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A Glimpse of Backwater Life

Punting, Observing & Some Good Eating!

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Alappuzha or Allepey as it is more commonly known is where the majority of boats leave for trips on the Kerela Backwaters. We arrived early in the evening and found a little guest house close to the station. Even at that time of day wandering around with a backpack on for the shortest distance leaves you dripping with sweat and it always nice to dump the bags and jump in the shower, certainly makes you appreciate the little things.

We headed up into the town in search of some food and it was surprising how quiet the place was. Sundays have never really appeared to have an impact on places we have visited so far but here it seemed to induce a kind of sleepiness. We found a nice little place to have dinner which seemed to be popular with the locals and was really good value for money.

Having mentioned to the guest house that we were looking to spend a day and night on a houseboat they informed us that they could supply one. The only major consideration for us was the price. For a 22 hour trip including lunch, dinner, breakfast and drinks it was going to cost £48, which on the face of it is really good value but it was twice our daily budget. Still we really wanted to go so the next morning we went to have a look at the boat.

Kerela houseboats really differ in size and luxury, they can be mammoth; having two levels with big viewing areas and some have satellite dishes attached for those who can't face to just sit back and enjoy the quiet. The one we went to see was definitely at the more modest end but still very sweet with two bedrooms, and then a little area at the front with a table and chairs and a kind of day bed right at the front of the boat. The kitchen was situated at the back and there were three men to man the boat, cook the food and generally make sure we were comfortable.
One of the things which attracted us to the boat was the fact that it was a punting boat instead of one which relied on a motor. We thought that it sounded more traditional and would be more peaceful.

Having seen the boat we went back to the guest house and managed to negotiate a bit of a discount with the boss and in the end we knew that it was worth the extra cost, especially as generally we have made good savings each week.

Our trip began around midday and two of the men began punting us along the backwaters.
Sitting up the front we both felt pretty guilty as we relaxed and gazed at the passing scenery while we watched the poor man physically exerting himself in the midday heat to get us down river. Especially as we watched other boats pass us by with their raucous engines blaring, we didn't envy that bit. We almost told him to just put the engine on but with the language barrier and also the possibility of insulting him we just decided to keep our mouths shut.

The backwaters are lined with little clusters of houses and behind them vast expanses of farmland. The water here is what life for the local people revolves around; they wash themselves, their clothes and their pots and pans in it. They water their animals, their crops, and fish in it. Despite being fairly remote in some places, life here still hums along and the lifeline the backwaters supply is evident.

We moored by a palm tree filled bank and were served up more of a banquet than a lunch. We each had an individual fish to eat, along with rice, vegetable curry, and a couple of curried coconut salads.
It is some of the best, most authentically Indian food that we have eaten and our bellies were certainly very full when we had finished.

After satisfying our thirst and hunger we were told we would be staying here for a couple more hours so we should lie back and relax. Which was quite easy to do on the day bed, with the gentle sound of the water lapping against the boat.
Once we were moving along again we headed out into a wide expanse of water, more like a lake than part of a river and for this we had to use the motor because the water was too deep.
We headed for the more narrow channels which some of the bigger boats could not go down and as the air began to cool a little, although it still remained very muggy, the men began to punt us along again.

Around half five we dropped anchor for the evening and we went for a little walk along the banks.
We had been told there was a village a little further up and we were expecting something a little more organised and central but a village here is drawn out along the river, all of the houses obviously desiring easy access to the water. We came across a couple of boys doing some fishing and asked if we could take their picture, they looked a bit confused by this, not sure if they had ever had a photo taken before.
There are lots of lovely flowers all along the banks, and the colours are all amazingly vivid.
It was certainly one of the nicest walks that I have been on in a long while and all the people were very friendly.
It does make you feel very stupid at times when they speak to you in English and you cannot say a word in their language.

When we got back to the boat, the captain came and sat with us and we played a game of cards which he wanted to teach us. The aim was to get rid of all our your cards but the rules seemed to change half way through and when it came to it their seemed to be absolutely no way I could avoid picking up extra cards and so I lost, twice. Which he seemed to find thoroughly amusing, so I left the boys to it and went to get ready for dinner.

Dinner was just as impressive as lunch, the fish was replaced by chicken curry and we also had homemade chappathi to munch on. It is not very often that we manage to finish off our meals here, the portions are always so generous. Unfortunately people seem to take it as a bit of an insult when there is anything left and it is always quite difficult to explain that we are simply full and that we really did enjoy the food. So once again we were left with the difficult task of letting them know that we loved the meal but our tummy's were bursting at the seams. Thankfully they seemed to understand.

After dinner we lay around on the day bed and enjoyed the drop in temperature. During the day we had spent some time planning out the next part of our trip around South East Asia and how long we were going to spend in each country. Having done a little more research we are now hoping to incorporate some time in Taiwan and would also like to go back to Kuala Lumpur from the Philippines via Borneo and Brunai. It will mean that things are a little tight but once you start thinking of all the things you could see it is hard not to try and squeeze more in.

We headed to bed for an early night knowing that we would want to get up early in order to appreciate the rest of our time on the boat. It seemed we were up before the crew, although I don't know how they could sleep through the persistent cock-a-doodling of the cockerel which woke us up at about 5:30am. Breakfast was served before we made the final part of the journey back to where the boat is moored, and it was once again top notch. Money wise there is no way we could complain about the standard of food that we were served, actually the whole experience was well worth what we spent.

It was not very far back to the moor, and along the way we saw people beginning their day on the river. One of the sights I will not forget was a whole flock of farmed ducks, more than I have ever seen in once place before, being released onto the river.
Once back on dry land we took a tuk tuk back to the guest house and picked up some stuff we had left their for safe keeping.

We then headed off to catch our next bus to the beach town of Kovalam in the south of Kerela, with just a quick stop off at the post office to post back Adam's suit amongst other things. Hopefully it all makes it back in one piece after being securely wrapped in cotton by the tailor!

More Soon,

Laura & Adam

Posted by LauHot10 06:47 Archived in India Tagged round_the_world

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