A Day in Backwaters & Houseboats with Kerala Chicken Stew
We leave at 7:30 for Kollam by car. The trip of 90 km is done in 2 hours. The traffic is dense as usual. On arrival at the pier of the ferry, we go to the Kerala tourism office which makes us a proposal of houseboat for a departure at 11 am. Contrary to what was said to us at Allepey, there is plenty of room to rent the Kettuvallam on Kollam, although there are fewer boats.
We agree without negotiating on the price, including 3 meals (lunch, dinner and breakfast), 2 hours of boat trip in a village on an island, and night on board. The boat has 2 bedrooms, 1 lower deck with sitting area, and upper deck in the shade too. The beers will be extra and we will have to buy them before leaving.
The boat departs at 11 am as planned. The backwaters is a bit like the typical postcard of Kerala with canals, tributaries, lagoons, rivers, and tropical plants on both sides of the water. There are lush landscapes as far as the eye can see. I think the photos will convince you better than a thousand words.
I ate for lunch fried fish, rice with sambar, and beans mezhukkupuratti. As expected, we leave in a canoe on the small canals of the island. A person sings incantations at the microphone all day. It's a ceremony. The songs are superb. We also see a lot of birds like cormorants, kingfishers, eagles. The walk lasts about 2 hours. After this stopover, we are entitled to a nice snack based on tea and banana fritters that I literally fell in love with.
The boat goes back to Kollam, part less interesting since we did it at the beginning of cruise, to stop near a fishing village. We go for a walk in the village where people greet us with a smile. A gentleman is proud to be photographed with his second daughter, who is beautiful. There too I noted the address. We stop watching the villagers make rope with coconut fiber. It is impressive what our hands can still do today.
In the evening, at dusk, the boat docked at the shore and another experience begins. We go to a traditional South Indian wedding. Sublime! We are a little embarrassed at first but finally the kindness of people makes us comfortable. They invite us to sit down at dinner among the guests. Here, everyone can participate in the wedding. There is no need for an invitation on cardboard. This moment will be marked for life in our hearts.
The evening, sprinkled with beer, will be accompanied by a light dinner. At dinner, it was a chicken stew from Kerala cooked in a coconut milk sauce, sweet and scented with ginger, cinnamon and clove, peppered with diced potatoes, onions and tomatoes. The chicken soaks up all the flavors of the sauce and becomes tender like butter. There are other vegetables also such as padavalanga thoran, all accompanied by naan of course.
The night is calm, and the fans support the heat.
The boat leaves around 7 am, to take a break around 8 am for breakfast. For breakfast, I have a kind of big crepe stuffed with banana and coconut. The boat leaves us in Allepey near a hotel we had booked until mid-day before leaving for Trivandrum airport.
I go for an Ayurvedic massage, performed in the hotel by a masseur who works at the nearby Ayurvedic institute. The performance will be great, both relaxing and invigorating. Here men massage men and women massage women. The proposed massage is done with essential oils, and practiced in a rather tonic way. It lasts 1 hour.
Our stay gets over at Kollam. We had planned an extra day at the seaside in Varkala, but a constraint forced us to cut our return by 24 hours. Our return was via Bangalore, on a low-cost flight.