10 October; The Vypeen Island Ferry

Posted: 13 October 2017

The ferry from Fort Kochi to Vypeen Island is an eye opener on all sorts of levels. First there is the craft itself. Old, rusty and looking as though it should have found its way to the breaker’s yard long ago or, at the very least, taken out into the Arabian Sea and quietly scuttled. Interestingly the ferry I was on displayed a brass plate which, if it was to be believed, stated that this particular ferry was built in Belfast at the Harland and Wolves Shipyards in 1957. As we left port it flashed into my mind that that was where they built the Titanic. 

     The second thing you notice, simply because you have no choice but to become part of it, is the complete disregard for anything remotely concerned with health and safety as foot passengers, motor cyclists and cars all push forward to get on board at the same time. It is even worse when it docks as disembarking foot passengers leap forward to get off even before it has docked properly and tied up. If they had a mind to I suppose they could just as easily jump off mid-crossing as there is nothing between them and the ocean briny except the angle of the on/off ramp which is only slightly higher than deck level. 

     The crossing itself only lasts about ten minutes but it was still a bit unnerving to notice the complete absence of life jackets or any kind of buoyancy aid or any kind of information should an emergency occur and the ferry sank. Needless to say, it didn’t sink and I made it to the island and back without encountering an storms or hurricanes and without any kind of trouble form marauding pirates or denizens of the deep.

     After such a perilous voyage some kind of sustenance was required. In the absence of lime juice or a tot of rum I made my way to the Killian Hotel where I had arranged to meet Dave Rees-Jones and Debbie Aldous from Birmingham who were on their last night in India. I met Dave and Debbie when they came to my concert a few nights before when they told me about the Killian Happy Hour which is actually the Happy Two Hours from four til six. This, I reasoned, was a deliberate marketing ploy on behalf the hotel management; they provide somewhere to go for a cold beer in the heat of the afternoon which somehow seamlessly becomes evening. By this time, of course, you are quite settled and you may as well stay on and have dinner and enjoy the rest of the night during the ‘unhappy’ hours. 
     After a starter of pakora and Kingfisher, the beer, that is, not one of our brightly plumaged feathered friends, I had a delicious fish curry. Kochi is, after all, a fishing port, famous for its Chinese Fishing Nets, so it seemed only right and proper that I sampled the local fruits de mer. Served with rice and chapati it was quite outstanding, especially when washed down with an ice cold Kingfisher Blue. Just the thing for a hungry and thirsty sailor type on shore leave. R. L. Stevenson summed it up perfectly:

    Home is the sailor , home from the sea,
    And the hunter home from the hill.

     I woke up about four o’clock with my stomach telling me that my fish curry was perhaps not quite as magnificent as I had thought. It felt as though one of the Kingfishers had taken flight inside my large intestine.  I had a fitful couple of hours sleep before I eventually got up and staggered to the loo where I found that things were just as I had feared; my insides seemed to have melted during the night. Time for a couple of charcoal capsules, I think.  

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