5th Jan: Kerala Backwaters

Geoffrey resting by the Backwaters
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“Brahmin Kites hover and circle above us, and a cluster of coconuts in various stages of readiness hang precariously above our heads. there is a warm wind in our hair and across our faces, the lap of water very close to us and the crackle crunch of coconut palm leaves rustle around us. Sunshine glints on the water, and little wavelets shimmer towards the grassy banks. This is the first time we have had peace; well externally anyway and it’s delightful”

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We’re here in Kerala! Gosh the humidity and heat is intense, but by this water there is a wonderful breeze!

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Today we’re leaving the villa and off on a ferry from the jetty ( well it took us 1.5 hours of bumps and u turns in a tuc tuc (Kerala’s name for auto-rickshaw) to find the jetty as it’s being repaired)

Kottayam to Alleppy 250 rupees £2.50.

Our dancer friend Natalie and me happily finding a spot and soaking up the environs, we spot a little local kiosk on the bank for snack supplies
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It’s a 3hr trip to arrive through the backwaters, then we plan to cross a small peninsular to the Arabian sea. We’ve packed for a few days, mosquito nets, sheet sleeping bags, cloths and our photography and sound recording gear. Lets see what the trip brings……..where this adventure may lead…..cast off…..
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The insects are supercharged in this climate, and the ants move like lightening to catch the crumbs from my Indian style muesli bar. The first challenge is a 3point turn which takes a considerable amount of time, the sound of its engine gearing up and the lovely forged boat’s bell struck to indicate proximity to the bank, as the boats crew coax and guide little by little in this small space the boat is turned.
The birds are prolific, and as we begin to move amongst thick green plants we see hundreds of birds ahead sitting ahead then flying away as we pass. I’m looking at my feet, and the wood undulating floor; our nails grow thick and fast too!

Gosh I’m really enjoying this, little houses line the canal, The light from the water glints onto the corrugated roof of the boat and we see how the paddy fields run all along adjacent to the backwater canal
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The water is the place.
We see a man washing in the waters, wooden boats support 2 or 3 fishermen with their nets, another takes a long cooling swim, it’s drinking water too, for cooking, and to irrigate the paddy fields. Now this really is wonderful….
Each house fronts onto the canal and backs onto the paddy field, in this way the bank of the canal provides a bridge between the two. We met one man, his wife works in their paddy field whilst he runs a small carved boat along the backwater canal for tourists. We hired this later on in our trip. The paddy fields are slightly lower than the canal, and the water’s flow is controlled by a beautifully organised system of irrigation: conduits, channels and gates constructed from the natural materials there, stone, mud and reeds, all set into the side of the banks. The water is allowed to flood the paddy fields and is pumped back into the canal when needed.

A washing line runs between 2 palms, and vibrant clothes create a beautiful scene set against the bright green field. We pass a shrine with a very life sized statue of a holy man in it. WE think it’s St Thomas who arrived here in 25AD but we aren’t sure
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Dredging boats, platforms, a wooden long boat at least 60 feet long, jetty’s run ever few minutes along the way as people get on an off the ferry, with shopping, young children, to feed goats, collect hay, meet someone or arrive home. The coconut palm trees melt into the waters edge, a Women uses a stone to rub a cloth against the banks and wash the clothes on the canal’s stony banks. Orange, blue, green, purple, pink paint. A peacock is painted deep pink, and pale green and the sign AUM.

The canal begins to barrow, the weed intensifies and purple flowers cover the green weed carpet., the waters are clogged but the boat continues, birds line the skies along our route guiding us in perching on green tufts above the water.
The brass boat bell is struck at every jetty steps and we arrive. This looks like the end of the line

Geoffrey says” lets hope the landing point in Alleppy isn’t quiet so obscure as our embarking point!” One never knows in India……..

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