Discovering India: A Boat Cruise In The Backwaters Of Kerala

I’ve always dreamed of going to India.

Since the country is very big, I never knew where to start my explorations from, but my list of “Things To Do Before I Hit 40” included a three-month stay at an ashram! Yes, really.However, since I started practising Vipassana, my need to join an ashram has changed. The thing that remained was my curiosity about India – the magical land of Hindu culture, beautiful people and great food.

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Water meadows stretch endlessly.

A chance to see India came much earlier than I expected.

When I got an invitation to a wedding in Goa, I was so psyched that I completely had no idea what to do or where to go. However, since we were to stay in India for a couple of weeks, we sat down and researched how we could make this trip more exciting.

As if it wasn’t exciting enough…!

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Yes, please!

 

After a few days of reading online, JC remembered: „My friend went on a cruise in the Kerala Backwaters and she loved it!“

Kerala Backwaters? Sounds exotic enough!

The name of the place sounded so dreamy that I agreed to this adventure right away. It was only later on that I realised that I signed up for one of the most incredible cruises on the planet.boat-cruise-kerala-backwaters-india-lostisthenewfound

What are the Kerala Backwaters?

The Kerala Backwaters are a network of brackish lakes, rivers and canals that form a labyrinth of waterways that is more than 900 km long. In that labyrinth, you will find towns and villages, which are sometimes placed on a 10 meters wide stretch of land.boat-cruise-kerala-backwaters-india-lostisthenewfound

For the people living in the backwaters, the waterways are the standard means of transport. The network includes five lakes, 38 rivers and covers pretty much half of the Kerala’s region.

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At Palayoor, you’ll find the oldest Christian Church in India, which was founded by St. Thomas the Apostle in 52 AD.

The Backwaters are located just by the Arabian Sea and the seawater is prevented from entering further inland by a barrage built near the old seaport of Kollam. Thanks to this, the freshwater is kept in such a good condition that it’s used for irrigation of the land.

How far are the Kerala Backwaters?

Wherever I go, I feel that everything is very similar. Although everything seems to be different, it somehow feels the same: the cities are the same. The villages are the same. People are the same.

Even though there are clear differences in people’s looks, fauna, flora and architecture, human beings are everywhere, and they give the sense that I am never far from where I started.

This feeling of “sameness” had been broken for me by two places: the Mekong Delta in Vietnam and Kerala Backwaters in India.

When you go there, you really are far, far away. Even though human beings are still present, even though life simply goes on, when I visited those places, I felt that I was in a completely different world…boat-cruise-kerala-backwaters-india-lostisthenewfound

Setting off on a cruise.

In order to get to the starting point of the backwater’s cruise, you have to get to the Kochi airport. Once you reach the city, a cruise operator can get you from the airport or a hotel. You can also travel all the way to the Backwaters by yourself.boat-cruise-kerala-backwaters-india-lostisthenewfound

We stayed at a hotel in Fort Kochi as we arrived a few days earlier, bent on exploring a scenic road tucked away among tea plantations.

Once we were done with the road trip, we got a lift to Kumarakom, which is located at the backdrop of Vembanad Lake, about two hours from Kochi. By then, I already felt that the trip was long but what happens after a day of cruising the backwaters is incredible. When moment of deep realisation came, it hit me, Oh my Gods, I am far…!

Even though “far” is a relative concept, when discovering the backwaters of Kerala, I had a feeling that I was at the end of the world.

What kinds of boats are used for the Kerala Backwater cruise?

You will observe the Backwaters from a boat called kettuvallam – a houseboat constructed in an ancient technique in which wooden planks are used to hold planks of together.

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The waterways function like regular streets.

The construction of a kettuvallam is 100% eco-friendly and no single nail is used in its construction, only materials such as bamboo poles, coconut fibre, ropes, bamboo mats and carpets. However, the use of diesel engines to glide over the water leaves a significant imprint on the environment as the pollution has impacted the fragile ecosystem already.

The houseboats were first used for transporting grains and commodities in the backwaters but with the growth of the tourism industry, kettuvallams were adjusted and now they are a popular tourist attraction. They feature comfortable beds, western-style toilets and a kitchen where are all your meals are going to be prepared. Yes, that means, a private cook is onboard.

Which boat company should I choose?

We cruised with a company called Eco Tours Kerala and I can certainly recommend them. The boat was clean and well-maintained, the staff were nice, and the owner was very attentive.boat-cruise-kerala-backwaters-india-lostisthenewfound

Another bonus, something that I would not even think of – the food served on the boat was delicious. Breakfast, lunch and dinner regulated the time that we spent cruising and the meals worked like a savoury clock.

Having said that, there are many cruise operators in the area and you should not have a problem with finding the right one for you.

Who to go with?

Go with someone you love. You will have an unforgettable experience, one that is good to share with someone who really matters in your life.

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View from the bedroom. Yes, that’s right.

The cruise is romantic. There isn’t much to do, so you’ll get a good chance to simply enjoy the surroundings, the sunsets, the palm trees, the waterways and each other. When spending time on a cruise like that, you’re obviously a spectator. Nevertheless, it is a unique chance to appreciate how beautiful our planet is and the experience lets you get lost in the slow pace of life.

People from around the world flock to Kerala to experience the backwaters, especially after National Geographic Traveler called this place one of the “50 destinations of a lifetime.” And you know what? I can believe that. The Kerala Backwaters is a magnificent and unique region, one that is going to leave a lasting imprint on your soul and mind.

Have you been to Kerala? What did you like the most about the region? Which places would you recommend to see?

 

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