A love affair with the backwaters of Kerala


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Asia » India » Kerala » Alleppey
September 9th 2015
Published: December 14th 2015
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Cruising through the backwaters of Kerala we slowly meandered through the lush rivers surrounded by calm, tranquil slow paced village life. The backwaters were nothing short of incredible. Another highlight and memorable experience.

Gliding slowly through the waterways we were very content and relaxed as we witnessed this tranquil place. We passed many local houses, fish farms, men, women and children walking the riverbanks.

It was so peaceful. We had the opportunity to witness the larger waterways on our houseboat we stayed on for a couple of days and the narrower waterways when we later hired out a small boat for the day on a separate occasion. These waterways were beautiful. There were so many different shades of green. From the bright green rice terraces to the darker green palm tree leaves, the light green mango trees, the electric green fauna and the murky deep dark green of the backwaters. I think it covered the whole spectrum of green.

Due to the mere width of the narrower waterways we were able to get up close and personal with life here. Watching life pass by us by, gazing on as people carried on with their daily tasks paying very little if any attention to us tourists in the boat.

We watched as women washed the family clothes. Slapping the clothes on the rock surfaces of the riverbanks dragging them up and dragging it back down again. Seemed like back breaking work. Slap slap slap we would hear and watch as the clothes circled the air and passed the surface of the rock.

We passed many girls and women doing this. All varying in ages from maybe 14 to 70's possibly. All fully concentrated on the task at hand as they rubbed detergent onto the clothes before the clothes slapping began.

Children were always playing happily. Running down the banks or riding their bikes down the tiny riverside dirt paths. They always stopped curiously to watch us, sometimes excitedly waving and saying hello. That always gets us smiling. We watched the fishmen as they paddled down the river attempting to sell fish along the way. School children and people using small boats to cross the larger waterways. Men just wearing their paso (long wrapped skirt) folded up to their knees jumped in and out of water rubbing soap onto themselves. Women were always fully dressed as they bathed. Many women washed carried their babies into the water and splashed water over them in a controlled soft manner.

We observed many relaxed locals on the riverbank fishing; some using a very basic self made bamboo fishing rod. Others were using mere string alone.

It was so tranquil here. The only noises you could hear was the faint soft rumbling of the engine. The slapping of the clothes washing, hummingbirds in their nest, local chatter, children playing and the odd cow mooing when we passed one. We saw many different types of birds. Beautiful blue kingfisher birds, brightly coloured woodpeckers, groups of black crows and a snake bird settling on houseboats. We even managed to hold an eagle. It must have been domesticated as afterwards it flew back to the house beside the shop we stopped at.

At end of a narrower waterway on the smaller boat tour we stopped. Our captain explained the high water and low banks issues, and the problems the locals have with cobras, especially at night. Both the overnight houseboat tour and the day tour and provided us with an insight of how locals lived along the banks survived and provided for their families and was a worthwhile experience.

Although we initially intended on going house-boating alone, we changed our minds after meeting two travellers James (Brit living in the states) and Chelsea (from Sydney, Australia) and decided to get a boat with them instead (not that it saved us much money but the social aspect of it appealed).

We were not really sure of what to expect beforehand as although we had heard descriptions of these houseboats, we had not seen any pictures. Arriving at the jetty and seeing our houseboat for the first time we all instantaneously fell in love. Having a peak of the boats interior we all laughed to ourselves and we were full of excitement. It was a slice of luxury we all had been missing.

The boat was deceivingly long. It was aesthetically pleasing to the eye too. Covered in a bamboo thatched style outer exterior that blended well with its solid hard dark wooden base and beautifully shaped window openings for backwater gazing. Plus this boat unlike all of the others had a second floor viewing platform with an outdoor viewing area on a bed-like platform and many comfortable chairs to relax right under the shaded roof area.

There was a open plan living room/dining room area on the ground floor and it came eqiupped with 2 double bedrooms. These rooms were well decorated and came equipped with a toilet and a real shower cuibicle. God have we missed these. Surprisingly they also had power outlets, air conditioning, a fan (we always prefer the fan) and not to forget the beautiful glass windows revealing the glorious backwaters. At the back of both rooms was the chefs kitchen. And a tiny outdoor area too.

This felt like our own little cruise liner. But apart from gazing out into sea and waiting for the arrival of some sort of destination... we would never arrive. I use the word 'never' loosely as the trip was only 11/2 day so we did eventually arrive back where we started.

Either way... this trip was all about the journey. Backwater culture, relaxation and a beauty scenery.

For staff we had chef Sunill and captain Harris, the campest indian guy we had ever met. Glasses of juice and snacks were served upon our arrival and we were given a brief decription of our itinerary including lunch, dinner and times we would be anchoring up.

There's no better way of describing our time spent house boating through the backwaters apart from saying that our time was spent doing nothing but relaxing on the sun exposed bed on the upper deck, catching the rays and gazing out over the backwaters.

