A Soulful Voyage-Alleppey

Tripoto
Photo of A Soulful Voyage-Alleppey by Sulagna
Photo of A Soulful Voyage-Alleppey by Sulagna
Photo of A Soulful Voyage-Alleppey by Sulagna
Photo of A Soulful Voyage-Alleppey by Sulagna
Photo of A Soulful Voyage-Alleppey by Sulagna
Photo of A Soulful Voyage-Alleppey by Sulagna
Photo of A Soulful Voyage-Alleppey by Sulagna
Photo of A Soulful Voyage-Alleppey by Sulagna
Photo of A Soulful Voyage-Alleppey by Sulagna
Photo of A Soulful Voyage-Alleppey by Sulagna
Photo of A Soulful Voyage-Alleppey by Sulagna
Photo of A Soulful Voyage-Alleppey by Sulagna
Photo of A Soulful Voyage-Alleppey by Sulagna
Photo of A Soulful Voyage-Alleppey by Sulagna
Photo of A Soulful Voyage-Alleppey by Sulagna
Photo of A Soulful Voyage-Alleppey by Sulagna

A town where the morning wakes up to picturesque view of lush green paddy fields, neatly bordered by swaying slender coconut palms, where life is amidst innumerable canals, rivers, springing to life every dawn, dotted by cheerful faces on either sides, calling this magical place in our God’s own country  Kerala, “Allepey” or “Allepuzha”, their home. This very maze of beaches, lagoons and brackish canals had awed Lord Curzon long back, compelling him to confer the honour and naming this amazing place as the “Venice of East”.

Allepey is a peaceful haven with warm people, beautiful landscape and had been long famed for its backwaters and the awe-evoking Nehru Trophy Boat Race held on Punnamada Lake each year during the month of August. Last year I got the opportunity to visit Kerala, and one of my journeys took me to Allepey. During my visit to the town, I didn’t get the opportunity to enjoy watching the boat race. But I ensured to absorb and inhale the aura and charisma of Allepey by making sure that we feel like royalty in this wonderland of backwaters, by spending one lazy day, but magnificent stay at an Allepey houseboat.

Houseboats at Allepey have an interesting history. The typically touristy houseboat is not an indigenous concept from the land of Kerala. The concept was imported to the backwaters from the Dal Lake in Srinagar some 20-25 years back. Upheaval and unfortunate tensions in Kashmir led to fewer tourists in Kashmir. But, the loss of Kashmir became gain for Kerala and houseboats got a warm acceptance from travellers touring the beauty of waterways in Kerala.

So the moment arrived, we reached the Allepey finishing point jetty where an array of houseboats were anchored ready to take their guests into the magical world of the backwaters at Allepey. As we stepped into our one and half year old, floating sojourn, we were welcomed on-board with local flower garlands and a refreshingly traditional coconut water drink. Our very charming houseboat interiors instantly gave us love at first sight feeling. Huge open space done up with sturdy furniture was a delight to watch. The space rolled over to a slender corridor to the cosy bedrooms and the kitchen.

Samuel, the helmsman of the boat showed us around the boat while schooling us about the houseboat dimensions-90 feet in length, 15 feet in breadth and having depth of 5.5 feet and how the 6mm thickness metal boat is taken care of diligently by painting the exterior every 2 years which prolongs longevity of the houseboat to 10 years approximately.

As our journey on the houseboat started on Punnamada Lake, the stories of history and art of Allepey also unfolded, and the storyteller was Kartik, our head chef on-board “Raisun” (our houseboat). In his small breaks from the kitchen, where he was preparing amazing local dishes for us, he presented us with a platter of local folklores, one after another, spicing up our cruise experience.

Kartik informed that even though the concept of houseboats was foreign in this tiny town, the contemporary houseboats are an improvisation of the local rice barges called Kettuvallams. He went on, and narrated how eco-friendly local materials like coir, coconut palm, bamboo poles, bamboo mats and fibre ropes blends with modernity of PVC was used to co-create the self-sufficient floating homes of Allepey, inclusive of luxurious AC bedrooms with attached hygienic washrooms and toilets, cosy kitchen, airy sitting spaces in the open and best of all is the deck to laze your eyes on the vast expanse of natural beauty all about.

