We took an early ferry boat across to the old part of Kochi, which was quite an interesting experience, which not only made us gain time once the drive on the bus would have taken much longer, but facilitated the first direct contact with the local people and the first real insight onto the Oman Sea.
Once we stepped on the island the fishing nets that spread along the coastline provided a view that was almost magically hypnotic, resembled huge delicate umbrella-like structures at times.
Known as Cheenavala fishing nets these are shore operated lift nets with huge mechanical contrivances holding out horizontal nets of 20 metres or more across. Each structure is at least 10 metres high and comprises a cantilever with large stones suspended from ropes as counter weights at the other end of the outstretched net. Each installation is said to be operated by a team of up to six fishermen.
The system is also said to be sufficiently balanced so that the weight of a single man walking along the main beam is sufficient to cause the net to descend into the sea, where it is left for a short time, possible no more than a few minutes before it is raised back up with the catch being usually modest - a few fish and crustaceans.
Each installation has a limited operating depth with different installations being operated at different tidal waters. It had been thought that these nets might have been introduced by the Chinese explorer Zheng He but recent researches have concluded they were introduced by Portuguese Casado settlers from Macau.
(To be continued)