Backwaters of Kerala~ A Floating Kaleidoscope

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Travel Features >> Backwaters of Kerala~ A Floating Kaleidoscope

Backwaters of Kerala~ A Floating Kaleidoscope

October 13, 2011

Floating down the backwaters, a kaleidoscope of Kerala's culture flashes before your eyes… You bask in the shade of a canopied Kettuvallom gliding down the river… The murmur of the waters lulls your senses into peaceful submission… You surrender to the beauty of the moment and the haunting lilt of the boatman’s song… This is the backwater experience, a soothing houseboat cruise over 1900 km of palm-fringed canals, rivers and lakes along the Kerala coast from Quilon to Kochi.

As the kaleidoscope shifts, the picture changes from dense foliage to drenched paddy fields, from quiet farms to bustling villages, from churches to temples and mosques. You sail by settlements where people live on a few metres of reclaimed land with their livestock, cattle and little gardens. They eke a living tapping toddy, fishing, paddy farming, making coir and boat building. They sail to work on their own boats and canoes.

Here and there you will come across drop-nets and Chinese fishing nets; open barges being loaded with coir, copra and cashew; floating markets of tiny canoes selling fresh green coconuts; flocks of ducks paddling happily ahead of your boat; parakeets screeching and fluttering up to the sky.

There are a number of ways to do your backwater cruise, and a number of venues to start from. Cruise lengths vary from 3-4 hours to 2-6 days. Choose between dugout canoes or vellams propelled by bamboo poles, houseboats or kettuvallams powered by outboard motors, ferries and launches. The kettuvallams are traditional rice barges made out of wooden planks, put together without a single nail. The planks are ‘stitched’ together with coconut ropes and painted with cashew oil.

En route, the boat drops anchor at interesting destinations, villages, parks and eating-places. The best of Kerala cuisine is yours for the tasting - Meen moilly, Malabar beef curry with Kerala paratha, appam and chicken stew, avial with steamed rice, vegetable korma and thoran . You can eat your fill of prawns, karimeen, crab, mussels, and kalamari in this seafood lovers’ paradise. And while you are there, don’t miss out on the wonderful Ayurvedic massages that Kerala is famous for.

Travel Folio:

Making tracks
You can embark on your backwater cruise from a number of boarding points in Alapuzzha (Alleppy), Kumarakom and Kottayam. The nearest airport for these towns is at Kochi, from where you can get a train, car or bus. From Kochi, you can drive to Alleppy (66 km) in 1½ hours; to Kumarakom (81 km) in 2 hours; and to Kottayam (76 km) in 2 hours. The distance from Kochi to Bangalore is 512 km.

Best time to go
The best time for a cruise is from October to March, when the backwaters are easily navigable and the weather is at its pleasantest. Winter temperatures range from 20° C to 32° C. Carry sun-protection, light cotton clothes and mosquito repellent.

Room with a view
There are hotels, resorts and traditional ‘tharawads’ converted into guest rooms, scattered around the backwaters. You have the option of making your base at one of the tourist centres or taking overnight cruises and staying on houseboats.

Bib and tucker
The houseboats have a cook on board to cater to your palate, or you can dine at the restaurants along the coast.

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