Rickshaw Racing: India, Day 1 Part 1
From everything I had heard about India, I expected to walk out onto the deck when we docked and have my eyes sting from the pollution and my nose assaulted by the overpowering stench of the country. In reality, I found it humid and colorful, but much less polluted and stinky than I was led to believe it was. Due to the availability of my friends, I ended up with Bailee and Cassie for the day. We decided to go out to see what Cochin had to offer us. We left the ship and were immediately bombarded with dozens of offers for rides in dirty little auto-rickshaws. We walked a little first, determined to find an ATM. When it became apparent that we had no idea where we were and were a little ways away from the ship, we accepted an offer for a ride from a man named Asharaf. We told him we wanted to go to an ATM first, and then he offered to take us around Fort Kochi for the day. As I experienced Indian driving for the first time, my life flashed before my eyes. Asharaf raced the other rickshaws and weaved in and out of oncoming traffic, as the girls and I screamed and laughed and held our breath. As the wind whipped my face and hair, I watched the women dressed in colorful saris fly by and could not believe that I had made it to India.
After Asharaf took us to an ATM (where I pulled an exorbitant amount of cash out, determined to have myself a good time), he took us to the spice quarter of the town. We stopped at a small place where ginger was the spice of life, laid out for what seemed like an acre to dry in the sun. We went inside a dark and dank room where ladies with knobby knuckles deep lines on their faces stood in two-person teams and sifted pounds of ginger on a large sifter. They gave Bailee and I a chance to try our hands at it and we laughed as ginger dust swirled through the humid air and coated us as we rhythmically moved back and forth. The next place we stopped at were the Chinese fishing nets. These huge contraptions are mostly used in Kerala (the Indian state where Kochi is), and I do not know why they’re called “Chinese” nets. The huge net is counterbalanced by large rocks and are lifted and lowered in and out of the sea, usually for a modest catch of fish and crustaceans. We walked along the large beams that held the nets as the fisherman beckoned us closer to the edge. Bailee ended up slicing her toe open on a rock (wear closed-toed shoes, ladies!), and the fisherman bum rushed her with Band Aids remedies. When she was taken care of, we braved the stench and explored the fish market. While we were walking around, I discovered an empty Diet Coke can. Diet Coke! I had not seen it or had any since home, and Bailee and I went nuts. Asharaf guided us to a stand that sold the wonderful beverage. When we had quenched our thirst, we moved on.