dressed up and nowhere to go! Well, here we were, lots of
free time but with a purse the size of a pea shell, enthusiasm
alone cannot take us anywhere.
I was idly looking through the million travel brochures that
I had collected-an unfortunate little collage of all the cruises
we could not take-when I came across a little blurb that advertised,
almost like an afterthought-God's own Country. Yipeee…! I
had it. Although I have heard a lot about Kerala, I had not
really got the chance to explore it. Having convinced my friends
who are all strangers to Kerala, we decided to explore the
backwaters of Kerala. The Kerala Tourism Development Corporation
told us that we could do this eight-hour backwater cruise
from Alleppey to Quilon. This would take us
through the lakes and inlets that stretch irregularly along
the coast, in the Indian version of the Chinese sampan.
started out journey one lovely, sunny morning at 10.30. Allepey,
also called the Venice of the East because of its intricate
maze of backwaters, is interlocked with a large numbers of
canals and bridges which adds to the town's alluring beauty.
With its extensive shoreline on the west, a vast expanse of
placid lakes and lagoons on the east and a number of freshwater
rivers, Alleppy occupies its own significant place in the
tourist map of Kerala. The town is designed with 2 canals
running parallel to each other through the heart of the town
linking it with the backwaters which runs parallel to the
sea coast. It was on one of these canals that we both were
to travel. The canals, some of which are manmade, are not
isolated at all. What makes the journey most interesting is
that, as you move along the canal, you can taste, hear , smell
(quite literally!) and see the way the Malayali fisherfolk
live. Our experience was enlivened by the commentary of our
boatman, who fed us tit bits of information that we otherwise
might not have known.
the way, we also saw the huge Chinese fishing nets, the Cheena
Vala, introduced in Kerala by the Portuguese traders.
The nets that are suspended from wooden posts, remain immersed
in water through the day until the fisherman comes and hauls
his catch out of the water. We also notice snakeboats weaving
in and out of the palm fringed byways of the canal. Our helpful
boatman told us that they were heading for the practice races
that were a prelude to the famous annual boat festival . These
boats, called snake boats, are 30-50 metres long wooden watercrafts
with stand-up sterns that resemble the head of Cobra. These
are powered by a hundered oarsmen, their motion keeping time
with the head oarsman's boat song.
The route winds up the Pampa River to Champakkulam
canal. Along the way, we saw, surrounded by water ducks,
the statue of Karumadikuttan, believed to be of Buddha.
Some see it as a remnant of a bygone era when Buddhist
monks came to Kerala with the message of love and non-violence.
Off we went, relaxing in the serene beauty and quiet calm
of the backwaters, past Trikunna, across Kayamkulam
Lake and Ashtamudi Lake, where we saw plenty of
starfishes plastered along the walls of the canal. Our trip
ended at the port of Kollam.
A high point of the day was our traditional Kerala meal in
a village featuring the famous typical local cuisine of fish
curry and fried fish for non-vegetarians, and avial and sambar
for the vegetarians. It kept us pretty full and half-asleep
until the day vanished into the sunset at Kollam.
Throughout the serene backwaters, the scenery continues
to be ravishing. So visit Kerala with the serene backwaters
enjoying sumptuous Kerala food.
Photos & Text: Ravindra Nayak C.H.