As our houseboat sailed amidst the captivating charm of the backwaters through the Kuttanad region, we were gradually engulfed by the overwhelming allure of greenery. We navigated through small streams and canals watching the locals take bath, wash their clothes on the bank, little kids splashing in the calm backwaters. We also spotted few elderly men sailing slowly in their small canoes, indulging themselves in the pleasure of fishing. As we proceeded we could see the ever smiling inhabitants ferrying about with baskets of fragrant flowers, fresh fishes, farm produce on way to the local market. Watching the simple and peaceful co-existence of natives with nature made us forget the world of hustle and bustle in the metros. The slow paced, yet full of life living of the dwellers further added to the charm of the place.

Sailing further, the boat steered away from Punnamada lake to Vembanad lake. Although by theory it is classified as a lake, the magnificence of this waterbody makes it look nothing short of an ocean, although sans the waves. The calmness of the vast water, gently kissing the horizon is indeed a sight to behold.

While I was lost in admiration, Samuel called out to me and edged me to the steering wheel. The thrill and excitement of steering the boat in Vembanad Lake can’t be described in words. It just made an effortless entry into my diary of favourite moments in my lifetime.

Samuel meanwhile, free of the steering wheel, was educating me of the geography of this area. Kuttanad, the region we were sailing in, is the rice bowl of Kerala, where paddy farming is carried some 1.2 to 3 metres below the sea level!!!! Astonishing.

Another unique feature being that these farming areas have been reclaimed from the lake and this type of backwater paddy cultivation is called “Kayal Cultivation” locally.

As we were taking our time grasping this incredible piece of information, Kartik emerged from the kitchen with steaming fresh dishes prepared in Kuttanadan Culinary style. The delicious looking spread had rice, dal, fluffy appams, papadam, spicy tapioca (kappa) mash and star of the menu “Karimeen Pollichathu”(Pearl Spot fish from Allepey wrapped in banana leaf and grilled with spices). Soon it was followed by freshly cut pineapples. Savouring these delicacies amidst mesmerizing nature was a precious souvenir from this beautiful land.

With the taste still lingering on our tongues we ventured deeper into the Vembanand Lake. The radiance of the silent paddy fields by the sides of the lake got us hypnotised. Free from his chores, Kartik’s over-enthusiastic voice drew our attention to a modest but very elegant church on the shore amongst the reclaimed paddy fields. He then narrated a story that took us to a flashback, of Allepey 60 years back, when the area had few prominent families involved in backwater paddy cultivation. Thomman Joseph Murickummoottil popularly called Muricken by the locals, hailed from one such influential family who brought forth many advance methodologies to the cultivation. Being a god-fearing and a philanthropic man, he built this lovely church for the people of his village. Today descendants of Muricken still own about 6 acres of land but now they are based out of Trivandrum. As I glanced to steal a last look at the church, it seemed to have come to life with the story as if asking us to know a little more and be a part of its little story.

Slowly sailing, evening dawned on the horizon. We were relishing on crispy onion vadas and warm aromatic coffee made by Kartik. Meanwhile the houseboat was moored at Kuppapuram village; the shore of the village was lined by the famous tiny shops with fresh catch of black crabs and tiger prawns. We relished on cool coconut water from one of the nearby shops. After the quick halt our boat was directed towards the Pamba River, the 3rd longest river in Kerala. At Pamba, our boat would put down its anchor for the night.

As it was slowly growing dark, the onward cruise was enjoyed watching the sunset and dancing merrily to rhythmic music being played on the boat’s music system. Cool breeze coupled with peppy music and chirpy dancing, affection and warmth of family togetherness, were precious moments captured in frames of my reminiscence. At night, the houseboat donned a festive look all glittered up in various rainbow coloured lights. And finally after an uber fun filled day followed by a yummy dinner we retired to our cosy beds.

As dawn broke, the next day, awaited us yet another journey, yet another adventure.

So the moment arrived, we reached the Allepey finishing point jetty where an array of houseboats were anchored ready to take their guests into the magical world of the backwaters at Allepey. As we stepped into our one and half year old, floating sojourn, we were welcomed on-board with local flower garlands and a refreshingly traditional coconut water drink. Our very charming houseboat interiors instantly gave us love at first sight feeling. Huge open space done up with sturdy furniture was a delight to watch. The space rolled over to a slender corridor to the cosy bedrooms and the kitchen.

