Strikes on the Backwaters

Trip Start Nov 17, 2011
Trip End May 01, 2012

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Where I stayed
Lemon Dew Guesthouse
What I did

Flag of India  , Kerala,
Sunday, February 26, 2012

Arriving in Kochin, we got an easy bus connection to Alleppey, a town that is a good base from which to rent a houseboat to explore the backwaters. We had read in the guidebook that the best deals were available if you went down to the quay and haggled face to face. We had decided to do this and whilst on the bus we met a pleasant lady who was studying to become a doctor. Her husband owned a houseboat and they took us to see it. The boat was definitely one of the more up market ones, sporting luxurious accommodation, a flat screen TV and multiple bedrooms. Being slightly out of our price range we declined and searched for something more modest.

A tuk tuk driver indicated some smaller boats moored near our guesthouse and said that these were cheaper. We wandered down had took a look aboard the only boat that was left. She didn't have name but we thought she was very pretty and snug. There was an outside dining/relaxing area, a small balcony with one dud chair and a small en suite room. The price included three meals a day as well as water and chai (of course). The crew consisted of a captain and a chef who both seemed very nice, if not slightly mute. We booked the boat for the following two days with the owner and headed down to the beach for a bite to eat.

We found a lovely rooftop restaurant and although the service was somewhat lacking, Femmy had the best squid she ever had in her life so it was worth it! Wish we could remember the name so we could recommend it to other people going to Alleppey. We spent that evening in the Lemon Dew Guesthouse. It was full of other backpackers and despite the interesting garden that more closely resembled not a hotel garden, but one belonging to students, it had atmosphere!

In the morning we set off to board our vessel. We were greeted with smiles, a generous fruit bowl and a coconut drink. We then left the mooring and started off down the beautiful canals. There were lots of other boats and most were more luxurious than ours but were also a lot bigger and therefore weren’t able to get down some of the smaller channels that ours could. The canals are really stunning, lined with shocking pink/orange/blue houses. It’s a great opportunity to do some people watching too. There are people washing their clothes/themselves, children swimming and lots of commuting canoes. We had a delicious fish lunch whilst on a massive lake where there were lots of other houseboats. In the evening we moored by a small fishing village, had a wander around the rice paddies, watched some net fishing and listened to a Graham Norton podcast as we watched a spectacular sun set. Perfect!

The following day, we had our breakfast and sat waiting to set sail. 10’o clock came and went as did 11. We searched for our captain, who we eventually found, and enquired when we would be leaving. He looked at us, clearly surprised, and declared 'but there is a strike on today’. He told us that all house boats were striking today and that if we went on the canals people would throw stones at us. We asked if this had been previously planned and if he had known about and he replied that, yes, he had known. We then attempted to explain that when one strikes, they don’t go to work. We pointed out that he was at work and being paid, which somewhat nullified his strike efforts. On speaking to the owner of the boat on the phone he agreed with what we had said but was sorry, we couldn’t even go back to Alleppey as the route was via the canals! We then gathered that we were stranded on the lake until the next day. We asked whether we could at least sail around the lake and the owner said we could. Although we had a relaxing day lounging in the sun, sailing was not something that we did a lot of that day!

The captain later asked if we would like to go for a walk in a nearby village and took us to the other end of the same village we had been to previously. This transpired to be the home of the captain and chef and we suspected that their frequent disappearances may have been due to them nipping home! We spoke to the owner again and Ruth got us a very big discount, egged on by Femmy, but this was not conducive to the good mood of the captain, who shouted and stamped about rather a lot. He then seemed to resign himself but there was a very frosty mood pervading the boat that evening! We felt for the captain as we understood that this would mean a reduction in his salary, but we also had not got the service we had paid for on the second day.

Based on this and our many experiences in India we decided to name our boat the ‘Elair’ which sounded pretty and was constructed from the fitting words, elation and despair! We are definitely getting used to the rollercoaster ride that is India and with going with the flow a bit more. A guy that we met in Goa described it perfectly by saying ‘You can have goals in India, but don’t try to make plans!’

On mooring back in Alleppey the next morning, we got some of our money back and got ourselves ready to set off for the Sivananda Ashram near Trivandrum for 2 weeks of yoga.
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A & A on

Great photography, keep the blog coming Loves Ya A & A

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