Kumarakom I – Where life moves as gently as a country boat
Kumarakom – Part One – A World Apart
Some decisions we take in life lead to memories of a lifetime. Kumarakom is one such unforgettable destination in our wanderlust; a world apart, where life moves along as gently as the country boat cruising along its famed backwaters.
Kumarakom had been in our bucket list for ages; but then things were not falling into place and a visit here remained in our dreams. That Radhika had never visited Kumarakom was quite interesting and amusing, given that she had spent her childhood and growing up years at Aluva, which is just about 70 kms away. But these then are the strange ways of fate. Be that may, the auspicious time or “muhurtham” just happened, as the universe conspired our dreams be realized.
Booking our stay
We decided to skip staying in resorts or hotels and opted for a homestay as we wanted to experience the authentic Kumarakom experience. We narrowed down on Coconut Creek Homestay and Farm which suited our needs.
The Drive to Kumarakom
Landing at Nedumbassery airport we proceeded to Kalady to attend a family function. Post this we went and paid obeisance to Pookulangara Bhagavati at Kunniseri, a family ritual when we go to Kerala. Our drive to destination Kumarakom started from there.
We reached Coconut Creek Homestay and Farm after a drive of about 4.30 hrs which included a couple of breaks for lunch and tea. We passed through Vadakkanchery, Nadathara, Pudukkad, Kodakara,Chalakudy, Koratti, Karukutty, Aluva, Ernakulam, Ezhupunna, Pattanakkad, Cherthala and Thanneermukkom along the way. At Thanneermukkom we crossed into Kumarakom passing through the bridge over the Vembanad Lake.
Driving through the winding serpentine lanes, banked by swaying coconut palms, lagoons and charming little houses we reached destination Coconut Creek Homestay at about 4.30 pm. We were in touch with Mithun, the manager along the way, so locating the place, while driving through a serpentine maze of roads, was not a problem. Regina and Babu who owned the property, were there at the gate, with a refreshing welcome drink, to receive us.
Coconut Creek Homestay
A stone’s throw from the famed Kumarakom lake, with a canal (which leads to the lake) flowing through the property, Coconut Creek Homestay is a Kerala heritage home more than half a century old. The old “Tharavadu” set on four acres was converted to a modern bed and breakfast homestay facility. It has an ambience that says “keralam”, facilitated with every modern convenience. The guest accommodations are independent of the family quarters. Bedrooms fully air-conditioned with attached bath neat and clean, a small but compact dining room, a private sit out with a lovely swing, beautifully designed lawns and flower beds, a cute bridge over the canal and a lovely country boat under it completes the landscape.
We spent three blissful days in these verdant surroundings. The hospitality extended is such that you would not feel like coming back home. Being vegetarians we gorged on appams with stew, puttu kadala, idi appams, avial, sambar and thoran. As Regina was telling Radhika if you were a non vegetarian we could have provided you authentic delicacies like Malabar fish curry, karimeen pollichathu, konchu curry, Kuttanad duck curry. We would definitely recommend the place for the hosts, the food, the good natured housekeeper cum cook and the clean surroundings.
Footloose in the countryside
Waking up next day morning, we kick started the day with a cup of steaming hot coffee and proceeded to explore the countryside. A quiet stroll along the backwaters and through village lanes and trails is a nice way to experience rural life. We walked out the gates and passed a lovely church closeby. The devout were already inside singing hymns dressed neatly in kerala style clothing. There were a few children on the ground close by happily playing in the greens. Moving forward we came across a gentleman riding a bicycle with a stack of newspapers for delivery. Further on a hen and her brood was crossing the road. There were amazing shades of lush green vegetation including mangroves, coconut palms and paddy fields that cover the countryside. No wonder they call Kerala “gods own country”. We meandered on further and came across a lovely pond fringed by what else! coconut palms. The blue of the sky and green of the palms made for a great reflection in the water.
There were ducks wading and cranes, cormorants, herons. Further down the road we passed by the bunds of the paddy fields and ended at a corner from where we could see the vast Vembanad lake. The sun was slowly coming up in the distant horizon as we walked back. We approached the cross road near the homestay in time to see the fishermen move through the small canals in their fishing boats towards the lake. We walked briskly up to the mouth of the canal to see them moving into the vast waters to cast their nets. The swaying palms, the fishing boats, the fishing folks in colourful boats, the blue waters and the soft sunlight and light breeze made for a pleasing sight.
Time stopped still as we were lost in a reverie. A barking dog broke the spell cast and we were jolted to reality. By now the boats had moved further and away. The stomach was playing food music. We turned, crossed the small bridge and made our way back to Coconut Creek Homestay to gorge on idi appams and puttu kadala.
