still not convinced that we’d be able to get the crating done tomorrow – we’d just have to wait and see, so no chance of getting excited yet – BUT this could be our last evening meal in Cochin. We managed to read a while longer, as the food was being freshly prepared – and we did really enjoy the meal. And after eating and paying up, we strolled back to the digs enveloped by the warm blanket of the balmy night, and surprisingly managed to get to sleep quite well too.

Day 12 Cochin – CFS, bike crating

What a day it turned out to be….We slept well, and weren’t rushing the day. SO tea and morning exercise (another 100 and 200 situps, respectively), then shower and off to the ferry around 8.45am. We didn’t find any samosas on the way and so ended up on the Willingdon Island ferry to the Terminal side….then walked to the little brekkie place, we passed yesterday, where Stew got a dosa and we both had chai.

Then round to the shippers; Joshua and Iden were out to greet us, and we settled on the office reception chairs. It took Iden more than and hour to come up with our CFS passes, and then we were ferried to the warehouse on the back of the mopeds with Paul and Iden.

Oh, we also got morning massala chai again, so nice…..And I even got a photo of the tea walla on his moped.

It took a while, and we had lots of onlookers…..but we got the bike stripped down, only to find they packing crate had been made too big….2.2 x1 x 1.2 !! Stew was passed arguing, and Iden was trying to keep on top of things. We Weren’t supposed to be doing any work in CFS, and the paletting guys were looking on quite bemused. We also managed to sneak a couple of photos…. Then Iden asked us if we could finish up in 10 mins, they really didn’t want us around any longer. And he had to go pay the customs guy some bribe before we left.

Then a final visit to the office, picked up my camera….and hand shakes goodbye to Iden and Joshua, saying it was all ok….and they would pass on all the original documents, stamped carnet, fumigation and bill of lading, once the bike was on the ship on Monday.

We thought we’d really done as much as we could, so that was it….In our walks to and from the ferry over the past 2 weeks we’d seen a few changes in the old Aspinwall building, getting freshly painted. The worksmanship was dubious, but it was certainly looking better…

So we’d now head back and see if we could get our air tickets booked back to Perth. That took a while too, as the wifi in our digs was playing up, so we walked up to Casa Linda, to use the wifi there and pay our bill. AN hour later we were booked on AirAsia, COK to KUL, 11pm tonight……WOW!!

And then I got us on Mondays flight KUL to PER, setting off at 10am and arriving at 3.40pm so we could surprise the girls and Jason and grandparents when they landed a couple of hours later..

Then we booked the ‘Istana hotel’ Bukit Bingtang, where we had stayed on the trip with Martin and Lorna. 2 nights…so we’d have a day for shopping. I pinged the girls an email, not telling them when we were flying but that we’d be coming through KL, and if there were and DVD series on Animee they wanted.

We then paid up and then asked to book at taxi for 7pm……they would pick us up at Casa Bella. Then with a last 1000 rp I said I wanted to get some Indian elephant boxes, to put the jewelry in, and we had enough for some food later at the airport. We headed back to the room for an afternoon cuppa, and packing before the taxi arrived.

It was much longer to the airport than we expected, a good 1.5 hrs, and so much traffic….but we were delivered to a very new and modern place. We didn’t have tickets printed, so it was a bit of an escort, passed security to the check in. Our passports were a bit scrutinised too…as we came in on the land crossing at Wagha form Pakistan…..and a few stern questions from the customs officer, But all good in the and, and finally up in the departure lounge, where we were ready for some dinner….and great massala dosa, and we sat next to a couple from Oz, Melbourne and nattered a while….we ended up showing them our newspaper cuttings!!

By 10.30pm we were in the holding pen, and soon on the plane. It was really busy, but we did so well taking the more expensive leg room seats ($14) over the wing and emergency door. We even managed to doze a couple of hours, before being woken at 5.30am, announcing we’d be landing in half an hour.

Kuala Lumpur

We landed nearly half an hour early, and were walking off the plane to the arrivals hall by 5.45am. It was still dark outside at this point, and for the first time stepping into the Malaysian atmosphere, we actually felt quite cool – so refreshing! We were in no rush, as we weren’t likely to get into the hotel room till midday. The queues were quite long at immigration, but half an hour and we were through. Onto the baggage pickup, and then we thought we’d get some coffee, before looking for a taxi. The new KLIA2 terminal is huge, and so much like any ‘huge’ international airport – not like the cute old AirAsia terminal we liked so much.

