When I was younger, I would think that ‘a vacation’ always entails ‘doing something’. Like sightseeing, some adventure, travel, shop, and optimally utilize the time at the destination. And then I grew up and realized the importance of ‘not doing anything’. More so when you manage to take a break once in a year, after months of meetings, deadlines, and targets. As of today, all I want to do on a holiday is to put my feet up, smell the regional air, and forget that any other kind of world exists. Now, that is pure bliss!
Of course, the destination where I am headed also needs to be in sync with my agenda. And I believe Kerala has the perfect recipe for the kind of vacation that I expect. Or so I found when I went to Kuttanad a few years ago.
Kuttanad- a paradise
Kuttanad sits in the gorgeous backwater district of Aleppy or Alappuzha. I managed to book a comfortable cab from Kochi to Aleppy. The drive lasted two to three hours and I must say, it was one of the most scenic drives within Kerala.
The village is a mystical labyrinth of paddy fields, lagoons, and canals, dotted with quaint tiled houses, and lots and lots of greenery. As we drove along the narrow roads leading into the village, the driver, a local proudly claimed that ‘his hometown’ is the largest producer of rice in the country. And hence, it is called the ‘Rice Bowl’ of India. I could see why. The snaking roadways were lined with expansive paddy fields with farmers at work, each making their contribution to the ‘Rice Basket of India’.
Now, no experience of backwater is complete without spending a couple of days on a houseboat. I had booked my stay with Southern Odyssey houseboat rentals, which was docked right on the edge of the Punnamada Lake. It was the perfect picture I had painted of my holidays in my imagination. The air felt moist and fresh, with the musty smell of lagoons.
As I unpacked and sat on the verandah of my houseboat, I left all my stress and thoughts behind and felt the moment. If you could actually hear silence, it was right here. The only interruption came from the water that lapped at the boats and the rustling sound of the lush coconut groves swayed in the spring breeze. I instantly knew it was just the kind of place that can fulfill my desire for an idyllic holiday.
Next morning the boat was on a cruise to Pathiramanal Island. The huge island on the backwater is known for bird watching. There were other tourists who were very excited to see migratory birds, who stay here till the end of spring. Like I said before, my agenda was to literally ‘do nothing’. So, while everyone stepped out of the boat when it docked, I grabbed my binoculars and settled myself on the verandah again. A pair of purple colored herons just flew by and perched on the banks, pecking on some interesting find in the soil. I zoomed in for a close-up view of their actions. Then another pair came and joined them. Meanwhile, a high-pitched quacking distracted me and I turned to find a flock of wild ducks in shades of green and blue flying southwards. So you see, without as much moving a muscle, I could witness two very unique and exotic species of birds! As they say, sometimes when you are not busy, you are presented with the most pleasant surprises.
Another day also went by, lazing around the houseboat, enjoying the heavenly local food, and taking a walk through the country roads in the afternoon.
A day in the village
On my last day in Kuttanad, I felt a little guilty of not seeing the place a little more. So I joined my co-tourists on the boat for a ‘village tour’. It was a tour on a canoe through the network of canals around Kuttanad.
We started the tour early in the morning. The crisscrossing canals were heavily guarded by rows of coconut palms and mangroves growing randomly. En route, we passed by farmers tapping Toddy- a local alcoholic beverage made by fermenting coconut sap. It is usually done early morning before the sun is at its peak. We zigzagged through the canals and palm groves and observed the villagers engaged in daily chores.
We stopped for lunch at a local lunch home where they served the Sadhya- the traditional Kerala-style meal served on a banana leaf. Comforting and homely, every morsel felt fresh and pure, made with locally grown ingredients and fishes from the rivers. That very moment the place and its ambiance truly felt godly.
The best time to enjoy the backwaters in before summer or after the monsoon.
Always hire a car with an experienced driver in Kochi who knows the roads well. Sometimes, the GPS signal doesn’t work in the interiors.
When booking a houseboat stay, check for cruise options. It just adds to the experience.
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