Kumarakom II – “Houseboat memories”
Kumarakom II – House Boat Cruise
Kerala’s backwaters are its most distinctive feature and multiple lakes, canals, and rivers come together to create this gorgeous landscape. Cruising through the backwaters of Kerala is one of the most romantic and memorable experiences, a wonderful way to enjoy the scenic beauty.
They mesmerize you into a time warp and leave you spellbound. Take a lazy backwater ride in a country boat with a picturesque backdrop of mangrove covered lagoons, swaying coconut palms and beautiful green paddy fields, with the canoe gently swaying in the soft breeze which wafts by and enjoy nature’s silent beauty.
Kettuvallam – Houseboat
A Kettuvallam or houseboat cruise (with an overnight stay) through the canals and lagoons is the best way to explore this beautiful place and helps you experience the land, people and their way of life. Trust us; it’s an incredible experience which will have you craving for more. The kettuvallams were traditionally used as barges, to transport the paddy harvested in the fields alongside the backwaters. It is said that these boats were used as living quarters by the royalty.
Reconverted and made into a tourist attraction, these houseboats are like floating mini cottages. It has a bedroom, toilets plus a dining area and a sit out on the deck. Food is cooked on board by the accompanying staff. The houseboats are of various sizes and patterns. They can be hired as per the size of the family or group.
The houseboat booked for our cruise was a simple, single accommodation one. It had a living cum bedroom , a personal bathroom attached to our bedroom, an open lounge with a TV set and music systems, a dining space, large sofas (to laze and watch the view), side seating arrangements, a kitchenette.
The bedroom had thatched windows that opened out into the Vembanand Lake. We had a two person staff manning the operations with both of them doing the duties of the cook and boatman in turns. With a diploma in cooking and experience in gulf hotels, the fare churned out was excellent.
We left the lagoon, where the boat harboured by noon and started our cruise. Passed through lush green scenes of swaying coconut palms, colourful houses dotting the banks of the lagoon, with the water a distinct green reflected by the greenery of the palms, the shrubs, the grass and the floating mass of water plants. A women was drying clothes on a clothes line fixed between two coconut trees, another was cooking broth on a huge pot in the open. We passed a few schools, places of worship and children chattering and playing near the paddy fields.
The overhanging coconut trees were whispering to each other with each swoosh of the wind, as we found ourselves flanked by lush greenery on either side. We were mesmerized by the cormorants, pond herons diving into the water and coming out with a catch of “karimeen” or some other fish, as we slowly moved into the Vembanad Lake. A canvas of an endless expanse of blue shades interspersed with dabs of greens and browns greeted us as we touched the lake. Several tourists and locals sailed past us waving and we waved back too. We crossed banks of the Bird Sanctuary and saw a raptor swooping into the water and lifting off with a huge fish on its claws. A few cormorants were flying around in search of food or with twigs in their beaks out for nest building.
As the sunlight streamed in strong, a few fishing boats slowly rowed their way around the banks near the floating water plants. The darter birds, the moorhens and other water birds were out for lunch and waiting patiently for their catch. Suresh acting as cook for the morning cruise had laid the table and we had a piping hot kerala style lunch.
Post lunch, Suresh and Shiju retired for an afternoon siesta after anchoring the boat near Muhamma. We sat enjoying the vast expanse of the lake, the verdant greenery around, chitchatting about everything and nothing, before the cool breeze lulled us, to a post lunch nap. We got up to see the boat on its onward cruise, with Suresh at the wheels and Shiju manning the kitchen duties. We passed a row of fishing nets set up for larger catch, some more beautifully constructed homes hidden among the verdant greens encompassing the banks of the lake. Canals and waterways snaking their way, water hyacinth, lilies and lotuses blooming in the water, bird flying across chirping and calling, the clear tropical sky, fragrant flowers, flock of ducks wading by; it was like we were watching a slideshow. This was for real. Hundreds of swaying coconut palms lining the rivers leaning their heads and whispering to each other.
We were just lost to the world, lost to each other, totally engrossed into the scenes unfolding in front of us. As noon turned to the soft light of the evening and the breeze became distinctly cooler the house boat reached its mooring place for the night. Shiju came out of the kitchen and joined Suresh in moving the boat, to be tied up safely for the night. It was moored right across Suresh’s residence at the bank of the canal. We moved out of the confines of the boat. Walking straight ahead we reached the far end of the lake which was a vantage point for seeing the sunset. We stood at the point where the lake formed a “L” shape and could see the vast expanse of blue with patches of green, brown and black spread on either side. There were also seating benches laid out for a more cosy and lazy view. It was show time now as the sun would set anytime. Given the previous day’s memories we waited with bated breath. Would today be a damp squib?
The sun was still fierce and yellow. Time was ticking, clouds had formed in the far horizon, where the sun was playing hide and seek with them. The evening sun slowly dipped lower near the horizon. The clouds slowly gave way, spreading out, the gentle breeze created soft ripples on the placid waters, which shimmered under the fast fading but still fierce sunlight. We were there on one of the seats entranced watching nature the ultimate painter filling up the canvas spread in front of us. Remembered this couplet from Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam:
O friend, for the morrow, let us not worry
This moment we have now, let us not hurry
The evening sun dipped below the horizon, the shades of orange and pinks were slowly fading as we got up and slowly walked back to our water abode. This was one of those abiding sunset that will be etched in our memories for a longish time.
It was a long walk back to the houseboat. We had a refreshing bath and nursing a cup of steaming tea sat gazing at the paddy fields, the cows homing back, mothers calling out for the kids to be home before dark. As the sky slowly covered itself with a grey blanket Suresh came in to take our request for dinner. We let him decide the menu himself. He scooted back and in an hour came back with some mouthwatering items. We ate leisurely and then took a little stroll on the waterfront. The cool breeze was hypnotizing and before long the eyelids started drooping.
We got up early morning greeted with the aroma of freshly brewed tea. The sun was already up; a few cormorants and gulls were flying at low level skimming the water. A lone pond heron was standing on one leg at the banks of the mangroves, as if in prayer like rishis of yore. A few raptors were circling the sky with eyes on the water looking out sharply for fish. Children with satchels on their backs were walking towards the school close by. It was like a scene in those oil paintings we see in the museums. Shiju set the nose of the boat towards the waterway and set the motor on. The cruise restarted. We moved through the main canal to sub waterways towards the many small hamlets dotting the banks. Moms waving their kids off to school, a guy carrying stuff on a cycle pushing it through the narrow path adjacent to the canal, a few barking dogs, roosters, hens running around, village scenes unfolding. More scenes of daily morning rituals of the households were seen. The breeze was still cool and we passed a bridge. A few fishing boats were being oared furiously towards the main Vembanad Lake. By now our houseboat was approaching the jetty from where we started the day before. Shiju expertly placed it against the bank and tied the rope to the pole placed for the purpose. After thanking the boys for the wonderful experience, we slowly walked the plank to the shore. The cruise was over.
“Moments are like beads on the string of life. When we look back in our winter years these will be amongst the brightest and most lustrous beads”
We have covered Kumarakom memories in two parts. Please click on the link below to read the other.