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Saturday, 11 February 2017

VISITING VYPIN ISLAND - a lovely excursion from Cochin


Chinese fishing nets, Fort Cochin


Goat on a boat: on the ferry from Vypin to Fort Cochin


Like Venice and Istanbul, Cochin is a city where water plays an important role both functionally and aesthetically. The Cochin ‘metropolitan’ area that includes Fort Cochin, Mattancherry, the modern city of Ernakulam, Willingdon Island, and other islands is infiltrated with waterways that flow past them and out into the Arabian Sea. These watery channels are alive with shipping, lined with fishermen, flanked by warehouses, and swarming with waterfowl. The sun reflects off the waters, producing a rare quality of light that heightens the beauty of the area.

The historic city of Fort Cochin with its many historic buildings, its Chinese fishing nets, and its colourful shoreline, makes for a wonderful place for tourists to linger. I have visited the place three times in two years, and Cochin’s attraction simply continues to grow for me.

The elongated island of Vypin (aka ‘Vypeen’) runs in a north-south direction, its southernmost tip being across the estuary from Fort Cochin. Two ferries connect Vypin with Fort Cochin. One carries foot passengers only, and the other carries both vehicles and foot passengers.

Ticket office for ferry at Vypin


The first time that I crossed to Vypin on the foot passenger only ferry, I noticed that a section of the boat was reserved for ladies only. Indeed, the queues for the ticket boot were segregated by gender. Lately (2017), I did not notice any separation of male and female passengers.

Leaving Fort Cochin, the ferry passenger gets a good view of the Chinese fishing nets on one side, and of the waterfronts of the Brunton Boat House and its neighbours (such as the old Aspinwall warehouse complex).

The ferry captains have to navigate carefully, so as to avoid colliding with all manner of craft: everything from ocean going liners and enormous dredgers to tourist pleasure boats and smaller craft used by the local fishermen.

Boats moored at Vypin


As the Fort Cochin shore begins to recede and mingle with the heat haze, the Chinese fishing nets of Vypin get nearer. Behind them, it is not difficult to see a couple of huge cylindrical structures, which are part of an oil refining site near to the Arabian Sea shore.

Belts in a small shop in Vypin


Both ferries dock at the aged, rather shabby Vypin ferry terminal, which until recently contained an even shabbier café, The Sealand, now closed. Passing through the terminal, we reach a line of small shops that face a parking area where multi-coloured busses and auto-rickshaws park. These busses carry passengers to a variety of places including Ernakulam and beaches at the northern tip of the island.

Detail on a private house in Vypin


The southern shore of Vypin is a peaceful contrast to the relatively busy shore of Fort Cochin, which faces it across the water. A good paved footpath follows the shoreline, passing several Chinese fishing net set-ups, upon whose ropes and wooden structural elements sea birds roost. On a recent visit, most the avian population consisted of white egrets. Landward of the path but partly hidden by the dense foliage of luxuriant gardens, you can just about spot low dwellings.



Taking one of the paths that lead away from the sea, one enters a series of narrow lanes lined with domestic residences surrounded by lush gardens. Wandering around these lanes reminded me of the lesser visited parts of Venice. There was hardly anyone around, little or no traffic, and a lovely calm silence.



The village of Vypin is built around The Church of Our Lady of Hope, (aka "Nossa Senhora Da Esperança"), which was built during the Portuguese occupation in 1605 AD (see picture above). Along with many other Roman Catholic buildings in the Cochin  district, it was badly damaged by the Dutch in 1663, but has been restored lovingly since then. Usually this is closed except for early morning masses. My wife managed to persuade a passing nun to get the sacristan to open up the church for us. While its interior (see picture below) is not as grand as some of the churches we saw in Goa, it is nevertheless worth seeing. A great anchor hangs from the northern wall of the chancel. A highly-revered effigy stands in a glass-fronted cabinet covered with a curtain near the southern wall of the church.



A short walk through more narrow lanes brings one back to the ferry station. Whereas the passenger only boat is quite comfortable for passengers, the boat that carries vehicles is less so. Passengers congregate at the covered foremost part (the bow) of the boat. Cars and vans are tightly loaded onto the ferry, and then the two wheelers motor bikes and scooters) squeeze their way into the remaining spaces including at the bow of the ship where foot passengers congregate, trying to avoid being knocked by mirrors or getting their feet run over by wheels.



Disembarking, one realises how peaceful Vypin is in comparison with Fort Cochin. This is not to say that Fort Cochin is not particularly unrestful (as is the city of Ernakulam); it is just far busier than that  peaceful haven Vypin.

The vehicular ferry at Fort Cochin


Now WATCH a short video showing a crossing from Fort Cochin to Vypin by CLICKING HERE

Church hall on Vypin Island next to Church of Our Lady of Hope 

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