The Kerala Backwaters

Thwack thwack is the background soundtrack to lunch, tied up to the bank of the seemingly endless waterway known as the Backwaters of Kerala. There too is birdsong from many unknown species and screeches of animals further back in the low jungly islands all about. The floating wild Hyacinth, fondly remembered from the Mekong, is prolific, I wonder, do they harvest it ? There is constant bank to bank canoe traffic, visiting, trading, schooling, I have no idea, but the pace of life is very very slow. Children cycle up and down the adjacent path crying out “What is your name? Where are you from?”. Men in the traditional dress, a longi, a kind of skirt, amble about doing apparently nothing, but I do notice they keep their eyes on the water, perhaps judging the fishing potential. The ladies, bright in their saris, thwack thwack thwacking the daily wash on convenient rocks.
The boats, which are everywhere, appear to be low draft barges with intricate bamboo woven roofs and walls built on top. Some are big fifty or sixty feet long with two decks, the upper one being an observation deck and the lower containing sleeping cabins, lounging and dining area, bathrooms, kitchen and crew quarters. My boat is quite small, room at the bows for two deck chairs and a table with four chairs, behind which is the cabin and bathroom with the kitchen at the stern. More than adequate for one, me. I count fourteen boats at this moment and that is just off the port side. Local bus boats speed along taking locals to and from, much faster than ours and creating something of a wash.
South and South we go, I can tell by the position of the sun, deeper and deeper into this vast waterway, I am completely lost. We follow narrow channels maybe three hundred yards across for half a mile or so, emerging into long wide lakes, perhaps one mile wide, two miles long and then on, to another distant channel. As we pass a narrow channel I can look down it, straight and palm lined into the distance, reminding me of the Canal du Midi with its famous Plane trees, are they really going to be cut down ? Wracking my brain to come up with an equivalent of this geographical feature, and failing. Is the Inter Coastal of the eastern US seaboard anything like this ?
We turn into a very narrow channel, too narrow for most of the boats, and we are in a village, on both banks, incongruously there is a pedestrian foot bridge, boys swim, men bathe, more thwacking, there are shops, well kind of, a bus boat rushes the people home, it will be sunset soon. Ferry, let’s call it a ferry. There is a Church, St Mary’s, I hear Mass. There are nuns, and a hospital . We stop, negotiate fish prices for dinner, king prawns it will be, curried presumably. I enquire about beer, a bottle is produced from behind a pile of empty boxes, Kerala seems officially dry. I was told proudly told that there are two liquor stores in all of Kochi, in some of the larger street food booths beer is sold, and consumed, out of tea pots.
We have joined a procession of boats all heading down a narrow channel into the setting sun (this is live narrative folks!) I assume to a place to tie up, or anchor, for the night, tea is served, no snooze, I might miss something. I see my first rice rick, like a hay rick, only rice stalks. I am not sure of the American translation, in fact I don’t think we have hay ricks in America, piles of straw ? Evening approaches and the ladies are fishing off the banks, come on guys, where are you ?
We tied up, strangely, along with many other boats onto a kind of tow path across from which is a house, in fact a whole row of houses, each with a boat tied up across the narrow path. Our front end is almost right in the lady’s wash area, evening ablutions are carried out within inches of the boat, very odd. Walking along the path I found others who also found it a bit odd, Brits, of course, a Polish lady, Daga, a Norwegian lady, Christina and four year old Angelina and none of us could figure it out, why are we here. Oh well, not going to stress about it.
Brilliant dawn and sunrise, will try and post photos as and when. PROBLEM. My camera has stopped working, lens jammed. So to tuk tuk back to Kochi and now at Canon repair center. Motor is blown, too bad, camera only three months old. Hope then to be off to mountains for six days, the Western Ghats. So this might be bye bye until Goa on March 9th. Will have stories to tell and photos to share.

20120307-173815.jpg

20120307-174054.jpg
There is much visiting from shore to shore.

20120307-174857.jpg
More visiting.

20120307-175227.jpg
The Backwaters.

20120307-175440.jpg
More houseboats.

20120307-175811.jpg
Suddenly, a foot bridge.

20120307-180102.jpg
A rice rick !

20120307-180444.jpg
Something of a balancing act.

20120307-180845.jpg
My small boat, tied up for the night.

20120307-181219.jpg
Heavy traffic on the waterway.

20120307-181525.jpg
A houseboat Armada.

Advertisements

8 responses to “The Kerala Backwaters

  1. Barbara Godden

    Oh I love your house boat! And it’s all yours! Wow!
    From the sound of it people are busy doing nothing or doing something in slow motion. Like the thwack sound, I can just imagine it. Stay safe.

    • Well yes it was all mine, though have to say it was a very bad night. Very very hot, no AC, just a very noisy fan. Lots of bugs and a noisy lizard. Just being on the water was such a treat.

  2. Your photos of your boat and the others remind me of Mfupi and the Kennet and Avon Canal.How maddening that your camera has bust,do hope you can
    get another one when you get to Goa.
    Would like a picture of you drinking beer out of a teapot!!
    Jules kindly let us know that you had phoned from Parambikulam.I looked it up on Google and it looked like a Wild Life Reserve.Was it?
    Sal coming down on Friday with all her photos.
    Good luck with the train to Goa.Be careful!
    Lol
    Mother

  3. Glad to have you back on the radar again. The photos are great and I love the rice rick! Safe onward journey.

  4. I finally have a quiet moment to read your blog and I loved your comment “I am completely lost.” How many times are we really lost these days. I burst into laughter when I saw the picture of your houseboat, so so primitive. My ferry down the Amazon was the Ritz compared to that houseboat in India. Miss you around the hood, but glad you are having the adventure of a lifetime.Take care of yourself.

    • Yes Jeannie it was rather basic, spartan even. But it was just me, so nobody to care about. Got bitten to death that night, now got lots of small holes in legs and ankles.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s