I woke up the next morning to discover that the bathroom had a hot water faucet, manna dey from heaven for people like me, who are used to Siberian winters on the hill top in our campus (not really, but it had been ages since I had a bath with hot water). After the bath, I decided to adjust the settings on my DSLR so that it could be trusted to deliver when asked to perform. To my unmitigated horror filled with shrieks right out of a Ramsay brothers’ movie, I discovered that I had forgotten the batteries at campus.
Since Don and Bhai were not exactly world class photographers in their own right, and neither had brought their Nokia Vertus or digital camera, the only recourse was to depend on my trusty phone camera (which is a bit like resorting to a moped because your spanking new sports car broke down). So after Don and Bhai had finished laughing at the photographer’s folly, and then finished ruminating over the sad fact that there won’t be any glamorous photos of them against the backwaters of Kerala, we did the only other thing that was most important in our minds. Breakfast. You usually get pretty good south indian food in an Udipi restaurant and having had our fill, we made our way to the KSRTC bus stand to catch the next bus to Allepey.
From Kochi, Allepey is about 2-3 hours by bus and the first thing that strikes you when you reach Allepey is the narrow canal of water that runs adjacent to the road.
It costs around 1000 bucks for a 2 hour ride on the backwaters in a small motor boat. But if you have cash to splurge, you can opt for the Kerala houseboat (called Kettuvallam) and spend an entire day cruising around in a floating home replete with all the amenities – TV, a kitchen, bedroom and of course, the floating porch.
The backwaters themselves are a chain of brackish lagoons that lie parallel to the Arabian sea and the view is something that you’ve probably never seen before, unless you are a Mallu who was born right there.
Imagine floating along on narrow canals surrounded by lush green paddy fields, people going through their household chores on the banks, children going to school in a boat, and the gentle rocking of your boat. On top of this, sometimes it starts drizzling and the whole experience becomes utterly mesmerizing. That is when the guy driving your boat asks you if you would want the company of Bacchus. No, you say, you’d rather sip some coconut water and get something to munch on. That is when he pulls over to a bank and you trod to a small shop and make the mistake of purchasing some stale tapioca chips to go along with the limitless quantity of coconut water inside the coconut he hands over to you.
For the rest of the er..voyage, it would be advisable to just sit back, and let the slow life grab hold of you.
It has to be said however, that sometimes you begin to curse the crass commercialism evident on the scene, with too many houseboats, launches and boats passing you by. I bet the locals living on the banks do not want to feel like animals in a sanctuary either, with the tourists taking photographs of them cutting fish, or washing clothes.
That said, the 2 hours pass by charmingly well, and before you know it, you are back on the road, literally. Payipad, the venue of the snake boat race and the reason we started off on this trip, was apparently a little too far from Allepey and nobody could tell us how to get there with any sense of certainty. Plus, we had certainly experienced a slice of heaven in that two hour boat ride, so we were not that enthusiastic about making a trip to an unknown place. So it was, that there was a slight change in our plans and we decided to go back to Ernakulam instead and proceed straight to Munnar from there.
We did reach Ernakulam by about 1700, but by then the last bus to Munnar was just departing and we still had to collect our bags from the hotel. With no other mode of transport to our destination, that meant Munnar would have to wait until next morning. Trudging back to our rooms, we realized we couldn’t really experience Munnar in half a day, since we had to head for campus the next evening. That meant our Munnar plans would have to shelved too, in favour of..Varkala a beach that lies to the south of Allepey and just before Trivandrum. Turns out, lots of buses ply between Ernakulam and Trivandrum all through night and day and we’d have to catch one in late in the night, so we’d be in Varkala by early morning.
Evening would have to be spent in Ernakulam itself and we decided to head for the marine drive area there, have dinner and catch a movie at the local theatre. If you’re the sort for whom marine drive is synonymous with the queen’s necklace, Jazz by the Bay and Nariman point, avoid this one like the plague. With nothing much to speak about on marine drive, that brings me to the movie we caught after having dinner – this – a life experience in itself. Before the movie starts, the audience at the back of the theatre went crazy, dancing as if they were extras in a Govinda-David Dhawan movie. Wolf whistles, cat calls, whoops and pelvic thrusts accompanied every beat of the song being played before the start of the movie. Although tempted to join in, better sense prevailed and we occupied a place farthest from those guys. We were expecting more when the actresses came on screen, but queerly (no pun) enough, that is where Kerala failed us – not a single reaction when Kareena Kapoor came on screen. Still, the movie was made out of the purest variety of MDH masala that only your mom would know about, and we relished every single scene. End of the movie, and we made our way to the KSRTC bus stand to catch the next bus to Varkala, blissfully unaware of the adventures that were to follow, but that requires another blog post