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Posted by Laura Orange | File under : ,
The undisputed main attraction of a trip to Kerala is travelling through the 900km network of waterways that fringe the coast and trickle inland. Long before the advent of roads, these waters were the slippery highways of Kerala, and many villagers still use paddlepower as their main form of transport. Trips through the backwaters traverse palm-fringed lakes studded with cantilevered Chinese fi shing nets, and wind their way along narrow, shady canals where coir (coconut fibre), copra (dried coconut kernels) and cashews are loaded onto boats. Along the way are isolated villages where farming life continues as it has for eons. For information on the northern backwaters. 


Beauty of green. Are we missing all these now·a·days?


Tourist Cruises 


The popular tourist cruise between Kollam and Alleppey departs at 10.30am, arriving at 6.30pm, daily from August to March and every second day at other times. Generally, there’s a 1pm lunch stop (with a basic lunch provided) and a brief afternoon chai stop. The crew has an ice box full of fruit, soft drinks and beer to sell. Bring sunscreen and a hat. It’s a scenic and leisurely way to get between the two towns, but the boat travels along only the major canals – you won’t have many close-up views of the village life that makes the backwaters so magical. Some travellers say they found the eight-hour trip boring. Another option is to take the trip halfway and get off at the Matha Amrithanandamayi Mission, the incongruously pink ashram of Matha Amrithanandamayi. 

One of India’s few female gurus, Amrithanandamayi is also known as Amma (Mother), or ‘The Hugging Mother,’ because of the darshan (audience) she offers, often hugging thousands of people in marathon all-night sessions. The ashram runs official tours at 5pm each day. It’s a huge complex, with about 2000 people living here permanently – monks, nuns, students and families, both Indian and foreign. It offers food, ayurvedic treatments, yoga and meditation, as well as souvenirs; everything from books to postcards of Amma’s toes. Amma travels around for much of the year, so you might be out of luck if in need of a cuddle. Visitors should dress conservatively and there is a strict code of behaviour. With prior arrangement, you can stay at the ashram and pick up an onward or return cruise a day or two later. Alternatively, you can take the free ferry to the other side of the canal and grab a rickshaw to Karunagappally, 10km away, from where you can catch buses to Alleppey. 


Its dusk in kerala {EXPLORED}


Houseboats 


Renting a houseboat designed like a kettuvallam (rice barge) could be one of your most expensive experiences in India, but it’s usually worth every rupee. Drifting through quiet canals lined with coconut palms, eating delicious Keralan food, meeting local villagers and sleeping on the water – it’s a world away from the clamour elsewhere. Houseboats cater for couples (one or two double bedrooms) and groups (up to seven bedrooms!). Food (and an onboard chef to cook it) is generally included in the quoted cost. Houseboats can be chartered through a multitude of private operators in Kollam (book ahead here as there are fewer boats) and Alleppey. This is the biggest business in Kerala:

See also: 5 Top Places to Visit in India