Wednesday and Thursday December 12-13, 2007
Alleppy, Kerala, India
We finally pried our way out of Varkala and headed toward the town of Alleppy. This area is famous for the houseboat back water trips they have and we decided to take one. We net a couple from Stockholm Sweden (John Scott and Elam) that were heading that way also and decided to squeeze together in one of the common old taxis called a Ambassadors and make the 2 hour trip. We again enjoyed the unusual sights and sounds and smells of India along the way. There are huge mad max type trucks that are painted florescent colors with mostly religious or flower themes, cars, buses in various stages of rusting with mankind spilling out, hand carts, cows, goats, chickens, motorised rickshaws with flower decoration covering the windshield (how can they see?!) and people going in every direction all at once. It’s really hard not to be a back seat driver or just close your eyes and pray. We bought an India SIM card for our cell phone ($2.50 plus a photo to prevent illegal activity) and made a call along the way for a hotel that John had information on. It was called and was within walking distance of the beach and to the center of town. It cost about $12.50 with our own bathroom (cold shower and fan) and a mosquito net which we needed because of all the canals near by. We took a walk into town to check out the houseboats and see if there was one avaliable for tomorrow. It took a while but we finally found the tourist information center and there we met a girl form Germany who asked if we would be interested in sharing a houseboat with her. We this would be a fine idea and so we headed to the port area with our new friend Sabine and had an interesting afternoon of shopping for our new home for the next day and evening. All of the houseboats are built on the hull of an older barge. The frame is welded together with steel and then the exterior is made of woven wicker, rattan and bamboo. The boats are all original. We saw no two that were the same. Each builder creates what he would like in a boat. This made our shopping kind of fun because we were able to see so many different options. We selected one with a covered upper deck with open sides. This would allow us to see in every direction from a higher vantage point. It was a 2 bedroom (each with its own bathroom), with a kitchen at the back, a dining/living room area at the front. With the houseboat rental comes a crew and a chef that makes traditional Keralan (the state of India we were in) meals for us. With the boat selected, we bargained a bit and struck the deal for an 11:30 a.m. departure the next day. We went into the town center (which comes alive at night) and then went back to the hotel, ate dinner and prepared to leave for the boat the next morning.
The boat trip was very relaxing and the area we saw was interesting and beautiful. This is obviously a big business as there were lots of houseboats docked in the area and many headed out with us. We also saw a number that were being constructed or renovated. We traveled through canals to get out on a huge backwater lake and then headed back into the canal system again. The canals are used to flood the rice paddies in the adjacent fields and there are narrow strips of land upon which many of the people that work in the rice fields live. We thought about how difficult it would be to be confined to this small strip of land to raise your children. People washed themselves, their clothes, brushed their teeth and even went to the bathroom in the canals. It was really interesting to see all facets of their daily life. It felt like we were intruding, but they didn’t seem to care and waved at us and when we stopped, children would come by and talk to us and ask for pens. That has been what most children have been asking us for, not money or candy. We had some wonderful meals and really just relaxed some more. So far we have found a couple of ways to get away from the chaos of Indian life. We passed a Bollywood movie being filmed on the canals too. Who knows what it is about or what it is called. We stopped overnight nearby a village and visited for the evening with our new friend Sabine and had a great Keralan dinner that was finished off with incredible fresh birthday (Sheree’s birthday) pineapple. It was a great excursion and while a little out of our cheapo Indian budget, it would have been a bargain anywhere else.
posted Saturday December 2007