11th Oct (Tue): Kumarakom – Alleppey / Houseboat
Morning visit to bird sanctuary. Later Drive to Alleppey to board the Houseboat.
Houseboat is the only medium to explore the scenic beauty of the backwaters, which are mesmerizing and offers you treat to the eyes. The houseboat in Alleppey slowly floating over the scenic backwater takes you to the world of wonderments passing through the scintillating natural beauty, terrific churches and emerald green paddy fields that offers sight that one can hardly forget.
Overnight at Houseboat
Another bird sanctuary miss – wrong time of year again. However, we did stop en route. As we were driving through one of the towns along the road, we saw a large group of people gathered around a temporary structure from which we would hear music and singing. We asked Shafi to stop, and we got out to see what was going on.
There was a small group producing what we assumed to be traditional music (there were similarities with what Shafi was playing in the car). We both seized the opportunity to take a few photographs, which need no caption.
One thing we did notice, was that the audience was entirely male (except for Clare, of course). Priding myself on being something of an equal opportunities photographer, I had, naturally, to photograph a couple of women.
Shallow? Moi? You may very well think that; I couldn’t possibly comment.
We journeyed on to Alleppey. You will recall that the last houseboat we saw was rather large, and we assumed this was typical. We therefore expected that ‘our’ houseboat would be a kind of floating hotel, with a number of bedrooms available to guests. This is what we saw on arrival.
Shafi introduced us to the boat’s driver. We asked how many would be on the boat (which didn’t look all that large). The driver told us that there would be four. We believed that meant two couples. It didn’t. It meant the two of us, one driver and one cook.
Let’s take a look at the boat. First, looking rearward from the very front. This is the outside lounge, the dining room is behind the glass doors and the corridor that leads to the bedroom and the rear of the boat. This looking forward from the front lounge as our driver was preparing to reverse out of our berth,while we drank fresh coconut water
and relaxed. We really had no idea what to expect from the houseboat. Apart from a level of ecstatic astonishment; whose expression necessitated the repeated use of a phrase that I couldn’t even think of repeating here, but rhymed with clucking bell; Clare was overwhelmed and speechless,
laundry, water transport (in both senses of the term)more laundry,and sightseeing tours. This is another small houseboat; one without the benefit of an upper deck,while this is what we had been expecting. By this time, we had left the relatively congested waters of the river where the houseboats are moored and were moving into the open waters of Vembanado Lake, where numbers of fishermen worked in the waters from canoes.I’m not sure what this man was hunting, but you can just see the top of his head to the right of his canoe. Don’t worry, he did surface shortly after, with something in his hands, though I couldn’t see clearly what it was. These fishermen then approached passing houseboats, offering to sell their catch. That way, houseboat cooks can offer fresh seafood-based meals to their guests. Shame I don’t like seafood, isn’t it? The chicken curry we had instead was a bit of a killer! Oh yes. There were birds. Cormorants, in this case.At lunchtime, our driver pulled in to the bank and secured the boat to a couple of trees.We didn’t get any pictures of the meal, so here’s some fresh fruit. Those small yellow bananas were absolutely delicious, by the way: sweet, full-flavoured and incredibly fresh.Our houseboat was surrounded by what looked like dragonflies. I tried; I really tried to get a decent photograph of the little blighters, but they were moving too fast. This was the best I managed.
Did I say there were birds? More cormorantsand one of my personal favourites, Brahminy KitesAfter lunch, we set off again, headed for our night stop. Cruising on the still waters of the area, the houseboats moved off aling the main river/canal prior to separateing into smaller streams for their night berths.On the way, we saw more life. Fishing and marketing,more birds (egrets – lots of them)more laundrychildren doing what children doand families packing their canoes. With what and to what end must remain a mystery.Sailing on, we saw some spectacular buildings. This one is a schoolwhose shade was clearly appreciated. Was this some parents waiting for the kids to come out of school?Cormorant. Technically, a Little Cormorant (Phalacrocorax niger) in non-breeding plumage – so Wikipedia tells me, anyhow.Is he drinking that? It looks like his friend wants a swig, while the girl seems to have spotted the camera, and is striking a suitable pose.I won’t go into too much detail about this grooming, for fear of being accused of nit-picking. On we sailed, into the setting sunspotting more birds – a kingfisher this time.We were colonised by pigeonsand crows.More splendid structures. This church was stunning.The sun started to sink toward the horizondown and down it wentuntil finally settingonly to be replaced by a stunning moon.A perfect end to what had to be the first day of the highlight of our Kerala holiday; the houseboats of Alleppey.
In the final episode, we leave Alleppey and travel down to the beach resort of Kovalam for a few days’ relaxation. Read on.