Wednesday, 27 February 2013

The Backwaters of Kerala - Day 8

Good morning from Puducherry (once called Pondicherry), on the south-east edge of India.

If you have been following my blog you will know I am behind with the postings. Forgive me. India is a visual country and it is very difficult to move your eyes from what is happening around you, to spend time looking at this key board. I love sharing India with you and will continue to do so until you see a mini memory of us heading home. We still have almost a week to absorb this amazing place.

Back to Day 8 and our arrival in Alleppey!

We left Cochin, its wonderful Fort area and the Brunton Boatyard this morning after an early breakfast was delivered to our room just after 6am. We had a full day ahead of us and miles/kms to cover. Everyone was looking towards our time on the backwaters. On arrival in Alleppey, our driver decided we should see the beach so to the beach we went. (I think he was lost.) On the beach we found a camel who seemed a bit out of place. While some headed off to find the w.c., the rest stood on the sand looking out past the camel to the sea. That's when it started to rain. Slowly at first, so we just found shelter under a tree. But then it POURED! And we were soaked but happy. We must have looked very strange to our host when we finally arrived at the home of Rani John.

Arundhati Roy's novel 'The God Of Small Things' found much of its inspiration in this part of Kerala so we were excited to explore the unique landscape of this tropical town. The Preserve Alleppey Society is an organization that has been trying to restore the historic buildings, gardens and waterways of Alleppey. They had a huge setback when a horticulturist who was leading the way, passed on and without the support of the government they raise money and promote their dream by sharing Alleppey's history with travellers.

Rani John was away so another member of the society, Mary, was our host. We first gathered in Rani John's garden (worth the visit in itself) under the shelter of a garden pagoda. It was perfect! The sun came out. Our planned walking tour changed to a tour in the van which was a little disappointing for those who were looking forward to the walk. This was also the beginning of a  number of changes we were going to have to deal with over the next few days. This was a small one.

After an interesting tour of this faded, "Venice of the South", lunch was served in another beautiful friendly garden. Mary, also an artist, was the host for this part of our visit. It was a wonderful opportunity to enter two lovely homes and to experience what the Kochama house of Roy's novel would have been like before the lives of that family began to change.  It was a pleasant hour or so relaxing in this beautiful garden, sharing the company of two interesting women before we set off for our journey on the backwaters.

While we were in Cochin, news broke that an all-India strike was about to take place. During this two-day strike, called a bandh here, drivers of trucks, buses and boats would be unable to work. So our two-night backwater experience unfortunately ended up being just one night. We had to make a run for Periyar and the Tamil Nadu boarder if were to carry on.

As we boarded the houseboat, the rain stopped and the world smelled and looked crisp and clean. After checking into our rooms, we climbed to the upper deck lounge and settled in with our cameras  as we enjoyed a slow cruise past rice fields, palm trees and villages. Before dinner we boarded what is called a country boat (similar to a dug-out canoe) and were guided into a smaller waterway to be closer to the birds, animals and people who make the backwaters their home. Back on our boat the staff were preparing dinner as we stopped at the picturesque waterside St Mary's church. The sun was setting over the backwaters. It was heavenly.

1 comment:

  1. It all sounds divine Nancy. The "country Boat" reminded of the "Pea Pod" boats in China, we took these along the Shenang Stream, a tributary of the Yangzte. Only 9 people per boat, the oarsmen sang to us along the river, fishermen waved. Speaking of music, I was thrilled that Mychael Danna won the Oscar for film score for Life of Pi. Marion will remember the music from "water" which he also wrote. Oscars were AWFUL, boring. Best to be in India, xo Eleanor