Proposal in Patnem
After a hot journey 3 hours south, in the company of a rather large spider who refused to leave the vehicle, we arrived in Patnem. Another gorgeous beach. Different to Mandrem in that it is a horseshoe bay rather than a wide expanse, prettier in a way because of that. We were staying at Salida del Sol and knew that Paul Harris should already have arrived. After over 2 months without seeing friends you could say we were a tad excited! And lo and behold, there he was. Hugs all round, happiness and catching up.
Over the next few hours and days more arrivals, hugs and happiness and finally we had the full gang together - Robbie, Grey, Amy, Nina, Liz, Vix, Jim, Kirsty, Paul, Angus, Jo and myself. And what fun we had! Days were whiled away lazing on sun-loungers, swimming in the sea, doing Yoga (well I went once), playing football, kayaking, reading books and having the odd snooze, while nights saw us working our way through healthy amounts of fresh fish and even healthier amounts of freshly poured glasses of booze. Life doesn't come much better.
For New Year's Eve we booked ourselves a large table at the Hidden Gourmet restaurant and sat down to a delicious five course meal. I sat there nervously as a friend of Paul and Jo's, came over to our table to announce that she had just got engaged. At which point Nina turned to me and said what a nice idea it was to get engaged here on the beach on NYE... I held my nerve and just smiled and nodded.
We got back to Salida just in time for us to order a few bottles of pseudo-champagne and for me to fumble about in my backpack to dig out a ring that I'd bought more than a month previously in Jaipur in a very rare moment that Jo and I hadn't been side by side (she was in a changing room trying on clothes and I grabbed the only 5 minutes I was going to get... and bought the only ring in the shop). We all headed onto the beach just as the midnight fireworks started to go off and I fell on one knee. Her first response was 'really?!' but that was thankfully followed by a resounding 'YES!'. Get in! I'm a very happy, and lucky, man.
Suffice to say we all had a great time that night, one we will all remember for the rest of our days, with Jo and myself sitting high on Cloud 9 and all of us finding ourselves singing the Oakey Cokey in the sea as dawn broke. And only two nights later we were at it again (without any proposals), celebrating Liz's birthday.
And then it was time for the group to temporarily split... Grey, Liz, Vix, Paul and Angus went to Hampi and Mysore, Amy and Nina were meant to go to Munnar but ended up having a fine time in Periyar instead, and Robbie, Jim, Jo and myself were meant to go to Kunnar in northern Kerala. Except that we didn't... we did however enjoy/endure a round trip to the train station and breakfast on a no-where-near-as-nice beach but when it became clear after about 5 hours that our train may never actually arrive we thankfully decided to cut our losses and head back to Patnem for a few more days of paradisiacal beach action instead. Which was tough.
Robbie then headed home to London with a bright red face, Jim decided to stay on in Patnem with Kirsty, and Jo and I headed on an overnight train to Cochin (Kochi) in Kerala and then on by car to Kumarakom to meet up with the rest of the gang again for more adventures...