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a houseboat cruise of the backwaters

the perfect start to our week in Kerala

sunny 22 °C

Kerala is a very narrow state (only 350 miles) and it runs along the Western coast of India. It’s lush and very green and it’s where you find the plantations – rubber, tea, coffee, cashews, teak and spices – cardamom, pepper (black, white, red and green), cinnamon, tumeric, ginger – which makes the air so very fragrant. It’s also one of India’s most progressive states – they have over 90% literacy rate here.

This is where Ayurveda (a 4,000 year old holistic medical science) began. Doctors prescribe treatments based on your constitution and then special oils and herbal concoctions are poured or massaged over your body. I am hoping to have time to give it a try – they say it’s quite something.

When I was doing the research for my trip and I ‘discovered’ Kerala I couldn’t get over the colour – it’s so intense it looks over-saturated – like it’s been enhanced. But it’s not – that’s exactly what it’s like – and it just takes your breath away.

What also leaves you breathless is the extreme contrast between the hurly burly atmosphere of cities like Delhi and Jaipur and Mumbai and Varanasi and the calm and tranquility of the South. It’s also a fair bit warmer here – it is tropical, after all – and there is some humidity – not hard to take at all – but I don’t think I could handle it in the summer. My hair and skin, however, love it.

This area is also riddled with mosquitos – you MUST keep spraying and spraying and spraying yourself – especially at dusk. I am being very diligent – after my reaction to mosquito bites in Bequia last year I am completely paranoid about bites; and I can also live without malaria – which you can still get even if you take Malarone (anti malaria pills) – you’d just get a milder case. So you must pay attention. You’re advised to wear long pants and long sleeves, which I am doing. They’re in very lightweight fabrics, but this is not the place to wear shorts and sleeveless tops.


We’re beginning this last leg of our journey with a houseboat cruise of the backwaters. When you look at the boats it is hard to imagine where you’d sleep on them. But we had a four bedroom boat – each with its own bathroom … there was a lounge with a TV and satellite dish) … a kitchen … even a dining room table. Amazing.


And when you are on that boat, drifting along the river you are in another world. There is nothing you could ever do that would be more relaxing … or more peaceful and meditative.


A perfect time and place to reflect and find the answers that are, of course, within all of us – but are buried under the layers and layers of stress and pressure and duties and responsibilities and chores and activities and obligations of our daily lives. At home we’re focused on success – here they are focused on the true meaning of life – here success is not measured in material terms.

When I was in school I remember that one of my favourite books was Lost Horizon. Well I’ve got to tell you, if this isn’t Shangri-La then I don’t know what is. It is as close to paradise as I think you can get on earth!!

Our flight from Mumbai to Cochin left so early (about 7:40 am) that we ended up having most of the day to enjoy the houseboat (thankfully). Once we got settled in, we lounged around for a bit and then Rashmi and I went to lay down.


The next thing I knew Haidee was waking me up to say that the guys (the boat comes with a crew of three) had asked if they wanted to go out exploring in a canoe.


Something must have gotten lost in the translation though, because Haidee and Cynthia thought it was a fifteen minute trip and we’d be going to a village where we would be able to walk around.


So you can imagine our surprise when our boatman handed us oars – and then when we found ourselves working up a sweat for the better part of an hour – especially when we had to navigate through the dense water hydrangeas – it was hard work let me tell you. But in the end despite the moaning and groaning we all agreed that it was fun and worth the effort.

We got back in time for tea and more napping – this time on huge mattresses and pillows on deck. I could have stayed there – in that very spot – for days and days.


Dinner was dee-lic-ious!! Prawns (caught that morning) the size of lobsters (I kid you not) – simply grilled with garlic. Chicken, so tender it just melted in your mouth (virtually no chewing required). Pinepple curry made with coconut (indigenous to this area) … beet root … rice … roti … vegetables – and some good Indian beer to wash it all down.


And a sunset that is simply indescribable!!! The sky and the water literally turned scarlet!!


By ten we were all fast asleep. Nature had acted like a tranquilizer – none of us could keep our eyes open.

I got up early enough to have a shower and enjoy the scenery before breakfast. By 9:30 we were on our way to our next stop – Thekkady (Periyar).


It was difficult to leave …

Posted by a_broad 02:02 Archived in India Tagged boating

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Hi Fransi,
I feel as if I have been on this fantasy trip with you, and now I feel relaxed just reading about Korela, and the boat, the relaxation, the beauty of it all, except for the mosquitos, thos scare me as well, I had Maleria as a child during the war in Uzbekistan, no thank you...be carful...everything sounds so romantic, and soul cleansing...but what I love the most, is the FOOD, makes my mouth water just to read about it,
There is so much I want to talk to you about, we'll talk when you get back! are you back on th 23rd.? wow the month just disolved...but it is a month you will never forget...
Love Dana

by Dana Bell

Hi Fransi,
As you well know by now, having an itinarary is one thing and being able to follow it exactly is a challenge. You were lucky to have arrived at Kerala early and had time to enjoy a full day. I'm jealous. We arrived at nightfall, and were greeted by swarms of mosquitos, we had to spray ourselves just to enjoy the evening meal on the Houseboat. But the next day, we saw the Paradise and enjoyed a full day cruising. Your pictures are fabulous and I'm adding some of them to my own file. Amazing trip, isn't it?

by palval

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