>Travel Pictures


Kerala - Backwaters tour

Fort Kochi - Kathakali dance - Backwaters - Alleppey - Ferry Ride - Varkala - Kovalam - Fishermen - Trivandrum

Our family went on two separate trips into the backwaters. Our first trip was in a hand-poled canoe that only fit 4 other people. We left Fort Kochi after our visit and entered the backwaters about half-way between it and Alleppey.

The Keralan backwaters wind and meander for some 900 kilometers along the western coast of India. They are networks of natural rivers, shallow lakes and dredged canals that all connect to provide transportation, livelihood and beauty for the folks who live there.

As we put in to the water from a riverside banana shack, the group of foreign tourists was quite a source of amusement for the locals. We got big smiles from guys playing cards, riding by on their bikes, and even one guy who was just out walking his goat!

We could touch the banks with our hands and had wonderful up close views of foliage, animals, fish, and (not so wonderful but impossible to avoid in India) garbage. Along our route, we saw families and their homes, with people going about their daily duties, like washing - or pooping - in the water 

Our canoe was a wood dug out affair with slats of wood held together with coir (coconut twine). There were two men that poled - one in front and one in back - as the water never got deeper than their poles (about 5 feet). We launched from a fairly wide river, but immediately turned off to a canal that was never more than a few yards across. 

The backwaters have become a tourist must-see, with boats ranging from hand-poled canoes to A/C generator powered luxury kettuvallam (houseboat) taking visitors in and around the interior, but we still felt very welcomed as we cruised the waterways. We felt glad to have a close up look at life in this region, if only for a few hours. One of our most fantastic moments, however, was when we came upon a natural battling, with two snakes fighting - and one of them appearing to be gaining quite the upper hand on the other (above, right)
And of course, all throughout the region we came across women (of all ages) doing the daily laundry. Pick your favorite technique: spreading it out to soak (left), scrubbing it on a tree (middle), or slapping it on a rock (right).

We stopped at a small family-run spice plantation and saw a variety of local spices being grown for local and family consumption. Large scale plantations are further inland in Kerala. Susan's favorite was the cinnamon tree. Our guide cut a strip off the trunk and she ate it right there and then - moist and tasty! 

In another of our stops, we saw another co-op at work making money for the village. While one of the women ground grains for the meal, several others worked on 'weaving' coconut husk fibers into rope. The coconut fibers are from inside the shell of the coconut. These are soaked in the river (for at least 6 months, according to our sources), and then the 'hair' is pliable enough to use. It is stripped off and brought to the women, who then shove it into big bags around their waists. As one woman spins a big spinning wheel, the other two walk away from it and let the 'hair' get pulled out and woven together to make a rope. Certainly a hot, labor-intensive way to make a length of rope, and we all walked away with a new appreciation of the kind of work people are doing just to put food on their tables.
As we headed back for our ride on to Alleppey, we talked about how happy we were that we'd been able to come and explore the backwaters of Kerala, even if only for an afternoon!

Fort Kochi - Kathakali dance - Backwaters - Alleppey - Ferry Ride - Varkala - Kovalam - Fishermen - Trivandrum

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