Thursday, December 8, 2011

The backwaters of Kerala

Our ride to Philipkuty Farm, a man made 35 acre island
Yesterday we left the tea plantation and took a short three and a half hour drive to the area known as the back waters of Kerala. The state of Kerala is in southern India and it's shoreline is along the Arabian Sea. The inland waterways is a series of bays, rivers and canals that wind inland that is more than 900 kilometers in length. Last night we stayed on a 35 acre man made island that used to be a rice farm but is now a coconut farm. The Philipkuty Farm also has six guest houses. The stay was very comfortable and the dinner last night was outstanding and included red snapper and prawns. After dinner young 13 year old Philip played the piano for us, quite good in my opinion.

This area is known for it's rice and coconut production though many other items are also grown here including a variety of spices such as cardamom and nutmeg. In the past rice boats were used to  transport the rice from inland to the coast but today rice boats have been converted to houseboats for use in the tourism trade. Today there are over 1000 houseboats plying these waters and they range from simple and small one bedroom boats to huge premium boats of up to eight bedrooms. The one we rented for 24 hours is a 3 bedroom premium houseboat that is air conditioned and includes all meals and snacks. We were picked up at 1pm and right after boarding we were served freshly fried plantain chips and beverages. Then lunch which included prawns and fish, both of which were so good that I can't remember what else was served for lunch. We went south for three and a half hours before stopping at a small village for half an hour. As we got off I was mobbed by a group of school boats, then we walked around for a while and I even found a few souvenirs to buy. Back on the boat for another hour and then we tied up along the shore where we'll spend the night. Before dinner we had warm roasted cashews and then for dinner we had lentils, soup, potatoes, fried chicken and more really good fish.

The trip down the river was relaxing and fun. Each home along the way has steps going into the water, this is where bathing, laundry and dish washing seems to take place. Below are a lot of photos of life along the river, and of a variety of houseboats that we passed along the way. It's worth noting that the people all throughout the state of Kerala have been exceptionally warm and welcoming, more so than any other place I've visited so far. And if I could pick one place to come back to visit it would without a doubt be the backwaters of Kerala.

The backwaters of Kerala

Chinese fishing nets

School bus

Passenger ferry

Men bathing
Bicycling to school

Large fresh prawns

Holding a large prawn
Fresh fish

Cleaning fish
Cleaning prawns

St. Mary's church, built in 1463

Marinating fish and prawns
Relaxing on the houseboat

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