Cruising the Kerala famed backwaters in houseboat

God's own country, as Kerala is most commonly known, was always there on my bucket list of travel. The dilemma which stopped me from making it happen was lack of holidays each year. To cover the whole of just south Kerala leisurely, I would need nothing less than 15 days and I hate to rush up while exploring. Finally after much deliberation, I decided to break up my Kerala visit in pieces and take one portion at a time. So, this time the Republic Day weekend was brought to good use. My destination was Alleppey, Kumarakom and Cochin.
I started with a houseboat ride from the jetty in Alleppey. My Air India flight acted super funny and I ended up landing at Cochin airport 3 hrs late from the schedule time. The idea was to go straight to the Alleppey city from the airport and look around the beaches and the Museum there before boarding the houseboat from the jetty. But as I was super late, I had no choice but to rush straight to the jetty from the airport. The prepaid taxi counter at the airport came handy at that moment, where you don't really have to haggle with the drivers and touts.

Once seated comfortably inside the cab, I realised that I am in for some nasty struggle against the stubborn city traffic. After two hours of drive, when I reached the jetty, the manager of the houseboat pulled my luggage out from the boot of the car and hurriedly led me inside the houseboat. The other passengers in there, were quite impatiently waiting for the boat to start as the entire schedule was delayed because of me.

The houseboats here in Kerala are of different sizes and capacities. Some are those two storied ones with well appointed rooms and decks to relax on both floors. Some are the smaller ones with few rooms and a deck on the same floor itself. These decks have ample seating arrangements, a spacious dining space and a television with cable connection, planted on one of the walls. My houseboat was a small single storey one with six rooms, a kitchen at the backyard of the boat and a spacious deck in the front. The room was an extremely tidy and comfortable one with an attached bathroom and cozy bed, couple of windows opening up to let in the cool breeze and the beautiful water body surrounded by lush greens. The bathroom was very clean with fresh towels and soap neatly stacked.

The boat had started sailing as soon as I climbed in. I was freshening up, when the manager knocked on the door to inform that lunch has been served and I have to join my fellow passengers on the deck for lunch. I was famished already. So, a sumptuous meal comprising, rice, aviyal, sambar, vegetables, salad along with some warm and crisp fish fries, simply made my day. Post lunch all of us in the boat, retired to their respective rooms to take a power nap, may be. I lied down on my comfortable bed and looked out of the windows of my room, while the houseboat sailed through the backwaters giving me glimpses of the daily life led by the villagers, Chinese fishing nets scattered by the Vembanad lake, cormorants diving inside the water and preying on fishes, flocks of parrots hovering around the lush green rice fields, houses and resorts bordering the huge water body. The lazily setting sun behind the horizons makes the surrounding more ethereal.

The manager knocks again, this time to inform that tea/ coffee has been served on the deck along with some pakodas/ bhajjis. I walked out on the deck and comfortably placed myself in a corner still drinking through my eyes what Mother Nature had to offer. If you fancy some water sport, then speed boat rides are available at an additional cost. These houseboats line up near a village before it is dark and halt for the night. That's when the cook engages in preparing dinner for us. You have the choice of going for a walk inside the village, inhale the fresh air and the rustic smell of the evening by the countryside.
If you happen to be a fish lover, then you can walk in to the small shops selling fish and other seafood to choose from the stock of their fresh catch from the backwaters itself. I decided to pick up a couple of Pearl Spot fish or Karimeen, as it is popularly called and gave it to the cook to make some nice Meen Pollichattu. I checked with the manager if he could help me buy some fresh toddy, a local alcoholic drink brewed from coconut and is advisable to consume fresh. The manager happily agreed and also told me that he can arrange for any kind of liquor of my choice like beer, whisky, vodka etc. However, I decided to stick to toddy, which I relished with the warm and delicious Meen Pollichattu sitting on the deck, while the other families indulged themselves in beer along with crab, prawns etc.
Mosquitoes swarm in as soon as it gets dark. Hence, they drop netted curtains and cover the deck. I was carrying mosquito repellant with me but didn't need it, thanks to those curtains.

An elaborate dinner comprising of vegetable pulao, chicken curry, dal fry, paneer masala, mixed vegetable curry, salads, dessert was served by 9 pm. Before having dinner, I had already polished off my toddy and the fish. So, after chitchatting with the staff and the other families, I walked back to catch some sleep and allowed this maiden experience of cruising in the backwaters, to sink in.
I had a very sound sleep, I must say and woke up in the morning just in time for the breakfast. I freshened up and quickly had some piping hot, fluffy idlies with coconut chutney and sambhar. The boat had started sailing again to take us back to the same point at Alleppey, where it had picked me up from, the previous day. The morning view was absolutely enthralling, when you end up spotting white necked storks leisurely lined up on the lotus leaves floating on the water and the cool breeze blowing past complementing the view. I just couldn't get enough of it, before the houseboat was back at the steering point and I bid adieu to the staff on my houseboat before alighting. My cab was waiting already to take me to Fort Kochi. 


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