So we wandered round a while, found a currency exchange, to get some Ringits and finally found a Mac’s – serving brekkie and coffee. We sat and enjoyed the refreshment (I reckon we’d only dozed maybe 2 hrs) – the coffee pepping us up, and the daylight brightening the whole area. Around 8am we were ready to face the new day in Malaysia. We paid for a taxi voucher (75 myr), and were soon out on the slick streets. It looks so clean, fresh and well manicured compared to where we had come from. There was so much new development, high rise residences, yet a lot was still familiar. The tropical climate made such a rich, lush backdrop, as we sped along. The traffic was seamlessly efficient, and it only took around 45 mins to get dropped right at the front door of the Istana Hotel. It was the one we’d stayed at with Lorna and Martin, and it was SOOO good; such a luxury. The staff were so curteous and helpful, and we were soon checked in and even given a room – even though it was only 9am!! The room was huge, plush, and well appointed, and the bathroom too – big fluffy towels, and a whole tray full of toiletries. We made a cuppa, and then decided a couple of hours sleep would be best. We pulled the heavy curtains, Stew set the alarm for 11am, and with the lights off it was as black as night. We were soon snuggled under the duvet, and drifting off to sleep.

Even though it was a bit hard to wake up with the alarm, it was so the right thing to do. It set us up for a great day in the city. We luxuriated in the huge bathroom, and gushing supply of hot waster, and came out squeeky clean feeling so much better. We made another brew, and checked online before getting ready to go out. There was an email from Sairha, with a list of Animee DVD’s she’d like, to go with the list of Chicago series DVD’s that Lacey wanted too. I pinged an email to them and Jason, with a couple of pics showing the bike crating we’d managed to get done yesterday, and saying we’d let them know when I’d got our flights booked. After that we were ready to head out for the day – it was so good. The weight on our shoulders was finally starting to lift – almost home, AND we might just be able to pull off a nice surprise meeting with everyone at the airport on Monday teatime.

We had a great day – xmas shopping really, and re-walking the roads that were so familiar to us. But we noticed things change so much as we walked towards to Sungei Plaza at the Bukit Bintang monorail. It was still a huge street bar and restaurant strip, but many had gone up-market, and even the old ‘Banana Leaf’ place, looked like it had downsized and moved round the corner, with the main corner premises now occupied by a more Chinese looking place. The other hotel we’d stayed at was now renamed the ‘Hotel Soleil’ – but it still looked like a very noisy corner. The huge roadworks were still under way at the top of the road, passed the open air Chinese restaurant street. It looked like the major tunnelling work for a new Metro was done, but still a lot of surface work going on. The whole place had so little rubbish lying around, and the air felt so much fresher.

Seeing as we only had the one day tomorrow, we thought we’d just wander into the Sungei Plaza, and see if the video places were still in business. Lots had changed, but we could still navigate ourselves around. Many of the shops had changed, and on level 3 there were so many new manga and gaming shops. Thankfully, we did find the old Animee place, and we were able to get nearly all of Sairha’s list. The other DVD place was closed, and so we asked the Animee guy if we could still get the TV series. He said, not so much in Bukit Bintang anymore, but we could try the guy on the lower ground floor. So we headed there next, and though these DVD’s were more underground, we left a deposit, and said to come back later. The shopping here was so much more relaxed than in India – no hassels, and no price haggling!! We weren’t looking for anything in particular, but we did managed to pick up a few more bits and pieces for xmas pressies (mainly for the kids), and a couple of magazines for Stew. Back at the DVD store, we were able to get 3 of the series Lacey was after, and then we were ready to head back. We stopped off at a 7:11, and picked up some milk, and decided we’d take a couple of cold beers back to the hotel. The time shift and long couple of days were kicking in, and it was so nice to just recuperate and relax again. Hopefully we’d be able to last a bit longer before going out for some food, and then crashing out for the night.

We headed out again around 7pm, in the opposite direction, and onto the busy pub street. It was lively but not too noisy, so we sat down at one of the street side bars, and enjoyed the street life and happy hour beers. Before we’d finished the first beer, the Monsoon evening shower began. It was so heavy, bouncing off the streets, and so awesome, clearing up the night air.

It baited just as we were finished a shared third beer, and so we managed to make a pretty dry exit, around to the (new) old banana lead curry place. It was busy and the food took a while so we had another beer – but it was so delicious and so worth the wait. The tandoori chicken was scrumptious, and the mint yoghurt sauce such a treat. SO we made it till 10pm before we were back in our room, and tucked up in bed.

What a night – my head was awful, so bunged up, I was awake for hours, and then zonked when Stew woke and checked the time; it was 9.45 am!! SO much for an early swim. Our bodies were just demanding the rest, and I was having such a fun dream again; Big airships, flying – and some DIY thrown in too. SO we skipped a cuppa, just got dressed and headed down to breakfast – it was awesome. Pretty busy, but we got a lovely seat out in the garden, and enjoyed such a relaying 4 course meal!! The place was such a delight, all christmasy with lovely trees and decorations, and all the staff so polite and helpful, with cheery ‘good morning’ greetings.

