Day 2: The Backwaters

Trip Start Jan 25, 2012
Trip End Jan 30, 2012

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Flag of India  , Kerala,
Friday, January 27, 2012

We started our day sharp at 8 am, as planned. Breakfast at Prasanthi Hotel offered idlis only and that was just fine with us. I also got my first cup of filter coffee – Black, I insisted.

Kollam or Quilon seemed more of a trading town and there wasn't much we had to see. So we headed for Aleppy or Alapuzha which is very popular for its back waters and house boats. I was the first driver and I started the drive with change of music. The music system approved of my USB stick, so now we had loads of English and New Hindi music with a twist of some non flimi and fusion music.

The drive started to get interesting very soon. The promising back waters started appearing very soon while we drove on NH47. Most of the time we could see the Arabian sea on our left and the back waters on the right as the two waters merged together spawning big green cover all over the place. After about 2 hours of driving we saw the first hoarding of boat cruise in the back waters and soon after we saw a sign signalling a certain back waters jetty about 3 KM on the right. We promptly turned towards it and at 10:20 am Ameet was negotiating with the manager / owner for a short cruise for the four of us. He managed to strike a deal for 1 hour boat ride for Rs. 3000 with snacks.

We bought beer and some diet coke at the shop of the cruise company which obviously sold the goods at a high premium. The crew on our boat comprised Captain Vijay, waiter Vincent and cook Peter. Eggs and beer were on the menu. All the boats are used for day as well as night stay cruises so they have a kitchen, bathroom and air conditioned bed room. Some bigger boats have more than one bedroom and even a terrace. We used only the front deck, sitting on the relaxing chairs or lying down on the mattress laid just behind the captain’s wheel which was leading the boat.

The back waters have some amazing calmness about them. The cool breeze flowed into us, sort of, pouring the calm into us. The phones were off, so Alok was not explaining his decision to Manmohan or Montek or Sonia about not investing and Ashish was not worried about abruptly approving a loan, Ameet did not have to see the route on the GPS as he trusted Capt Vijay, I was just calm and patient as I smelled the roses!

In the meantime, Alok at volunteered to help the cook to make scrambled eggs for all of us. The eggs came in two varieties with or without onions. Ashish had given an impression that he does not have onions so Alok made scrambled eggs for him with only tomatoes which gave his portion a serious red colour. After a bite Ashish knew that he was missing the onions, he could not have scrambled tomatoes and claimed that with beer he can have onions. We had a good laugh and promptly mixed the two lots of scrambled eggs to get just the right mix onions and tomatoes with eggs.

Ameet was very keen on boating on the race boats and singing "Jiya Jale" song from Dil Se but to his disappointment that was not an option. The famous boat race happens in August between 16 boats in the same backwaters and these boast were not available for recreation. Each of these boats has 100 rowers who row the boat with great choreography and preciseness for more than 5 KM during the races.

Our cruise finished in about 90 minutes and we were not complaining about the delay of 30 minutes.

Post the cruise, Ameet took the wheels. With him on the wheels and with such serene experience, it was the right time for the Cocktail of the trip. We bought some oranges and got them cut into equal halves. Sprinkled a pinch of salt on the cut face and poured generous amount of Vodka on it. Some fell, but who cared? Each one of us, sans Ameet, had our orange. We waited for a few seconds before sucking out the vodka with orange juice. The “drink” was out of this world. What added great joy to this experience was the song from movie, Anjana Anajani, “I feel Good” and we did!

Ameet was driving on NH47 which was a bit boring. So Alok used his GPS to navigate Ameet to State Highway which was closer to the coast and meandered in between water bodies on either side of the road. One can only see to believe the natural beauty of this land – no wonder called “God’s Own Country”. The pattern continued till we reached near Kochi.

Lunch was at Udupi restaurant where we had some more some stew and also multiple Dosais. The food was nice even though the service left a lot to be desired. After lunch, Ashish, I and Alok took turns to drive.

We kept searching surprises, and they came in small doses. Once in our quest to reach the beach, we turned left towards it. After about 5 minutes of searching for the end of the land, we realised that we were going around in circles and probably the GPS was right, we were driving on an island!

We also hit a town called Ponnani where we saw many kids playing football in a big field divided into many groups. We tried to make friends with one of the groups but realized that we were not really welcome. So off we went, dejected! The same town was also celebrating some kind of Kali Ma festival. There were big processions on the street which slowed us down. There were people, strangely painted and dressed dancing on the roads with various clourful props that made them look very aggressive and scary.

After a stop near the river to see the sun drown into water, Alok drove like a maniac to reach Calicut or Kozhikode Beach Road by 8 pm. The Beach road has a hotel called, THE BEACH HOTEL. A very creative name, indeed, and seemed to work for them as well. The hotel did not have a single room. The receptionist recommended us another hotel called the Sea Queen, about 100 m away. Alok and Ashish walked the distance to check the hotel out, while Ameet and I waited. The hotel looked shady but the rooms were nice and we would have stayed there. As luck would have it they did not have rooms, or may be did not want to have one. Even Taj was fully booked. However they were kind enough to help us in booking 2 rooms in another property, The West Way. The city was certainly very busy and needed more hotel rooms! The hotel was quite nice, the staff helpful and they served really good dinner. We followed the dinner with some poker before we decided to call it a night at about midnight.

Ameet and I shared the room. He was already in bed as I went around figuring out how to switch off the lights and in this quest I pushed the Vodka bottle down from the table and broke it. The Glass spread all over the floor but we were just too lazy and sleepy to call the housekeeping at that time. We just slept with glass pieces and vodka spread all over the floor of the room.

It was another night of a sound sleep, or may be vodka in the air helped.
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