Instead of hanging around in Cochin for another day in order to take our canoe ride through the backwaters, we decided to move south to the town of Kollam, from where we could also arrange a boat trip. Kollam is about a hundred miles south of Cochin, and we figured we'd be able to ride there, book a boat trip for the following morning, and then ride to Varkala in the afternoon (only another 30 miles or so). As we left Cochin, I noticed that traffic seemed lighter than I expected for morning in a city of its size. And the traffic all along the way was just as light. And then I realized that most of the shopfronts were shuttered. But it was a pretty morning, and we enjoyed the more relaxed and quiet ride for a while. At least until our fuel gauges indicated we were getting low, and we now noticed that like all the shops, all of the petrol stations were also closed, with tape barriers and empty buses and trucks blocking the entrances. Not a good thing, since we haven't been carrying much extra fuel in our jerrycans in India sinceit has been readily available everywhere. We did have a few liters in the cans and dumped it into the tanks and hoped it would be sufficient to get us to Kollam. As we got closer to Kollam, we found open stations and made our way into town, found a cheap guesthouse, skipped the A/C for an unknown reason, and ate lunch at the restaurant and bakery downstairs.
Afterward, we went out to find the government tourist office to book our canoe trip for the morning. As we walked along the main road in town, we heard many voices chanting something or other. It was a parade of school children of all ages, carrying banners and marching along the sidewalk. Since it was strike day, I assume they were participating in some related event, but Colin and I were two of only a handful of spectators. The first several contingents were all girls, dressed in very fancy, lacy, white dresses, colorful saris, or their school uniforms (depending on which school they attend). The boys classes all followed, dressed in their uniforms. When they saw us, some of the girls started waving surreptitiously at us. We waved back, and then more of the girls waved. Then the giggling began. Then the boys passed us, and they also waved, and smiled, and the column of students became disorderly. The poor teachers, many of whom were nuns, tried their best to keep the kids focused, but it was obviously a difficult job. The only group of students who paid us no attention were the very last - the marching band, and they were trying hard just to keep time and not fall off the sidewalk. It was a pretty silly experience. Once the “parade” had passed, we continued to the jetty to buy our tickets.
Later, back at the hotel, we started to realize the error of out ways in not opting for AC. Our room had no screens in the windows, and therefore, we couldn't open the windows to let in the slightly cooler air outside. To make matters worse, when we finally did lie down, we discovered that under the sheet, the mattresses were vinyl covered. It's going to be a sweaty night and not the good kind.