25 Nov 2010

Cruising canal-side in Kumarakom

Ah - an interesting weekend it was! Managed to sneak some time off for an impromptu visit to Kumarakom – the famed backwaters of Kerala. Since it was a quick visit – the only thing we managed was to spend time in one of the lovely houseboats cruising through the backwaters.

A couple of snaps from the experience (quality should be pardoned as the ever faithful camera is breathing its last moments).

Murphy’s law is upheld again 
If something had to go wrong it did – and the first houseboat – a nice one with two rooms and a nice view choked n spluttered on startup refusing to budge an inch. There were numerous attempts till the next 1 hour to repair the motor but to no avail. Finally we got another boat – which everyone felt wasn’t as good as the first one.



Getting started
One of the smaller houseboats. Ours was a tad bit bigger than this one.



Starting things with the much needed boost ;-)
There are many folks who’ll beg to differ here – but if you are in Kerala and with a bunch of mallus – nothing can boost the spirits like fresh toddy. The emphasis on freshness is important. One of us had friends in the right places to arrange for the perfectly mature toddy. There was a minor goof-up with me having forgotten the toddy bottles in the other boat – but once they were delivered by canal canoes – all my crimes were excused.



Anatomy of a house-boat (Kettu-Vallam)
Like many other things in Kerala, the boats are a symbolism of usage of natural resources in construction. Bamboo sticks steam-rolled(probably) and neatly arched into place with coir ropes provide the structural d├ęcor. Layered into it is thatchwork providing a well-ventilated, yet  functional and aesthetic covering. 





The basic essentials
Some of the basic essentials on the boat …. the tow rope, the main oar and of course – the anchor



And yes - the penultimate essential – A well-stocked kitchen
For the gastronomically inclined, there is no reason to worry as the boats are stocked with self-sufficient kitchen and cooking utensils .



Chugging along the narrow canals
The backwaters are a stream of canals that extend into the main-land. Traversing these canals will lead you into the sea where the backwaters meet sea-water. It’s along these canal banks that one finds life so very blended into the  backwater ecosystem.



Resorts by the wayside
One can spend time at any of the lovely resorts dotting the backwaters. They provide everything from indoor swimming pools to rejuvenative ayurvedic programmes to motorboat rides.


Picture perfect house-boats
The combination of palm trees swaying by the banks and idyllic houseboats with their canopies is a sight to behold.




One of the things you’ll love doing is take a pillow and rest against the window sills, just sipping in the scenery as it sways by. You’ll notice house-boats coming and going across and realize that each house-boat is a bit different and surprisingly seems to have an identity of its own.



Psst – in between watching the waves & birds (flying above ;-)), suddenly a waft of spice comes across and I run into the kitchen to find fish curry being cooked “nadan” style. Click..click.


Holiday leisure
Kumarakom thrives on tourism and rightly so.. Away from the hustle-bustle of daily work, who doesn’t want to take some time off and enjoy the light sea breeze, the thrill of sipping coffee watching the trees and birds on the horizon while the boat moves at its own slow pace on undulating waters. Down below – A couple gets up and gladly poses for me on the decks.


Parked for lunch
Though we had our sumptuous feasting on ”maracheeni kappa”, “karimeen polichahthu” and other delicacies – we were still damn hungry by the time the clock stuck 1:30 pm. The boat driver and guide as if by intuition cruised lightly towards the nearby jetty  & parked there for lunch @ a “Thattukada” (hotel).



After lunch – time for some snapping
So while the others were enjoying an afternoon siesta under the shade of a palm tree ( sounds risky doesn’t it ;-)), I tried to see if the camera could still deliver the goodies like before.  A capture of one of the smaller canoe-boats resting.


What I would really enjoy however is to be out there & cruise away for about 2 hours on a boat like this.




Noon time scenery
After lunch we got back on the return trail, and the noon sun threw up some more picturesque goodies on the horizon.

A church by the river side…

Chinese fishing nets


The climate takes a turn on our return
On our way back, it seemed the rain-gods decided to unleash fury on the seas. A candid capture of our boatsmen still manning the steering


These are just a sprinkling of snaps captured in between fun-n-frolic on the boat. Pictures do not necessarily do justice to an experience that in my view needs to be enjoyed rather than spoken or written about. So if you get the time, do take a break and have a leisure trip here.

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