An alternative rush hour
After gulping down breakfast, a masala dhosa (think stuffed pancake with crushed spicy potato), we scooted through the palm trees with bags in tow to meet our driver. He deftly ducked and weaved us through the mid morning traffic congesting the roads through Allepey. It was here that we embarked on our floating home for the night, a converted rice barge, akin to the cosiest veranda I’ve ever set my eyes on. Our en-suite panelled bedroom complete with air conditioning and shower room surprised us with a luxury we hadn’t associated with a rice barge. Our competent crew of three was skippered by Keralan born Johnny who also turned out to be a fantastic chef. For the next 20 hours or so we were to explore the famous backwaters of Kerala.
We gorged our eyes on the current of life which populated the lush green banks of the backwaters with their wide lakes and vein like canals. The rural villagers lived symbiotically with the water, their rhythm of life involved bathing in the waters, doing the laundry, transporting firewood in hand hewn canoes, washing pots and pans and playing around. As we glided through a landscape which has been unchanged for hundreds of years I couldn’t help but recognise an expression unseen by many back home, ‘contentment’. The day’s troubles in these backwaters seemed to revolve around whether or not to have fish for supper.
Lunch was divinely simple, a beautifully breezy location overlooking a lake where time ticked by to the tune of birds warbling. Women skilfully balanced wood, pots or washing atop their heads and children scurried to school. Lunch consisted of spicy fried fish with steaming bowls of vegetable curry. After a snoozy lunch we visited one of the oldest churches in the area, originally built by the Portuguese in 400AD.
Then a stroll through a tiny village, ‘Chumba Kollam’ where we picked up a couple of Christmas decorations to be employed next year. Finishing our day’s exploration with a visit to see a ‘snake boat’ over 150 feet long with 100 plus oarsmen these boats are built by the pride of river villages to compete fiercely and rhythmically in the backwaters and retain hard fought crowns of victory. Dinner was simple and consumed in the thick open air of the dining deck, with mosquitoes dog fighting in the slipstream of the swirling fan. The day remains as a sepia image and we fell into our cabin weary from absorbing the day’s cinematic impact.
Immense scenery and guaranteed to deliver a life time of memories.