Back to the Backwaters

Before leaving Kerala we had a wonderful, overnight excursion on one of the Alleppey converted riceboats. A fuller explanation will follow.

As we drove down from the hill country on the morning after my (ahem) disturbed night, our driver received several mobile phone calls the contents of which were completely incomprehensible expect for a certain sense of mounting urgency. With only the briefest of comfort breaks we arrived at our destination to find our boat crew desperate to get underway and start serving lunch. As our driver hurried us up the gangplank and told us he would pick us up tomorrow for the morning run to the airport and then smiled when one of the Aunties asked him “what about our afternoon sightseeing?” It seems that that was already taken care of.

The backwaters of Kerala extend for more than a hundred miles along the coast of this long, thin state. Mangrove forests, deltas and navigable rivers have been managed into what has been proudly named the National Waterway No 3 of India. Outsiders have criticised the government run scheme for its effect on wildlife, particularly with the growing popularity of tourism but not for nothing is this the cleanest, healthiest, best educated and one of the most prosperous states in India.

The three of us were the only guests on this two roomed boat and, as we enjoyed our delicious meal, we set off to enjoy a leisurely tip to see it all for ourselves. No, we didn’t see many birds it’s true but everything was appropriately green and palm-fringed while colourful saris drying in the sun decorated the thatched waterside dwellings. We saw many small or single-manned working boats but very little on an industrial scale. What we did see however, were scores of picturesque floating hotels like our own and, frankly, it was difficult to find cause for complaint.

This was a delicious conclusion to our mini-break in the South, something Kundan and I had been promised by our friend Sunil for many years. He was in fact local manager for Air India in this state for a term of five years a decade or so back and so has an extremely detailed knowledge of what Kerala has to offer. Although we have long talked of visiting all together, he was too busy to pop down from Mumbai to join us this time. Nonetheless, with careful liaison and planning, he picked out a fabulous itinerary for our four day drip and (as he would say): “that’s another one ticked off the list”.

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