Day 127, Year 5: Strike in Kerala
Date: Tuesday, March 2, 2010
Weather: Hot and Hazy; 92 degrees F inside at 6 pm
Location: Bolgatty Hotel Anchorage, Cochin (Kochi), India
We are not buying fuel here in Cochin because the price is way too high for this part of the world. The prices here are more like Australian fuel prices. And evidently the entire state of Kerala has been in an uproar about this. So today they declared a 24-hour transportation strike. Mark, Ed, and I took the dinghy to shore about 1:30 this afternoon. We walked along the waterfront and saw no ferry activity, but that didn’t clue us in. We then rounded the corner and found no auto rickshaws, no veggie and fruit stands open, and even the little shops that sell snacks and cold drinks were all wrapped in tarp. We looked up Bannerji Street and there was NO traffic. We felt like the end of the world had come and we didn’t know about it. When we reached the street there was a vendor selling lottery tickets and we asked what was happening. He said, “Strike.” And then an English speaking couple wandered by and explained that the transportation workers were on a 24-hour strike. All transport workers including bus, taxis, and auto rickshaws. And very few stores in town were open, probably because no one could get to work. The people of this country depend heavily on public transportation, so Ernakulam was like a ghost town today. We walked up to Market Road just to see if the main fruit and veggie market was open. Some stalls were, but most weren’t. But the ones that were open allowed us to buy what we came for. Supposedly, everything will be back to normal tomorrow. Since nothing was open, we couldn’t buy a newspaper, but what I read on the internet suggested that the strike will end tonight but that the bus system will go on indefinite strike as of March 11 unless they are allowed to increase fares. Evidently even the educational institutions were closed today and the annual examinations in the schools scheduled for today and the University examinations were postponed. Our latest planned departure date is March 10, so on this front our timing is good.
Evidently not all transportation was closed today as our compressor was delivered by Blue Dart, a subsidiary of DHL here. We cooled down a bit overnight and decided that we had no choice other than to pay the unfair duty costs. We still plan to investigate this with the Customs officials here, but we really expect to get nowhere. Tomorrow morning the refrigeration team will come to install the new compressor and hopefully it will be up and running by tomorrow night. The toilet repair kit left New Delhi yesterday morning, but we heard nothing about it today. Maybe because of the strike. Hopefully tomorrow that will arrive and we can be finished with worrying about whether or not things are going to arrive. We received another package from our daughter today, so the West Marine toilet repair kit is the last thing we are waiting for.
But now we are having a diode disaster. Tonight when we turned on the engine to charge our batteries, Mark saw that the voltage output was not as high as it should be. When he looked in the engine room, he could see one of the diodes on our main alternator sparking. That is the same alternator we had rebuilt in Thailand, but something is not right. I have no idea if we can get this repaired here, and I know we can replace the main alternator with our spare, but I also know that means that we will have to run the engine much longer to charge. I’m not sure we can carry enough fuel from the Maldives to Chagos to make this work, and if we continue on, we will still have four to five months after the Chagos before we reach South Africa where repairs could be done. Soooooooo . . . we will have to have this checked out and then make decisions on what to do or where to go from here. This has definitely not been our year. We just go from one big problem to another. I’m hoping that St. Patrick’s Day might turn all of that around!