Ok, Well, This Has Been Wondrously Pleasant

Lovely, peaceful, rural, quiet, internet free. I’ve just spent two days puttering along in the backwaters of Kerala . . . it’s places like this, I think, that cause people to imagine a heaven. It’s been warm, breezy and green, full of birds swooping and singing, giant fruit bats gliding across the water or snoozing upside down in their trees, and then there’s the slow and gentle living along the banks . . . wow.

We left the docks on a Sunday morning, and the waters were choked with pleasure boats, mainly weekend day trippers. But later in the day and on Monday, things quieted down and we were the only vessels on the water most of the time (bonus: our group is five, four tourists and the guide, but they had no boat large enough to accommodate us all, so I practically had a boat all to myself). We moored overnight, and in the early mornings, it was pretty much just me and the kites, kingfishers, herons, egrets, song- and snakebirds, until the water buses full of school kids and “commuters” glided by.

The locals, of course, use the waterways for everything: fishing, bathing, washing clothes and dishes, and brushing teeth, which is difficult for this Westerner to embrace. The traditional men’s clothing is a bright white lungi, a sort of complex sarong, and how it remains so pristinely white after being beating on a rock and rinsed in the brown water mystifies me.

The most popular local vehicle is a very narrow, long, wooden boat that sits extremely low in the water. Sometimes they’re used to haul huge rocks or sand and there’s a mere inch of edge above water; I don’t see how they stay afloat in a large wake. When herding ducks (!!) (see below), the men stand up in the boat, shout, use an oar to splash at the ducks, then use a kick-back with one foot to bail out the water they’ve taken on, all smoothly accomplished like a ballet, the ducks swerving along as one entity. Amazing.

Midday Monday, we pulled up to a bern between rice paddies, and one of the crew hopped off the boat with a machete and lopped off some banana leaves: our lunch plates.

After mooring in the evening, we took walks along hard mud paths through villages, greeting kids, grownups, cows and goats, catching two gorgeous sunsets.

We puttered by a boat bus stops, Christian churches with distinctive South Indian flavors, and a Communist meeting. I saw boats stenciled with “Rural Uplift Centre” used as mini taxis.

There were three crew on my boat, as kind and friendly as could be. It was weird for me to be addressed madam this, madam that, would madam like . . .

As the hours and the days passed, I sat near the bow, feet up, gazing upriver. Sweet, sweet, sweet.

We head for the hill stations now . . . What a journey this has been. Here are a bunch of photos. Hoping you enjoy them.