Loading Map...

Backwaters and Beaches

Written on: Thursday February 5th, 2009

Oh, how I didn't want to leave Goa. 

Nonetheless, I reluctantly said goodbye to my Russian friends, Artem and Alexander, and hopped in the rickshaw to travel 23k north before catching the southbound train.  The plan was to stop in Cochin for a couple nights before heading to the southern tip of India.  But after a chilly overnight on the train, I actually started reading my Lonely Planet: maybe Cochin isn't where I want to be; I think Alleppey would be better.  Upon detraining in Cochin I immediately purchased a new ticket to the town that held high hopes in my mind.  And with me was my new Chinese friend, Madison, who had the same travel plan. We chatted as the train slowly made its way down the coast and eventually arrived in the small town of Alleppey.

Exiting the station we were bombarded with accommodation offers.  With the rickshaw price agreed upon we set off to view two of the recently offered guest houses, as well as one of the cheapies recommended by LP.  The results were in and LP's recommendation came in dead last, with the rooms being accurately described by Madison as "jail".  Taking the silver medal was the two story bamboo hotel.  It was nice, but incredibly hot.  So we opted for the homestay.  And oh my god what a good choice that was!  The place was recently purchased and updated by a lovely Indian family living next door.  It had two bedrooms, each with private bath, a kitchen, dining room and living room.  Cable TV, free water and lots of home-cooked, tasty treats made our stay all the more enjoyable (oh yeah, and at a cost of $3 each, we absolutely could not complain)!  So we dropped our bags, grabbed a shower and explored town a bit.  A decent meal and fantabulous fresh juice made the night complete.

The next day we woke with the intention of seeing the backwaters: a river network that twists and winds its way though the rice fields and small villages that create the interior of southern India.  We chose a hand-propelled canoe.  Although it was a bit slower than some of the other watercraft, the serenity more than made up for the lack of motor.  The day was fun, albeit hot.  We saw traditional, hand-carved canoes carrying their loads to nearby villages; we saw a long boat that required the strength of one hundred men to paddle it foward during the annual race in these waters; we saw school children walking along the banks in the afternoon; we saw locals multi-tasking: both washing dishes in the river while also enjoying a refreshing dip for themselves; we saw eagles and herons and kingfishers.  We even walked through a couple rice fields en route to a local restaurant where we sampled some 'todi', or coconut beer.  Yes, it was a fine day, part of which was even spent sprawled out on the bottom of the boat, grabbing a few winks, as our guide paddled amongst the palm trees.  Returning to town, the now familiar pattern was repeated: ice cream, dinner, fresh fruit juice, grapes and melon to bring back to the room.  One could get used to this.

Content with our backwater experience, we decided to leave town the next afternoon, which allowed for a full morning at the beach.  Man...what a difference from Goa.  This beach was huge and completely barren.  There were a handfull of locals, a couple ice cream vendors and us...the only outsiders around.  So we chose a spot and took off our outerwear.  That was all it took to get thirty-plus people to crowd around us. 

"Yes, you can take a picture with us.  Oh, you too?  Ok.  Just with me?  Alright, one more, but I need to get back to my friend."

The young men were continually ogling Madison and appeared to have serious man crushes on me.  Even while going for a swim we could not avoid them.  Fortunately we had both been through this before and simply took it in stride, not letting the unwanted attention ruin the moment.  And the moment was good!  A gorgeous day, an outgoing friend, and the discovery of the best apple juice in the world made for a superb morning, as well as a perfect ending to our stay in Alleppey.