Paddling in a country boat
Post breakfast we expressed a desire to paddle around the Vembanad Lake in a country boat. George ettan (elder brother in Malayalam) made arrangements with a fisherman. We landed at the jetty post breakfast and Sajeevan greeted us and led us to his cute little boat. After ensuring that we were properly seated and the boat was stable he started rowing.We enjoyed nature’s beauty as we lazed in a country boat; the boat bobbing in the gentle waters of the lake, picturesque backdrop of coconut palms swaying as if to kiss each other, lovely paddy fields all green despite it being the month of May, the canoe gently swaying in the soft breeze which wafted by. We saw blooming water lilies and lotuses, herons waiting patiently, ready to swoop into the water and come out with a catch. Cormorants were diving in and coming out from another place with a fish in its beak. There were duck of different varieties swimming in the shade.
A moorhen here and darter bird there in search of food. We passed through narrow spaces at some places, dense growth at others. Palm trees, pandanus shrubs various leafy plants and bushes growing alongside the backwaters provided a green hue to the surrounding landscape. Sajeevan was an expert boatman and his boat moved and acted to his paddle’s will. There were many houses on the banks giving a slice of village life. A lady washing clothes, another washing the fresh catch. There were children playing on the house boats parked near the shoreline. The children waved us and we waved back with childlike glee.
It was all good fun. Sajeevan parked the craft close to a small bridge and hailed a chechi (sister in Malayalam) for some fresh coconut. As the cool, sweet water passed through the throat a sense of satiation of thirst could be felt deep down. We enjoyed the moment sipping it slowly and then moved on. We saw the transport boats at a distance filled with traders, students, tourists and general travellers moving towards other villages on their daily routine. Regular ferry services connect locations on both banks of the backwaters. This mode of transport has been used by locals from time immemorial.
Sajeevan slowly pushed the boat closer to the shore and said “tour over”. We looked at each other as if in a trance. We had lost sense of time in these serene surroundings. The car was waiting near the jetty to take us back to the homestay, where a sumptuous meal laid out on plantain leaves was waiting for us.
An evening to remember
A full belly arrested our physical movement and benched our physical self. Slowly we drifted into sleep. The smell of tea brewing in the kitchen woke us up. We sat in the lovely swing at the porch, sipping the tea with a bite of the biscuits. This was the tonic to perk our spirits for the next round of explore Kumarakom.
We tied our bootlaces, walked out of the gates towards the church. A right turn, parallel to the canal, led us to the mouth of the lake, where the canal joined it. We moved up closer and stood resting in the shade of the palm trees watching the shimmering water. The sharp white rays of the mid noon sun had now turned more yellow and the water rippled golden.
Slowly the sky changed colour as if a magician had waved a wand. Blue turned to yellowish orange, then reddish orange as the sun started beating the retreat. The greens of the swaying palms and the dark waters of the canal, slowly silhouetted into a picture post card sunset. We gazed and gazed and gazed some more as if mesmerized. The red ball of fire slowly dipped below the far horizon as if sinking into the depths of Vembanad Lake. The sky rapidly changed to light pastel colours moving on to shades of grey as dusk casts its cloak. We turned back along with the homing birds to our temporary nest.
Good Morning Egrets
We left for the Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary early next morning as the first rays of the sun slipped through the blue hour. By the time the sun came replenished in its finery of red and yellow clothing we had already reached the entrance and punched our tickets. The guard at the gate informed that May is not the ideal season for birding but with luck we may be able to spot some good number. He mentioned about roosting egrets which he said can be seen from watch tower three, we nodded our thanks and walked into a pristine forest full of tall trees, undergrowth and water bodies. There was proper path laid out to walk. We walked for more than a kilometer and half with no bird in far sight. The first bird we came across were predictably cormorants which were aplenty in the lake, a pond heron or two and some eagles flying up and away. We trudged along, met a couple of other early risers out for birding, with similar stories. After passing through a few open paths we reached a thick forested area where this tower was situated. We heard the cacophony of egrets. We climbed to the top of the tower and what a sight to behold.
It was here a egret, there a egret, everywhere a egret. They were all over the trees, some flying around madly seeking twigs, some cooing sweet nothings to their partners, some noisy and some just staring into space. We had our fill, clicked some memorable frames and retraced our steps back to the gates.
Sculpting the sea wrecks
We read about it while checking the internet. Curiosity led us here. The Bay Island Driftwood Museum is one of a kind. This unique museum with a superb collection of driftwood sculptures is established and run by Ms. Raji Punnoose, who is also its curator.
Exhibits were lovingly cleaned and shaped from broken trees and roots to give creative forms. The collection included forms of fish, birds, mammals and human. It gives you an insight into the depths of human mind. How utterly useless items, which are discarded, can be shaped into beautiful masterpieces defy imagination. If you go to Kumarakom, you should definitely visit this unique museum.
We returned back to base to collect our belongings for the overnight stay in the houseboat and moved on to the jetty where the boat was moored.
We have covered Kumarakom memories in two parts. Please click on the link below to read the other.