The last week I (Anne Marthe Johansen) have been on a journey in South of India with a Norwegian group of sporty ladies from the countryside in Norway. They are members of Bygdekvinnelaget (The Norwegian Countrywomen). Ethical Travel Portal was contacted to give the women a “local experience” before the conference and make sure they had a good stay in Chennai with transfers, guidance and local sightseeing.
Before I met the lady I travelled from Bangalore to Cochin; a train ride I had far too big expectations to; 11 hours on a ” bench” with to Indian guys with only a book to read in. I finished the book! Finally I reached Cohin (Kerala), and I was really happy to meet Linda at the train station. It was also great to use a toilet that was not a whole in the ground and stinking of urine!
After joining Linda and six lovely Norwegian people for a few days, I met “my” group. I would be traveling with them for the next ten days as their tour escort. At the airport I was excited to meet the women. After a rough start with some delay and a broken suitcase everyone was happy and safe in the bus at Cochin Airport, Kerala.
The first few days was dedicated to explore the local communities along River Nila in Kerala and Cheruturuthy. Nila is a river that the locals are depending on but is now on a critical state. One reason is over usage of its resources.
In Nila we visited Khadi centre (where Mundu/Dhoti, clothes used by men are produced), pottery workshop, bell metal work, mat manufacturing Unit, serpent worship, Vyali Folklore group (a performance of dance and music) and Musical Trail was some of the visits in Kerala. They are all connected to Nila Fondation that works towards preserving the culture along the river and showcase the importance of the river it self.
After some days in Kerala it was time for the women to move on to Chennai for a short week. We travelled with the night train, and everyone, including me, were excited! The ride went surprisingly well, and everyone was happy to explore a different kind of India. In Chennai they participated at the conference “Associated country women of the world”, where the theme is empowering women worldwide; encourage, educate and enrich. This was also the main reason why they travelled to India.
Chennai is different from Kerala; more traffic, sounds and smells, landscape and climate. The whole group enjoyed the hotel with massage, drinks, hot water and room service. These days the woman went to the conference, did some shopping (silk from locals), sightseeing and enjoyed the food and atmosphere in the big city of Chennai.
After dropping the woman at the airport, it was time for me to get back to Bangalore and continue my “normal life”. All in all, a great trip to the south of India, with lovely people and memorable impressions!
- Anne Marthe Johansen