Boats, Bugs and Big Baths

‘The Venice of the East’ is how Alleppey in Kerala is packaged up! Kerala is famous for fish curry, ayurveda and Kathakali performances, but all this pales against the biggest money spinning activity in the state… exploring the lush backwaters by traditional houseboat.

A typical house boat

This experience in consistently rated as a highlight by most travelers… languidly floating through rivers, past small villages, fishing off the side of the boat and eating food prepared by a crew and generally just chilling out… but there are some warnings to heed – namely in terms of the expense, with some people forking out over 9000 rupees for a trip which should really have cost closer to 5000. Also the importance was stressed by numerous books, websites and travelers of seeing the boat you are traveling on before you set off!

Our budget was 5000 for the boat, which we were sure should get us something without holes in it! Its impossible to move much further than 200 metres in Alleppey without being offered a boat trip, so in no time, we had seen the boat (via a high speed motorcycle ride to a random hidden jetty) and settled on a price of 4000 rupees… leaving us money to spare to take a smaller boat for the afternoon to see other parts of the backwaters. Bargain… hey!

Our smaller boat

The smaller boats are not plush, just simple boats with sun screen cover and chairs… but once you deck them out with a bottle of port… they are fit for a king. We spent 5 hours cruising around the waterways with all manner of life lining the shores, schools, shops, people washing clothes, people washing themselves, chickens, goats and cats… plus some very plush hotel reserts… then topped it off with the most fantastic sunset and night sky, before returning to Alleppey for dinner.

So could we top this the next day with the houseboat trip? Went meandered through the bigger waterways – with a fair amount of other boats, but it was still magical and we were fed with delicious food… even buying some huge langoustines from a passing boat which we had as a starter… it was just perfect relaxation (although we suspect we overpaid significantly for the langoustines!)

Giant langoustine

So after a hard day we headed to our bedroom aboard the boat, to have a well deserved sleep… now this is where it get interesting… there must have been around 50 HUGE cockroaches in the bedroom… pretty much on every surface…. I was frozen in the middle of the room (probably due to the large dark rum and coke I had drunk) but soon realised the seriousness of the infestation…. I mean these things were about 2-3 inches long. What ensued was a furious catch or smash system implemented by the staff – believe me I would have slept anywhere else but there was no option in the dark night… so we climbed under the mosquito net and trembled through the night… still hearing the creatures who had successfully hidden in the room.

We decided the next morning that there must have been a next somewhere… the boats are filled with gaps and holes as they are made of bamboo and natural materials… and the boat was clean… no cockroaches in any other room….Morale of the story is you get what you pay for! But imagine if we had paid 10,000 rupees and still had cockroaches….

Next stop after roachville…. Kochin – one of the biggest seaports in Kerala – made up of a collection of peninsulas and islands. The main city is big and smelly and noisy, so we headed over to Fort Kochin, the chilled out, tourist area, which is a mix of old houses built by the Portuguese, Dutch and British and sports huge chinese fishing nets over the harbour. There is loads to do here, so we started by organising a trip to a nearby Elephant training camp.

Kodanad training camp was purported to be only 1 hour in a rickshaw from Kochin and we were keen to get there in time for the elephants’ bathtime in the river before 8am… so we set off a 6am… the rickshaw took over 2 hours and was very very bumpy…. so we arrived despondent, thinking we would clash with the big bus loads of tourists or even worse… have missed the whole thing. We were amazed to discover no other tourists there at all… and a very large elephants having a bath on his own. We took a few photos and then were invited to get in with him and give him a good old scrub with a coconut shell! It was amazing! and I think our tactics impressed him as he curled his trunk over his tusks and closed his eyes. It wasn’t until afterwards that we discovered that he was being bathed alone and apart from the other elephants because he had mental problems! great! lucky we survived that one… he seemed normal to us!

Big boys bath time


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Big sis
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 14:20:31

    The boat experiance looks fab ..apart from the bugs!!!!!…love to you both xxx


  2. tonton
    Dec 01, 2010 @ 11:36:12

    Decided I was taking
    up too much room on your blog,compared to other
    “fans”,& will try to be more discreet.However,your enthusiasm is so contagious that I can’t help but react to your fun site.Into the home-
    straight for your Indian leg of the journey;two weeks left & how the time
    has flown! We can only hope that the rest of the trip is as eventful &
    memorable…or better,if that’s possible.Bye,Tonton. ps as you can tell,I lost control of the keyboard again.Enjoy the wildlife;more laffs,nespa?


  3. Shell
    Dec 07, 2010 @ 19:45:55

    You have shattered my illusions of house boating round Kerala! Cockroaches. Ukkk!


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