The Backwaters

Taking a houseboat cruise on the backwaters of Kerala is a wonderful way to spend time drifting as the world drifts by. Stanley our taxi driver dropped us off at the marina in Alleppey. He was a lovely chap, pointing out all Catholic churches and monuments of the way, and explaining, while pointing at the crucifix dangling from the rear view mirror, that God was looking after him. As his passengers, we were glad to hear it. He also had great taste in Indian music, which was piped through the car from a flash drive plugged into the stereo.

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Mr Thomas from the homestay had organized the houseboat for us. He was keen to make sure that we got a decent one. It was a beautiful craft, and immense. We were introduced to the captain and the chef, selected one of the four well-appointed en-suite double bedrooms, and set off.

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The captain took the boat down a channel that lead off from the mariner, tropical foliage surrounding the houses of people making their living on the backwaters.

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This opened out into a large lake area, where the anchor was dropped, so that we could stop for something to eat.

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Lunch was served up on a banana leaf in traditional Keralan style know as Sadya, with the addition of a fish caught from the lake, and yes it was delicious.

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Afterwards we went up on to the top deck, from where the views kept coming to us, with no effort on our part – blissfully lazy, tranquil, and chilled.

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I really loved this water tower, in particular the form of the spiral staircase rendered in concrete. Plus, it was a lot easier to photograph than the birds that kept wafting by.

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We did manage to capture a kingfisher, which you can see perched on the cable, if you look carefully.

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Towards the end of the afternoon the captain moored the boat and invited us for a walk to his village. As we strolled past a rice paddy, Praveen explained how much tidier the backwaters were than the cities. He also explained that he was Hindu, but also worshipped Jesus. Jesus is a Hindu God, as well as being the Christian Messiah, so there is no conflict.

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The trees around the fields weighed heavy with a great diversity of fruits, and chickens were scattered around the place foraging.

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We dropped in to visit his family and have a cup of tea. His wife and granny were very friendly, as you would expect in Kerala. Baby Apu took to Nikki, but found the sight of my face upsetting, and he started crying. The only solution was for me to cover my hideous face with my hat. Mum and granny thought this was quite funny, and more importantly Apu stopped crying.

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When we returned to the boat our chef had prepared a feast. The highlight was tiger prawns (half eaten by the time we got round to taking the picture). We had stopped off earlier to buy these beauties fresh (still moving); Kumaren prepared them two different ways, both of which were delicious.

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After a peaceful night’s sleep, we arose as the backwaters were stirring into life.

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Proveen took us back to dry land.

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We said our goodbyes to the crew, and headed back to our Kochi homestay with Stanley. The houseboat had been a wonderful indulgence, but within a few days we would be starting our two week stay at an ayurvedic health resort. We said our goodbyes to Mr Thomas, his wife Lacily, and their nephew Kevin, who had all been very helpful, kind and good company.

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