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Published: November 8th 2012
Houseboats for hire
A most romantic way of enjoying the Backwaters.
I am sitting on a houseboat on the Kerala backwaters
as the sun sets orange into the palm trees. M__ and I are enjoying wine as a light breeze cools us. Crows are calling to each other in the background. The water is gently rippled, sufficient to cradle the islands of water lilies as far as can be seen. Quiet, except for the creaking of the rattan and rustling of the palms, with an occasional muffled voice from one of the other three houseboats in our party (and one distant motor boat).
We were four and a half hours on the bus, juddering along. Most of the way was lined with the mix of businesses and houses I now expect. Areas that looked like forests from a distance actually were full of houses under the tree canopy when we passed by closely. As we came closer to Allepy
, the fields of bananas turned to rice paddies, and water became more evident. Allepy itself was the expected bustling town, and on the outskirts we stopped to get into tuk-tuks
for the ten-minute ride along the narrow, winding road/path to the dock for houseboats. Almost at the docks, we passed a celebration for a
Overjoyed to have such an exotic cruise
wedding: festive drumming and happy people out to watch the procession to the bride’s new home.
There was a re-arranging of boats because of a repair needed, but we guests paid no attention. The only real effect was that M__ and I joined some of the others for lunch and the afternoon cruise.
Every sight seemed worthy of a photo. Lots of day-trip and overnight boats were motoring slowly up the long canals and waterways. Cormorants and herons perched on the floating water lilies. Women washed clothes in the river in the ancient way of slapping them on a stone – a distinctive rhythm that soon became familiar. Men paddled their small boats of goods or “hay” or personal provisions. School children leaned out from their large “school buses”.
At one point we pulled tightly into a line of boats. I got off with my video camera when L___ invited us. She was buying dinner – originally to be shrimp but now fresh water lobsters when she saw those pulled out of the container for another customer.
Our afternoon drifted on until about 5:30. Another boat – for M__ and me – was tied up to
The slap, slap of clothes being washed by both women and men
a breakwater. The main boat also tied up, allowing us to get on our own boat in time for the deep orange sunset.
Our houseboat has two full bedrooms with queen sized beds and bathrooms (although the shower either didn’t work or had only cold water – I didn’t try). At the back was a reasonably sized kitchen, although ours wasn’t being used. And in the front was a good-sized sitting room. The exterior was all rattan over a wood structure. We had four large rattan easy chairs and a large coffee table.
M__ and I chatted in the dusk and drank the crisp, fruity white wine we have been enjoying since my birthday selection days ago. The steward was startled that we wanted a whole bottle, but the tour boat company had agreed to supply wine gratis because of the trouble with the boats earlier.
Our dinner was served on one of the larger boats (three bedrooms). To get there, we clambered out one of the “windows” on our boat and through a “door” on theirs – lots of help from the boat stewards. Once on the dinner boat, we discovered that the bottle of wine
Serene views of waterplants, coconuts groves, birds, and other boats
M__ and I drank was the only one! L___ regretted her negotiation naivety and everyone teased us. Great memory, so I couldn’t feel any regret.
The Indian dishes throughout the trip have been tasty, strange and often highly spiced. It’s hard to remember specifics because I don’t recognize most of the names, except category words such as “curry” and “masala”. Plus, quite often, the actual ingredients are hard to identify, except as “chicken” or “fish”. This night, however, we had the lobsters
grilled with ginger and lemon. There was a fish also, but it was not particularly flavourful.
A funny incident happened after dinner when, as usual, I asked if they had green tea. The young steward spontaneously burst into full laughter, his eyes widening with astonishment. “Green tea! Green
tea! No.” He obviously didn’t even know there could be such a question, let alone such a product. Generally, Indians here drink tea made with black tea powder.
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