Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Come Sail Away: A houseboat cruise in the backwaters of Kerala, India

Welcome to India!  We eased into our five-week visit to India by spending two nights cruising along the beautiful backwaters of Kerala, in southwestern India.  We were lucky enough to be joined by a former co-worker of mine and her friend.  Click the link to read about our delightful cruise.

India is a notoriously hectic country, where every step typically results in an assault on your senses--both for good and for bad.  So we decided to ease into our visit to India, by beginning our visit with one of India's most laid-back experiences: taking a cruise along the backwaters of Kerala.

The backwaters of the Kerala state consists of a brackish chain of connected lagoons and lakes which runs parallel to the Arabian Sea for 900 km.  This labyrinthine system of waterways is sometimes compared to the American Bayou.  Like the American Bayou, the backwaters has a unique ecosystem, although I suspect there are far more goats in the backwaters of India than in the American Bayou.
Above is a picture of our houseboat, with the blue mosquito net lowered for the evening.  Taking a backwaters cruise is a popular tourist attraction, for both domestic and foreign tourists.  National Geographic Traveler recently ranked this cruise as one of the world's top 50 "destinations for a lifetime." During high season, more than 2000 houseboats ply the backwaters.  Thankfully, we visited during low season.

Even though it was low season, we still were in India--which is soon to be the most populous nation on Earth--so we saw plenty of other fellow tourists.  The vast majority of other tourists we saw were domestic tourists (i.e., Indians), and perhaps because they were on vacation, they seemed to be in especially good spirits.  The two photos above shows what happened after the pictured group of guys sang Happy Birthday to the fellow in black: the birthday boy was dunked into the water to loud cheers from his friends and from our houseboat as well.

Thankfully, the accommodation on the houseboat was very nice, and our Indian chef was a good cook.

As nice as the food and rooms were, one of the main pleasures of the houseboat trip was when we docked for the evening and spent a few evening and morning hours walking along the tiny strips of land between the waterways and rice fields.

Walking along the land between the waterways allowed us a wonderful glimpse of daily life in this relatively isolated region of India.

Above are three videos which I hope help capture our experience of walking along the strips of land in the backwaters

Each sunset and sunrise provided another beautiful vista.

The group in our houseboat consisted of three Indian crew members, as well as Beth, Shane, Nick, myself, a former San Diego coworker of mine, Alexa, and her friend, Jaime.  It was by sheer coincidence that our paths crossed with Alexa and Jaime, but it was the happiest of coincidences, because we all had a great time together.  Despite all of the other wonderful aspects of our houseboat experience, it will be simply enjoying each others' company which will endure as the primary highlight of our time in Kerala.

1 comment:

Marianne said...

Looks like a great meal. Glad your friends could join you.

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