cruising the backwaters of kerala

Since I last posted, I think more than a week ago by now, some new things happened–I turned one year older and I caught and survived my first cold of the season. This one laid me low for a couple of days with low grade fever and chills, but now that it’s over I’ve been focusing on the somewhat believable signs of approaching summer days. Most of my time  was spent convalescing and switching out seasonal clothes. It feels good to finally pack the wool and long-johns away for a few months! At this point I’m bound and determined to finish up the India trip. Then I’ll take a proper vacation, maybe! Today’s destination is one I was really excited about, as it was one of the most interesting and colorful. Ever since I saw Masterpiece Theater’s Jewel in the Crown series in 1984–particularly the scene with Daphne’s grandmother, Lady Manners, spending the summer on a houseboat, I’d dreamed of something similar. This is as close as I’ve come so far.

First, a little background:  Kerala has so far been one of the less known exotic destinations in the world. I suspect that’s going to change as more and more people learn about its backwater houseboat getaways. With its tranquil climate and beautiful backwaters and natural abundance of forests harboring a wealth of medicinal herbs, Kerala’s backwaters form a chain of lagoons and lakes running parallel to the Arabian Sea and supporting an Eco-system abundant with aquatic life along the coast of southwest India. Our driver from Cochin delivers us by travel-van by mid-afternoon here at one of Kerala’s most famous backwater regions, Alleppey (called Alappuzha in the native Malayaham language).Finally we have our first glimpse of our floating home moored on Lake Vembanad.

Captain at the ready

Cook and crew mate

Believe it or not, these men set this simple but artistic table

and served us cooling welcoming drinks of fresh coconut juice with straws.

We settle down to watch the rest of the world go by and be lazy and not responsible for anything. When the news gets frantic–as it has more often than not these days–I will always remember there are parts of the world where lazy rivers really exist, and people really do seem to live simply.

The people living along the lake get about by boat, either by hire or their own.

The pathways are narrow and though it looks like it would be smooth walking, there are actually lots of hidden root systems sprawled about that make it difficult to navigate. Unless of course you happen to have been born there and used to this king of walking.

The lake is not only a source of life–it makes a handy laundry. The women come out daily and do their wash, then spread them to dry.


This is one of those times my mind picture is far more memorable than this nearly too late digital capture. As the sun began to drop in horizon, it became clear that it was feeding time for these white birds. They gracefully swooped down en masse to skim the lake just enough to claim their fish suppers, then just as quickly flutter upwards and away. It happened so quickly I was lucky to have gotten this shot as they were flying away. For me, it was a serendipitous moment to be sure!

Late in the day, a fisherman and his mate cast their nets and poles for supper or trade.

As the sun dips down over the sea, our captain heads for a cluster of houseboats already settled down for the evening.

Tomorrow we’ll continue with a few more sights along the way.

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5 thoughts on “cruising the backwaters of kerala

  1. I remember the scene with Lady Manners vividly! How wonderful you were able to experience that. Happy birthday, its good spring is finally coming your way.

  2. What a lovely thing to do. I saw houseboats on the Thames at Banbury and thought I would love to spend time on one. Happy Birthday. I hope your warm weather continues; ours seems to come and go–75 degrees one day, 53 the next.

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