Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Keralan Backwaters and the Perfect Beach Town

Low bridge on the canal
When we woke up in the morning,we could hear the rain.  Crud.  Not really relishing the idea of spending a hot, steamy morning in a raincoat in a canoe, we decided to pack our gear and give it until 8:30 for the rain to stop, or we'd skip the trip and continue to Varkala later in the day.  Thankfully, the rain did stop, so we rode down to the jetty, parked the bikes, and got into an autorickshaw for the ride to the backwaters.  After about forty-five minutes of winding roads, we made it to Monroe Island, where we met our guide.  He led us down a narrow path to his canoe on one of the canals.  

We stepped into a wooden canoe that was about fifteen feet long and enjoyed a very peaceful meander through the backwaters.  As our guide paddled and poled the boat, he pointed out the many different plants that grow in the region, including cashew trees, nutmeg trees, peppercorn vines, cloves, vanilla vines, and turmeric.   

boat in process
We stopped to look at a canoe being built and marveled at the construction.  They are built from a type of jackfruit tree wood, and the joins are filled with coir fibers that are wrapped in coir rope and then stitched together.  The whole thing is then painted with some type of fish oil, creating a waterproof boat that if well tended, will last for a century (our ride was seventy-five years old). 

Colin helping make rope
Farther along, we stopped again, this time to see how the coir rope is made.  Colin even got to participate in the process, turning one of the spinning wheels for the rope maker.  We even got to keep the length of rope they made (I am sure we will put it to good use at some point on this trip).  The backwaters are so quiet compared to everywhere we've been!  Our guide pointed out various species of birds and more plants along the way.   We stopped to admire a rice paddy, prawn ponds, and pools filled with waterlilies.  Toward the end of our journey, he gave me a necklace he had just made from a waterlily he'd plucked.  It was a quietly memorable and very pleasant trip on the water, and then we rode back to town in an autorickshaw.
Once we got back into town, we raced back to the guesthouse to gather our gear and check out on time.  We hit the road and made our way to Varkala.  It was only about a twenty-five mile trip, and we got there by mid-afternoon, only to get lost in the winding paths along the cliff.  We asked directions to our hotel from several different people, and each of them pointed us down a different path.  After failing time after time to find it, we finally called the hotel and were assured we were very near, but the man on the other end of the phone said he would come and lead us there.  Which he did.   

life doesn't suck here
And he led us to a very nice, small hotel on the cliff overlooking the Arabian Sea.  We ended up spending three nights there, relaxing on our balcony, playing in the very temperate waves, snoozing on the beach, and eating really delicious seafood.  We also strolled along the cliff, wandered into town, looked at the big temple and tank, and just relaxed.  

the view from our balcony at sunset
Varkala is the most enjoyable beach town we've been to in India.  The touts are not too pushy, the food is great, there aren't too many tourists, and the water and beach are very clean.  We like.  Very much.  The one useful thing I did was scrub the grime off of Colin's jacket so it will hopefully breathe (plus it looks so much nicer now).  In the three days we spent in Varkala, I practically forgot what horns sound like.

1 comment:

  1. Just want you two to know how much I (and I'm sure 7,300 other people are enjoying your adventure. This is the best blog I have ever seen.
    SYM RV 250 owner