The Backwaters

Trip Start Nov 01, 2012
Trip End Nov 27, 2012

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Flag of India  , Kerala,
Wednesday, November 21, 2012

They said they weren't to be missed.  They're right.

Before we came to India we consulted the Lonely Planet and the Rough Guide and one or two others as well and they all said that to really experience the Backwaters, you needed to do an overnight stay on one of the converted rice boats. Sadly, one of the books also suggested that the sea snakes were likely to make an appearance over the side during the night and Jane wasn't keen on that [Jane: excuse me - Phil was also less than happy!] so we agreed, having spoken with a couple in Goa with recent experience, to do a day trip comprising a four hour trip in the morning on a full sized houseboat followed by three hours in the afternoon in a canoe through the narrow canals. We found just the job in a couple of agents and were just about to book it when our hotel receptionist asked if she could try to sort something out for us.

Her initial shot was a "sole charter" of a houseboat for the day for three times the price we had reckoned on. When we told her we were happy to spend time with other folks, she agreed to do us one for the same price as the other agents. We had serious difficulty though in explaining to her the idea of a big houseboat and a small canoe. It eventually got resolved about 9.30pm the night before we were due to go. The boatman agreed he would get us a canoe for the afternoon.
We weren't sure it was going to happen!

So we rocked up the following morning and were driven to the embarkation landing. There was us and one other couple. Five seats were set out on the boat in readiness. So we clambered aboard and proceeded to be punted along by two boatment with long bamboo poles. The fifth seat was for our guide who, it has to be said, ws a bit slow starting but when he got into his stride, was very interesting and very informative.

And it was delightful. There was no engine noise and it was just so peaceful. And when this small houseboat turned into the narrow canals, we realised that there really was no reason to swap to a canoe so we agreed to stay in the houseboat for the full day. We had the mandatory visit to the local village where we were shown all the spices that are grown here and then we had a demo of how to make coir rope. Fascinating! If anyone wants to know how it's done, then I'm your man!
The lunch stop was a two parter. First we stopped on one side of the river to pick up the lunch and the plates and then we were punted across to an island where our dining room was prepared. We dined on local Keralan fayre served on a banana leaf - that was the plate that had been hacked from a tree earlier...

In the afternoon, we hit the backwater proper, an enormous lake in which the boatmen really earned their money as they battled against the wind and the bow waves caused by the ferries.
We'd seen cormorants, kingfishers, small herons and all sorts - but no sea snakes. And I completely missed the biggy. As we were cruising back to our finishing point, a dead python floated past. They reckon it had been washed down by the monsoon rains and from what I'm told, it was enormous! Not sure I believe it though...

A cracking day all told. Do it if you're in the area...

Do take the time to look at the video - the first picture embedded in the test entitled "a tour through the Backwaters".
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