It was a beautiful sunny day, perfect for our 11/2 hr journey up the river. I couldn't believe that some of our fellow passengers were more interested in reading a book than observing all the fascinating activities going on along the riverbank. There were men sat shaving,
some were bathing, clothes were being washed, a spot of fishing here and there, cows and goats being milked - just everyday chores to them, all carried out so publicly. The children all shouted and waved enthusiastically as we went by. Lush tropical foliage framed the riverbank giving the whole place a beautiful tranquility. Also moving up and down the river were these magnificent houseboats, they looked so elegant, but apparently quite costly to hire. Only the very wealthy can afford a holiday in one of these houseboats on the Kerala Backwaters.
The main house on our homestay which belongs to Mr Gopa, is right on the river.
Mr Gopa also organises the other houses that are available to take guests. It's a good system and brings a bit of money into the community. On this occassion Fred & I are being billeted in a house just around the corner, whilst Doris and Katie are in another house nearby. Our accommodation is very pleasant, it is a small
dwelling detached from the main house and overlooking a pond. The owners of the property are Tomichen & Nimmy.
Tom is a farmer, his paddy fields are directly across the road from his home. He says the farmland has been in the family for 1,500 years. During our conversation, Tomichen was very proud to tell us that Saint Thomas had christened his (great great etc.) grand father when he had visited this area preaching the word of God, and that's how he got his name. Tom and his family are practising catholics, and their eldest son is studying to become a priest, which is a great source of pride to Tomichen & Nimmy. We had lunch with our host family then went to the main house to meet up with the others for an orientation walk around the village.
We joined Mr Gopa on a walk thru the lanes at the back of the main house. As we ambled along past farms and houses Mr Gopa introduced us to all manner of bushtucker. First and foremost the humble coconut palm. We were suprised to learn that there is not a single thing that is wasted from the coconut, he even showed us how to twist the fibre to make string. Not as easy as it looked. He then pointed out tamarind, black tamarind, henna, a gherkin plant that the Portuguese introduced, curry leaves, chilies etc. He was also most informative about the growing of rice. The Backwaters are below sea level and when they want to flood the paddy fields they open up pipes that run directly into the river which brings in not only water, but also tiny fish, into the flooded fields. By the time the rice is ready for harvest, the fish have become quite big, so the farmer is able to make a bit of money out of this unexpected bounty. Sounds a bit weird - a fishing industry in a rice field - but it does happen.
We returned to the main house where Mr Gopa's wife had been busy making dinner for all of us, and very nice it was I might add. Feeling well fed and watered, we said our goodnights and returned to our respective houses. A very pleasant day.
It was a very early rise this morning - up at 5.45am to have breakfast and catch the train to Alleppey. Fortunately it was only a 2hr train journey. From the station we took an auto rickshaw to the quayside to board the boat that would take us to our overnight homestay.