Quilts and Other Stuff from Frances

Exploring the Backwaters of Kerala


The second part of our Kerala vacation was spent on a Kettuvallam, a type of boat which were originally used as grain barges but have been transformed into floating cottages with each having 1 or more bedrooms, a Western toilet, kitchen and dining area.  Once again Jai, of Sanchari Holidays did a marvelous job of hooking us up with Gokul Cruises .

Our driver picked us up once our ferry from Coconut Grove arrived at the dock and drove about an hour to the town of Alleppey which is the 7th largest city in Kerala.  We were told that it is called the “Rice Bowl” of India because it is below sea level and the conditions are perfect for growing rice.  We were met there by a company representative and put onto our own private boat (which, unfortunately, I dont have a good photo of!)…..IMG_9226

We explored the boat, checking out our bedroom…..


the simple and compact kitchen…..IMG_9117

and the magnificent dining/living area……


As you can imagine, the first plan for the trip was to check out these chairs…..IMG_9316

…..AHHHHHH….such bliss!!

We joined the queue of boats slowly passing thru the canal…..


…and started to enjoy the daily life that was passing by us…..


One of the first things that we noticed were the myriad of canoes that also plied the water, each with their long shanked motor……

IMG_9150We wondered about the length of the shank but then saw someone running thru an area of vegetation floating on the water and noticed that all he had to do was lift the motor out of the water and the vegetation would shake off.  Very ingenious!!

I loved the scenes on the sides of the canals, including this laundry hanging lazily out to dry….IMG_9154

This boat carrying silage approached…..


…but we were amazed to see that it was not a wide boat but simply a single canoe carrying a wide load…..


We were entertained by this boat filled with umbrella wielding passengers….


Our captain asked if we wanted to stop at a fish market and buy some Tiger Prawns to have for dinner and we answered with an immediate “Yes, Please!!”.  As we approached the docking area, all three of our crew members would come to the front to help guide us into shore….


They would beep the ship’s horn and immediately others would come out from the fish shop to help us dock..

The store (and I use that term loosely) was very basic and the fish were stored in these huge coolers…..


We selected our four Tiger Prawns (which I never knew were BLUE) …..


….hopped back on the boat and we were off again.

On closer inspection of the prawns, they looked like tiny sea monsters ….hopefully very TASTY sea monsters!!!….


A little further down the canal and it was time to stop for lunch with yet another docking.  They presented a marvelous lunch highlighted by a small crispy fish…..


….and accompanied by a myriad of curries, vegetables and, of course, rice…


We spent a bit of time in the kitchen while they were cooking and I was intrigued by this utensil….IMG_9135

….wondering exactly what it was used for.   I found out a few minutes later as one of the crew started grating coconut with it.   I like this video because it not only shows the tool in action but also the big smile on the gentleman’s face!!!…


There was a much larger Houseboat next to us as we ate lunch and we enjoyed listening to the rock music and laughter that came from the bunch of young men occupying it.

We had been told that there would be a tour of one of the smaller canals which the houseboat couldn’t get to.  We were expecting a small motor boat but were pleased to see a canoe arrive as our transportation.  Our guide rowed calmly along for about 5 minutes…..


….and then handed me an oar.  I quickly passed it on up to Michael and he proceeded to help with the rowing work…


Our guide was actually quite fortunate as Michael knew HOW to row and was able to do a lot of the work.  We passed other canoes where the passengers were doing more to hinder the rowing than to help it!!

It was very interesting to be closer to the shore to be able to observe life along the river.  Every home had a small opening that led onto the river and most had a large rock in pride of place….


It didn’t take long for us to understand that this was the “washing machine”….IMG_9251

The noise when women were washing was very recognizable….


In many places we could see over the shoreline berm to view the rice paddies in their full glory…..


As we floated past, we got a closer view of river life and I have to say, that it looks like a hard one!! IMG_9299 It seems that everything is done along the river’s edge, including bathing, dishwashing…..


… recreation…..IMG_9283

…and food provision…..IMG_9295…although it was interesting to see that many houses had a satellite dish perched on the corner of their homes…..


I am not sure why these pots were stuck on the ends of long poles, but it reminded me of pirate movies where skulls were set out this way to warn others not to enter…..


We returned to our boat and a very sweaty (but happy) Michael took a photo with our canoe guide…..IMG_9306

The guide immediately climbed back into his canoe and headed off to the next boat for yet another tour…..


Now it was time to just sit back and enjoy the trip and we made the most of our relaxing time.  It was fun to listen to the sounds of the canal, from the “slap, slap, slap” of women washing clothes, to the “tap, tap, tap” of men using machetes to open coconuts, the “ beep beep beep beep” of water taxi’s moving quickly thru the canal and wanting all of the house boats to get out of the way………IMG_9356……and the occasional cry of a vendor as he floated upstream hawking  his boat full of wares….


It was also interesting to pass the other boats and smell the aromas of their cooking, wondering if their lunch was as good as ours had been!!

Many people would wave as we passed and I think that they were not particularly used to seeing white people along the river!!  One young girl waved shyly to us and when we waved back, the whole family joined in the waving!!

This group of men were rebuilding the wall and “dock” in front of one house….


One of the funnier sights was when a canoe decided that it needed to cross the canal in the middle of a long line of boats…..


He would paddle as fast as he could as all of the Houseboats made adjustments to their engines to allow him time to pass.  We did discover during this episode that our captain “was a honker”!!!

We passed one LONG snake boat (Chundun Vallam) which was being prepared for the races associated with the Onam Festival……


Unfortunately these races fall on Sunday so we will miss them!!

I loved seeing this little girl practicing her rowing……


…and we laughed as this man quickly rowed up in his canoe, attached himself to the boat and allowed himself to be towed along…..


As it got later in the afternoon, the canal traffic increased greatly…..IMG_9426

…and before we knew it we were ready to dock for the evening.  We tied up in front of a smallish house,  along with 2 other boats from the same company.  An electric cord was pulled off of the boat and plugged into an outdoor socket.  We were told that it cost 70,000 Rupees ($1,050) for the plug to be installed and that each boat paid between 350 amd 500 Rupees for each night that they spent there.    It is quite an ingenious way to earn a bit of extra money!!

Soon we were told that our Prawns were about to be cooked, so we hurried to the kitchen to see them being placed into a small skillet with butter, covered and cooked for 10 minutes.


While we waited for the delicacy, we enjoyed the sunset that quickly colored the sky…..


Our delicious meal centered around the perfectly cooked Tiger Prawns…..


…and we greatly enjoyed every part of it…..


After dinner, we relaxed on the deck, happily watching the Geckos cavort around the ceiling of the boat…..IMG_9490

When it was time to head to bed, we found that they had closed our door and turned on our air conditioner so that our room was extremely comfortable!!

We awoke the next morning and were treated to a wonderful breakfast of toast (made by holding the bread over an open flame), omelet, vegetables and fruit…IMG_9491

All too soon it was time to cast off and head for port again.  We enjoyed floating slowly down the Backwater, but signs of civilization started creeping into the views….


We soon docked in our spot amongst all of the other boats…..IMG_9507

….took a final photo of our wonderful crew…..


….and met our driver for the return journey to Trivandrum.

The drive back was slow and deliberate, taking 5 hours to travel 154 kilometers (92 miles).   We laughed at several signs that noted that we were in an “Accident Prone Area” and to “Drive Slowly”!!!

We arrived back at our hotel mid afternoon and immediately started re-packing for our return trip to China on the next morning!!

We both felt that this trip was a magnificent way to end our time in India.  We were well cared for and the time was just SO relaxing!!!

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