Stew didn’t even have curry today – but a plateful of eggs, baked beans, sausages and potatoe wedges. Followed by a selection of meats, cheeses and breads, and sticky buns and cakes with coffees. I started with a bit of fruit (Not pineapple, but dragon fruit strawberries, apple), some muesli yoghurt. Then a bit of beans sausage and humous. I did have some curry; beef randang, dal fry, rice and roti – so delicious. And then with a last coffee, I had a slice of bread with cheese and meat. It definitely was a big breakfast, but I didn’t feel too stuffed not having big portions. Even so we still had half an hour to digest in the room, before setting off walk about.

We had a lovely, leisurely and relaxing day. The rain was holding off, even though the skies were quite grey, and the temperature was really comfortable too. We walked along following the monorail, towards the Bukit Bintang station, snapping a couple of photos of the major road works and developments, as we made our way to the ‘Times Square’ building. The huge BB shopping plaza we’d always wandered round on all previous visits, adjoining the Sung Wei plaza, was now nothing more than a demolition site! Times Square was all decorated up for the season, and at 11am Sunday morning pretty quiet really. We made our way to the upper levels, to where it got too quiet with many vacant shops. Stew fancied a go at the archery again, so we were wandering around trying to relocate that. It took a while, but we eventually found it on level 5, behind the amusement park, next to the bowling alley. I didn’t want to have a go, just happy to watch Stew and a few others. There were a couple of small kids, having a lot of fun with one of the crew – and loving having a go with the bows and arrows. Stew just hit off 18 arrows, and all but the first two, made it onto the target area.

That done, we were into browsing mode – not too much inspiring, so many clothes, but there were a few hair salons open, and prices looked around 30 ringit – so I decided I’d get my hair cut. It would be at least half the price of what I’d have to pay back in Perth. So we walked into the next one we saw, and after flicking through a couple of style magazines, picked out a suitably short, touselled one. As I was seated in the cutting chair, Stew went of wandering, and the hairdresser said it would be about 45 mins. It really was a pleasant way to spend an hour – quite relaxing really, as I closed my eyes and let my mind just wander off too. Stew was back well before I’d finished, but finally I was all done – definitely nice and short, and will be so much better for swimming. It was around 1.30pm when we set off walking again, and by now it was getting much more crowded. Stew took us to a huge market area, where he’d bought a pair of earphones. We drifted round making our way to the lower levels, and onto the ground floor. In the end the only other thing we did buy was 3 pin badges – Studio Ghibli, and a Keep Calm one. From there we made our way back to the hotel, where we checked out the pool. It was empty, so that was me sorted. Stew wasn’t keen though, and happy to just made a brew and get a news fix, while I got changed into my cossie and headed back down to the pool. With my bunged up head, and sinuses, I didn’t fancy doing any crawl – it just seems to aggravate my ears, so I stuck to doing breast stroke.

It was so nice, and I managed to do 60 laps, a good 45 mins. Still no sign of Stew, so he probably wasn’t going to make it, and I hoped out. But when he opened the door for me, he did say – ’I was just going to come down’. I was ready for a brew then, and an hour later we decided we’d do the bag packing now, before we went out for the evening. It didn’t take long at all really, just a few extra DVD’s to be picked up.

So we’d now reached an end point. This was officially the very last evening of our world travels with Fritz (even though we’d already left him crated up in Cochin). It had been such a great spot to relax and splash out for the last couple of days, after all the hard work in India. We headed out into the cooler evening air, though still warm enough for shorts and t-shirts, and it was still daylight at 6.30 pm. We headed onto the lively restaurant bar street, for happy hours. Its such a great spot to sit and watch the world go by, with a couple of cold beers, and see the light fade to the steel grey of night, and all the neon lights come on. We nattered about these final stages or our travel, and just what we had managed to achieve – and already looking forwards to new adventures. We both said the bucket list wasn’t getting any smaller – in actual fact even bigger. And we’d got one last surprise up our sleeves – to land in Perth tomorrow afternoon, and surprise all the family, as Jason, grandad and grandma were due to arrive too, their ETA only 2 hours after us!! I still had a decoy email to write and send off later tonight when we got back in (tee hee). We were saying we thought we’d missed out on buying any movies, as we’d passed on the one guy selling them on the street last night, and then the same guy turned up again. So we had a look – there wasn’t too much to chose from, but we got a recent selection of 6 for 50 ringit. Then thoughts were on what we really fancied to eat this evening, and its so amazing how we end up eating in KL. We said we should try something else – nothing like burger, or pizza, but maybe Thai food. We tossed around the idea of walking passed the China food street – but soon agreed we didn’t really want Chinese. It didn’t take too much of persuading each other, that we really wanted to eat at the Banana leaf curry place – AGAIN !! So a couple of beers finished, we headed off for dinner.

