Cruising the Backwaters of Kerala

Some of the prices we had been quoted for various trips on the backwaters behind Alleppey had been quite high. We weren’t sure whether we wanted to spend the money to stay on a houseboat so instead we opted to go on a canoe tour offered by our excellent host Matthew. There was a very nice couple from the UK, Francis and Jean, who were also staying at the guesthouse and after having a great chat with them we decided to join up and go on the trip together.

We were all picked up by tuk tuk early in the morning and set off to catch the local ferry across the lake. I was a bit worried at this point as we weren’t directed to the normal ferry but to one which proceeded to get filled with tourists. I thought at this point that we were all going to be cruising around in a huge group but luckily our guide whisked is off at a different stop and although there were now 8 of us at least it wasn’t 58!!

We were split into two groups and then proceeded to be rowed around the canals of Kerala while lounging and talking. Our guide was great and explained to us how the area was predominantly used for the production of rice and that bordering all the canals were houses and behind them were acres of rice paddies. Each family would have 2-3 acres and would produce 50,000 kg of rice per acre in a good year. The government controlled the final production and sale of the rice, then giving the money back to the farmers.

The other main industry in the area was tourism and specifically the running of the canoes and houseboats. The houseboats originally used to be used for transporting the rice but since a new road has been built they are more profitable if they are turned into houseboats. Some of them were really quite fantastic and opulent but there were quite a few of them cruising up and down. 

Our canoes went at a very sedate pace in comparison to the big houseboats but were able to get into the smaller canals which was really great. Our guide was a local and was having a good chat with everyone as we paddled by and we were able to gaze out at the locals doing their thing. We weren’t expecting to see quite so many houses but almost the banks of the canals were lined with them. The canal was effectively the road and there were paths down either side but the main mode of transport for these villagers would have been walking and by boat.

The water was really the centre point for the lives of these villages. The waterways are fresh water with damns blocking them from the sea. During monsoon times the damns are opened so that the waters can be flushed out. At the moment there hasn’t been much rain so the flushing out hasn’t occurred so the result is more salt in the waterways which in turn has reduced the quantity and quality of the rice crop this year.

Not only are the waterways used for irrigating the crops but they are the still one of the main modes of transport and we saw plenty of boats (not just tourist boats) floating around. People were bathing and washing their dishes and clothes in the waterways as well as fishing too. It was all going on right next to each other and this was just the bits we saw in our brief time there.

The other major thing which has to be mentioned is that the area is really quite beautiful. Palm and Mango tress are plentiful and there are plenty of flowers too, the water is still and the breeze was just enough to keep us cool.

While there were a lot of people around it was still very relaxing and we got to stop for breakfast and lunch in two different houses along the way which was nice. The lunch especially was great, served up on a banana leaf it was as tasty as it looked. It was also a good group of interesting people including an Indian Law student from further north who spoke excellent English and we ended up learning quite a lot about his thoughts on India and where it was going which was fascinating.

The other major thing I did today was to start using my Sawyer water filter to filter the tap water so that I could drink it. We have found that during our travels the wastage and detrimental effects of plastic rubbish on the world is really quite horrific. So in an attempt to cut down our impact on the planet we are using the filter and our reusable water bottles. The guys we were on the trip with all shared the sentiment just not necessarily the trust in the filter system!! Well it’s so far so good in terms of my health, let’s see how it goes from here!!

Btw I have to mention that Sarah is waiting to see how it goes with me under the excuse that we can’t both be sick!! T

There were dozens and dozens of these huge houseboats cruising the waterways.  They were quite plush with all the mod cons.

Laid back cruising with our excellent guide.

These ladies were making Coir matting to line the pathways to prevent erosion.  Coir is rope made of coconut husk and is used quite a lot here.

Just some beautiful scenes as we were cruising around.

We encountered lots of villagers walking along the pathways and our guide had some particularly good chats with the ladies especially.

A cashew nut! We never knew.

The still waters made for some fun photography.

Just about every chore involving water was carried out in the canals.

These guys were rebuilding their rice boat to turn it into a houseboat.  The man here is using coir rope to fasten the wooden boat.

Just walking along the paths with our guide.

Superb lunch platters.

Cruising in comfort.

Just one of the many many rice paddies.

One of the larger waterways complete with houseboats 

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