The backwaters were really something special. Lush vegetation surrounded the river banks with life and small homes scattered sparsely along its banks. We took picture after picture commenting on how beautiful it was. Palm trees lined the banks, rice paddies shone out in the distance and the people who lived along the waterways strolled around these shores of the backwaters.

Lunch was nearly a disaster. When we arrived a fishmongers shop (selling all types of fish, tiger prawns and lobsters) we were asked to buy something. Slightly confused we attempted to confirm whether lunch was included.

"Yes yes, you only buy if you want more he replied". We was not reassured. We asked to see 'lunch' and it was revealed we had the 2 smallest pieces of fish to share between us. For 4 people. After a short phone call to the hostel to get this corrected we were all served a fish each after this little 'mistake'.

In the evening we banked on the river close to a really small village that lined the shores. Rather than explore we enjoyed our time on the boat watching the beautiful colours of sunset and admiring the reflection of the the palm trees in the still waters. The captain and chef made us a makeshift fishing rod using a long piece of bamboo, a thin piece of string and a hook on the end with some bait (chapati mix we think). We all had a go at attempting to catch something with no joy. With it being P's first time she did not want to put the rod down.

After dinner, entertainment followed which turned out to be a couple of songs sung by our chef and captain in high pitched voices and bad attempts of Indian dancing by all us. It was heaps of fun as we all attempted to follow captain Harris's dancing instructions. Since some other boats were docked nears ours, we invited some others on the adjacent boat to come aboard and join us also.

After we all could no longer move, with the beer and wine settled down well, we once again sat on the upper deck padded mattress. This time lay on our backs underneath the stars gazing out at them as we discussed god knows what.

Cruising down the backwaters of Kerala was a truly unforgettable experience, one we rate highly and would seek out again.

After house-boating down the backwaters we spent a little beach time on the beach. Allepey had is own beach and although it was not as aesthetically pleasing as you might like it did however have a lovely ambience. During the day we spotted groups of cricketers making use of the open space, while couples sat holding up umbrellas to protect themselves from the sun.

Strolling along it we really tried to absorb the many sensations that we felt. Soft grains of sand between our toes, the sea breeze blowing over us creating streams of cool air and giving us a respite from the days heat. Golden sandy banks and sparkling blue water. Families, couples, groups and pairs of men/women, people chatting and laughing. Every so often these sounds were being drowned out by the sound of the waves crashing into themselves and into the sand.

Mentally taking note of these sensations we hoped to imprint these feelings to memory in an attempt to eventually take them home with us. Lets hope it works.

Along with Alleppey beach we also visited Marari beach 7 miles away from Alleppey. This beach was stunning. White sands and blue sea that was warm when you stepped into it. It beach was visually nicer than Alleppey beach and we spent an evening there just relaxing on the sand.

One thing we observed while we sat there was an Indian couple with an entourage of about 5 photographers taking pictures of them. They had us intrigued and slightly amused.

One minute they were posing on the sand together, the guy leaning back on a tree gazing out at the girl in the distance, the next minute they were laughing and jumping as they threw a beach ball to each other. After this round they were given a piece of wood whereby the man proceeded to pretend as if he was playing the drums while the woman danced. Next was the romantic canoe scenes in the backwater that rolled slowly into the sea. We think they covered every possible romantic beach scene there is.

We are not sure whether it was their pre wedding photoshoot or not but it all appeared very romantic albeit slightly rushed and less about the moment, more about the photo.

Anyway it provided us with some entertainment.

Allepey was one of our favourite places in India. If we had more time (and money) we probably would have done the houseboat tour again but sadly we had to move on as we had a flight booked shortly afterwards. Till next time Alleypey.

Transport: 12hrs overnight sleeper
490 rupees each from Allepey to Kochi
Accomodation: Funky Art Beach House


Additional photos below
Photos: 43, Displayed: 29


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15th December 2015

This is a part of India that I think I would enjoy!
Thanks for sharing the details.
15th December 2015

A part of India
It certainly would be difficulty not to enjoy your time here. It was perfect for us.
15th December 2015
A slice of luxury

Luxe!
The boat looks fabulous! And I love your description of the different greens surrounding you. Great photos :)
15th December 2015
A slice of luxury

Luxe!
😀 It was luxury, and worth every penny. We could have stayed here for a couple of weeks if it were not for a booked flight. I'm sure we'll make a return here too.
15th December 2015
The necessity of rice

Nice rice
Love this shot. How about giving it a title as if it makes front page IMG 8112 just doesn't do it justice!.
15th December 2015
The necessity of rice

Nice Rice
Very green isnt it. Will do. Thank you for liking it.
15th December 2015
Sunset

Sunset
Stunning
15th December 2015
Sunset

Sunset
It wasn't hard to take a good picture of this place. One of our favourite most peaceful sunsets!!
21st December 2015

Kerala
I think we would enjoy this part of India....maybe we will have to go back. A bit of luxury from time to time is good.
21st December 2015

Kerala
When we need absolute relaxation I think this is also where we will return. It was great for the whole mind body and soul. We loved every minute here.

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