We just couldn’t resist – its so good. Stew didn’t want a thali plate tonight, so we ordered a chicken tikka massala, special biryani, chappaties and raita, and one last beer. It was such a good last curry dinner – just not sure when we’d be splashing out again in Perth. I think we were both looking forwards to getting a hit of the many ‘other’ food delights we’d been missing out on (Meat pie for Stew !!) – though we did have a chicken curry lunch ordered for the flight from KL to Perth tomorrow. So another wonderful evening in KL, we paid up and it was only a short walk back to our very comfy hotel. We did an hour online, before turning in. I sent off an email to Sairha, Lacey and Jason – saying we’d got our AirAsia flight KL – PER, arriving Thursday morning!! Then we didn’t want to stay up too late, and set the iPod and iPhone alarms for 5.30am – it was going to be an early start.

Finally heading back to Perth…….

So alarm for 5.30am, breakfast at 6am, (when it opened), and then off in the taxi to the airport. It was still pitch black when the alarms went off, but we managed to get ourselves out of bed, even though our bodies were still in sleep mode. We got to the breakfast area just as it was opening, and neither of us were really hungry. It was just too early – so we sat and started with some fruit juice, and hot tea. Stew was happy to browse online and get the morning newsfix too. We had a nice leisurely 40 mins, and just had a light meal of muesli, fruit and yogurt, and some bread and cheese – with a couple more cups of coffee (they are only small). With the daylight, we were feeling a bit more awake as we headed out to the waiting taxi. It was bucketing down outside, and continued the heavy downpour all the way to the airport. Even though it wasn’t hot outside, inside the taxi it was like a freezer – we were both glad we’d put our jumpers on. The roads were pretty light on traffic, so despite the wet conditions the driver was zipping along (a bit too fast really) – he kept trying to talk to us, but with the noise from the rear of the car, and the squeeky windscreen wipers, we really couldn’t hear what he was saying. We arrived at KLIA2 departures by 7.45 am, paid the taxi (100 ringit), picked up our bags and entered the huge passengers processing halls. The place was already a hive of activity, and busy too. But we were in good time, and were soon going with the flow; directed to the checkin desks, immigration, customs and security checks. We were sat at the departure gate by 8.30am, and managed to get online for an hour before boarding. There was an email from Lacey, telling us they’d had a good day yesterday……Lacey had a great time at the Hillaries triathlon, 1 hr 27 mins, but Vic’s time was 5 mins less – And she had to stop for a pee, and is 5 months pregnant (We didn’t know! – but Lacey had sent a very cute photo, of them both showing Vic’s belly), and then the UWATC xmas BBQ was good fun too. Jason had been sending whatsap, so they knew they were on the flight from Dubai to Perth now, and getting so excited. It was early morning there too, and Liesl, Matt and Andrew were coming round for waffle breakfast, and then they were going to bake a cake. THEY were also so excited to know we’d be there soon too, expecting us on Thursday morning…..it will be so fun, when we meet them all later this afternoon (tee hee). She signed off to go make a start on the brekkie, and we were pretty much ready for boarding too, after having watched the ground crew do a tyre change on the aircraft

We even had a spare seat between us on the plane, so were quite comfy. The flight was good, and we enjoyed the meal too. The views coming into Perth were wonderful.

We landed on time and soon through immigration, and feeling so much better, and getting so excited for the big family surprise. We had a couple of hours to wait for grandad and grandmas flight to arrive, so first job was a snack for Stew – an ozzie meat pie. You can see from the photo how much he was enjoying it. And we wandered the terminal all decorated for an ozzie christmas.

We saw the flight from the UK landed on time, so we manoeuvred to a spot on the first floor where we couldn’t be seen, but we could watch everyone waiting in the arrivals lounge. We spotted Vic, Lyndon, Croyde and Bea first, as they were also in the airport to pickup sister Liz, who was on the same flight. Then not long after Sairha and Lacey arrived too. We had thought to turn up as Jason, grandma and grandad walked into the hall…..but in the end thought that would be just too busy, so went down to surprise Sairha, Lacey and the BBs first….it was so AMAZING, shrieks, laughter, hugs and kisses. They were SOO SURPRISED……couldn’t believe we’d managed to get a flight into Perth and be in the airport at the same time (expecting us to arrive a couple of days later). Vic and Lyndon were really surprised too….and not long after the visitors came out pushing the baggage trolleys. More BIG SURPRISES, hugs and beaming faces…We even managed to get a photo of us altogether. Grandad and grandma looked well, though tired, and having Jason along to help them through the flights had been so good for them.

What an incredible way to complete the journey, Fritz was en route from Cochin and would arrive in Fremantle in a few weeks time, and we were so happy together with all the family and looking forwards to sharing a magic Christmas and all the festivities back home in Perth……….

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