Cruising the backwaters of Kerala

Trip Start Nov 30, 2009
Trip End Jun 01, 2011

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Where I stayed
House Boat and Homestay

Flag of India  , Kerala,
Thursday, February 18, 2010

(There are pictures to go with this blog - just having some technical problems - check back again soon to see some lovely shots of the boat and backwater scenery)

One of our main reasons for visiting Kerala was to explore the backwaters by converted rice barge.  I think I must have seen it years ago on some travel show or another and added it to my memory bank of places I wanted to visit during my lifetime.  We arrived from Fort Kochi, met a friendly rickshaw driver who told us about his parent home stay and within minutes of getting off the bus found ourselves crammed into the back of the rickshaw- with all our bags and bumping our way along a very very narrow footpath alongside one of the canals.  Very hairy moment when someone needed to pass when we were both sure we would end up in the drink - but somehow we made it to the home stay unscathed and were introduced to the family who would be our hosts.  Despite only having a very limited amount of English they were very friendly and bent over backwards to be helpful - with the mum offering to cook us dinner and agreeing to making up eggs for breakfast and the dad heading off into town to secure us a houseboat for the next day. They had a daughter still living with them at home who must have been in her 30's - very sweet lady but to put it nicely possibly a samosa short of a picnic!  She had a very unnerving habit of sneaking up quietly behind you, staring and then occasionally reaching out to stoke your arm!  Bless

Our homestay was right on the main canal into town so our house boat was able to collect us right from the front door, rather than us needing to go to the main pier.  It came complete with 2 staff, a driver and a cook - we'd opted for a small one bedroom boat, a little basic and not quite the luxury levels of some of the huge 3 and 4 bedroom boats but more than adequate and up to the job of showing us the backwaters.  The price included 3 meals and we were treated to an excellent and enormous lunch of fish and vegetable curries, rice, roti and fruit.  We made a couple of stops on route, one to a shack selling fish and the second to a shed that was making the local brew - coconut toddy.  Looked a lot like traditional cloudy lemonade and it made by tapping the trunks of the coconut trees and then mixing the sap with sugar so it ferments.  A bit sweet tasting and definitely packs a bit of a punch.  We bought a liter bottle (in a recycled water bottle and shared it with the guys on the boat - who seemed to enjoy it far more than we did.

The scenery along the canals was beautiful, palm trees, rice fields, cows grazing, women and children washing and doing the laundry - very relaxing just watching the world go by.  We had time to try our hands at a spot of fishing - lots of nibbles and bait taken but didn't manage to catch anything sadly.  We moored up for the evening next to a small house belonging to our chef's brother, and were introduced to his young nieces who insisted we come into their home.  Spent the next hour being entertained by the two girls who sang, danced, showed us their school work and as a finale turned on all of the fairy lights around the huge painting of Jesus that hung in the corner of their lounge!  We reciprocated by showing them photos of our families, home and letting them listen to the IPOD which went down a storm! 

It was hot and sticky overnight, just a small ceiling fan that just moved the hot air around rather than cooling anything.  Sunrise at 7am and a beautiful view out of our bedroom window, as dozens of other house boats made their way back to base in Allepy.  Just time for breakfast - veg curry, omelet and roti and then an hour or so back along the canal and it was all over.  We discovered that the biggest benefit of being on a smaller boat was that we were able to explore the much smaller and narrower channels that the large gin palaces couldn't, which took us past some beautiful water Lilly filled lagoons and past tiny villages.  Much more interesting than the large, wide main channels.
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