Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Noise? What Noise? - Alleppy, Kerala

With much deliberation we decided to rent a houseboat on the Alleppey Backwaters last week. By far our most expensive excursion to date at $50 for the three of us for 22 hours.
The Backwater network consists of 900kms of waterways that fringe the coast and retreat far inland. No one knew quite what to expect but we were definitely not disappointed.

We first headed out to the coast and then quickly withdrew inland. Initially the canals were quite wide and had large tracts of rice fields beside them. As we made our way further inland the palm-laden canals began to narrow and village life began to emerge. Soon simple houses, schools, temples and shops lined the canals. Some of the settlements are located on meters wide spits of land only slightly wider than the houses they support. The walkways ranged from traditional cement to meter high mounds of earth reminiscent of the snowbanks I would walk on as a child. Many villagers still use traditional boats that enlist a large pole for propulsion to commute up and down the canals. There were even kids playing cricket on what I can only imagine to be a very frustratingly narrow field.

It was so peaceful and relaxing just floating down the canals. It was a nice change from all the dirt, pollution and noise of the cities. I loved watching the backwater life scroll by. The women washing cloths in the canal, kids playing (losing yet another cricket ball) and men preparing simple narrow boats for fishing.

Our houseboat was in the fashion of a kettuvallam (rice barge) that was modest in size. There where much smaller barges that were able to get to the narrower canals and barges that where two story opulent monstrosities. We had a Captain, engineer and cook aboard who were all extremely pleasant and warm. It felt a little odd being doted on, especially when you're used to being a dirty backpacker. The food was by far the best Indian cuisine we've had thus far. All three meals were extremely satisfying and enough to feed four or five people. I still can't figure out how our chef prepared the abundance of quality food in a kitchen that was maybe two square meters large.I wanted to watch him prepare a meal but I would have had to hang from the outside watching in.

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