The backwaters of Kochi

Unbeknownst to Yours Truly I’d been enrolled in still another sunrise adventure. As you Escapees well know by now, Rule #4 unequivocally states “No More Sunrise Adventures.” So why am I sitting in an Uber in the dark being pummeled by Kochi’s back roads? I think we can all agree it’s to maintain domestic tranquility.

Marce seems to be cheerful enough when the driver stops in a dirt alley and gives us that look that says, “Ride’s over.” No signs, no buildings, and no guide. False dawn reveals water and a small punt at the dead end of this unpaved alley but we’re still 20 minutes early.

Here in India you don’t expect clear signage but once again, as the sun rises above the tree tops, no one is here. After half a dozen texts and phone calls Marce reaches a very sleepy proprietor who says his guide must have gone for tea. That’s India.

Finally a harried but apologetic guide showed up with a small container of outboard fuel and after frenetically rearranging the plastic chairs onboard, he gestured toward the seats he wanted us to take.

With the sun well risen we putted away from the sea wall.

Well this is quite pleasant, if not an actual sunrise cruise. Before long we entered the backwater channels.

Marce here: This is one of the main tourist draws here in Kochi, and particularly further south in Alleppey. You can take short cruises like us, a longer overnight journey in a private houseboat, or group cruises, all in traditional wooden boats ranging from rustic to luxurious. I wanted to experience the quiet shallow waters of Kerala on our last day to bookend our month in India. We began in high octane Delhi and we’re ending on these peaceful waters.

Because our boatman was late we’ve missed the dawn and it’ll get hot too soon but the water is unrippled and we’re seeing a different slice of Indian life. It reminded me of the bayous of Louisiana.

We saw lots of birds, including a few gorgeous kingfishers, their iridescent blue feathers flashing in the morning light as they flew away before I could raise the camera. The herons, egrets, and cormorants were much more obliging.

It’s a whole different world here, with dwellings of all kinds. I’m sure the people are accustomed to the tour boats gliding past but everyone I waved to waved back.

This woman is sifting through the bottom mud with her feet for oysters and her dugout is filled to the gunnels.

We saw the evidence of fish farms in lots of places but we failed to understand our guide’s explanation so we don’t know if they’re still in operation or not.

As we glided toward more open water we saw ahead a flock of birds circling and diving near a couple of boats pulling up their nets. Of course this is a common sight, seagulls following the catch, but as we inched closer and our boatman cut the engine we realized they weren’t gulls but sea eagles, dozens of them, young, old, whistling and swarming, trying their best to share in the catch. We were transfixed. We’d never seen more than one or two at a time and we sat for many minutes taking it all in. Even our boatman watched in wonder.

For the rest of our allotted time we motored in and out of the mangroves, sometimes running aground in the shallows. We wondered what the nautical charts would look like in such a place.

We were returned to the dock at the scheduled time, with no allowance made for the fact that we’d left very late but it was getting hotter and we have packing to do and a long journey ahead of us. We couldn’t have picked a better way to end our trip.

Back early, It must be tea time.

Later that day, you know it’s time to wrap it up when Jack starts looking for local news.


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2 Responses to The backwaters of Kochi

  1. Jitendra Bruce Bly

    Delightful… I love hearing from you.

  2. Diane Sanderbeck

    I’ve loved your adventures for years now. Thank you for taking me to India, a place I’ve always wanted to visit. Maybe someday. So many places and so little time. Happy travels!

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