Kochi – Day II – The Backwater Tour Part 1

Bangalore –Kochi – 2 days – Aug 2012 – Day 2

The travel blog is finally in progress again. It got delayed because of focus on other stuff (crafts n such). It didn’t help matters when Hubby promised to cancel the internet subscription at home if this blog wasn’t up-to-date. So I’m homing to update this blog by the year-end. Good Luck to me!! 🙂

The previous day, we’d already booked ourselves a full day backwater and canal trip. The nice thing about this was that we didn’t have to make the trip all the way to the Kerala Tourism Office. Instead there was pick-up facility from our hotel itself.

Since the bus was to pick us up at around 8.30am, we got out of the place early and had breakfast at Hotel Gokul. The service was fast, and the coffee was refreshingly strong. 🙂

Once we came back to our hotel we had to wait a few minutes for the bus to arrive. There were very few seats for the picking, but we fitted ourselves into the last seat with another couple. A bit of a tight fit, but surprisingly comfortable! A scenic tour through Kochi later we reached the point where we boarded the houseboat.

The path to the houseboat passes through a family backyard, and we were greeted with pleasant smiles by the ladies working there. Once we reached the quay, which in this case was a narrow stone path, we hopped into the houseboat and set down our bags. Our tour guide introduced himself (in a very distinctly odd accent, not even Malayali) and offered us tea served by the families residing near the quay.

House next to quay

Now I’m not a fan of tea. In fact, I’m a hard-core coffee lover. So the cardamom tea served by the families wasn’t the most pleasant experience for me. However, Hubby enjoyed it.

The guide also described the houseboat structure, the history of houseboats in Kerala (meant to carry rice), and finally the different kinds of houseboats. This was a basic one, with a single bedroom and attached bathroom. The rear of the houseboat had the motors and kitchen. Most of us got lovely traditional wooden easy-chairs to sit on. People who walked in late were stuck with plastic chairs. The reason I mention the easy chairs is that the gentle movement of the boat on water coupled with the low height of the chairs and posture of the body, make the trip very pleasant and enjoyable without the wobbling sense in tall-seated plastic chairs.

Luxury houseboat meant for parties and groups of more than 10 people

The houseboat we used: the motors and luggage section at the back, covered bedroom space and the front section where we were seated.

We first set off towards Vembanad lake, and the various backwater channels nearby. Along the way we were pointed out various islands, some occupied with a few families and no facilities, some fully occupied with water and electricity, and social services available, and some completely unoccupied.

A few moments later we saw an odd bamboo structure in the middle of the water. The guide explained that this was a Chinese Fishing net, and the fishermen would come during low tide to set it up, just before high tide. Once the tide lowered again, the net would have the fish, and they would return to collect the net. In this method, it is not possible for a single fisherman to run the process. It requires a group of fisherman to manage the contraption.

Chinese fishing net contraption

Another section showed wooden pole stuck into the river bed a short distance from each other. This was a method of fishing where the fisherman would tie the net between 2 poles, and once the tide lowered the net would be filled with fish.  The net in question would however be about 30-40 ft in length. Also, this kind of fishing is managed by a single fisherman. This method, as well as the Chinese fishing nets, required permits for setting up.

Long net fishing poles

Further down, we passed by a boat where a fisherman seemed to be fishing with a pole pushed downward into the water. The guide explained that he was fishing for mussels, and that’s possible with a 10ft long pole sent directly down into the water.  A couple of moments later we waved to the fisherman, and friendly smiles later, we moved on. Since no permits were required for fishing for mussels, fishermen simply take their boats into the lake and get fishing!
We also manage to catch sight of some brahmani kites that are typical to this region along the way.

Fisherman pulling up the net

The net being dragged into the boat

Next, we stopped on a small island which hosted a closed-down factory that used to produce lime for construction purposes. The process was achieved through burning hundreds of kilogrammes of shells drawn from the lake. With the effect of the burning on the ecological system, as well as the reduction in quantity of shells available to local fisheries, the factory had close down. However, we could still see the pits where the burning took place, as well a coating of lime across all the surfaces of the factory. The premises are now used to produce toddy and arrack.

While we looked around the place, the guide started a hard-sell for toddy and mussels. A lot of people opted for mussels, and only the couple that sat behind us in the boat (and beside us on the bus) opted for the toddy. The guide kept telling us, so what if we were vegetarians, mussels are almost veg anyway! Ummm, oh ya!!?? How come we’ve never heard that one before? Anyway, we gave it a pass. 🙂

After walking around on the island for sometime taking pics, we were taken across to a family living nearby and shown some of the plants grown there.
Here we saw vanilla, bay leaves, cinnamon and arrowroot among others there. AFter that we made our way to the boat, where the cook on the houseboat had prepared mussels and served in small banana leave dishes. Once everyone enjoyed their share of the food, we set off again, and this time made it all the way back to the starting point.

lush greenery on either side

small unoccupied island

Waiting for a ferry

ferry between island and mainland

On docking, we were served a nice lunch prepared by the ladies in the houses near the quay. It was a simple fare, dominated by coconut and was mildly spicy (a nod to the foreigners travelling along with us).

We finally got off the boat, and made our way to the bus.

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Categories: Kerala, Kochi | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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One thought on “Kochi – Day II – The Backwater Tour Part 1

  1. Pingback: Kochi – Day II – The Backwater Tour Part 2 « Weekend Getaways

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