Samuel, the helmsman of the boat showed us around the boat while schooling us about the houseboat dimensions-90 feet in length, 15 feet in breadth and having depth of 5.5 feet and how the 6mm thickness metal boat is taken care of diligently by painting the exterior every 2 years which prolongs longevity of the houseboat to 10 years approximately.

As our journey on the houseboat started on Punnamada Lake, the stories of history and art of Allepey also unfolded, and the storyteller was Kartik, our head chef on-board “Raisun” (our houseboat). In his small breaks from the kitchen, where he was preparing amazing local dishes for us, he presented us with a platter of local folklores, one after another, spicing up our cruise experience.

Kartik informed that even though the concept of houseboats was foreign in this tiny town, the contemporary houseboats are an improvisation of the local rice barges called Kettuvallams. He went on, and narrated how eco-friendly local materials like coir, coconut palm, bamboo poles, bamboo mats and fibre ropes blends with modernity of PVC was used to co-create the self-sufficient floating homes of Allepey, inclusive of luxurious AC bedrooms with attached hygienic washrooms and toilets, cosy kitchen, airy sitting spaces in the open and best of all is the deck to laze your eyes on the vast expanse of natural beauty all about.

As our houseboat sailed amidst the captivating charm of the backwaters through the Kuttanad region, we were gradually engulfed by the overwhelming allure of greenery. We navigated through small streams and canals watching the locals take bath, wash their clothes on the bank, little kids splashing in the calm backwaters. We also spotted few elderly men sailing slowly in their small canoes, indulging themselves in the pleasure of fishing. As we proceeded we could see the ever smiling inhabitants ferrying about with baskets of fragrant flowers, fresh fishes, farm produce on way to the local market. Watching the simple and peaceful co-existence of natives with nature made us forget the world of hustle and bustle in the metros. The slow paced, yet full of life living of the dwellers further added to the charm of the place.

Sailing further, the boat steered away from Punnamada lake to Vembanad lake. Although by theory it is classified as a lake, the magnificence of this waterbody makes it look nothing short of an ocean, although sans the waves. The calmness of the vast water, gently kissing the horizon is indeed a sight to behold.

While I was lost in admiration, Samuel called out to me and edged me to the steering wheel. The thrill and excitement of steering the boat in Vembanad Lake can’t be described in words. It just made an effortless entry into my diary of favourite moments in my lifetime.

Samuel meanwhile, free of the steering wheel, was educating me of the geography of this area. Kuttanad, the region we were sailing in, is the rice bowl of Kerala, where paddy farming is carried some 1.2 to 3 metres below the sea level!!!! Astonishing.

Another unique feature being that these farming areas have been reclaimed from the lake and this type of backwater paddy cultivation is called “Kayal Cultivation” locally.

As we were taking our time grasping this incredible piece of information, Kartik emerged from the kitchen with steaming fresh dishes prepared in Kuttanadan Culinary style. The delicious looking spread had rice, dal, fluffy appams, papadam, spicy tapioca (kappa) mash and star of the menu “Karimeen Pollichathu”(Pearl Spot fish from Allepey wrapped in banana leaf and grilled with spices). Soon it was followed by freshly cut pineapples. Savouring these delicacies amidst mesmerizing nature was a precious souvenir from this beautiful land.

With the taste still lingering on our tongues we ventured deeper into the Vembanand Lake. The radiance of the silent paddy fields by the sides of the lake got us hypnotised. Free from his chores, Kartik’s over-enthusiastic voice drew our attention to a modest but very elegant church on the shore amongst the reclaimed paddy fields. He then narrated a story that took us to a flashback, of Allepey 60 years back, when the area had few prominent families involved in backwater paddy cultivation. Thomman Joseph Murickummoottil popularly called Muricken by the locals, hailed from one such influential family who brought forth many advance methodologies to the cultivation. Being a god-fearing and a philanthropic man, he built this lovely church for the people of his village. Today descendants of Muricken still own about 6 acres of land but now they are based out of Trivandrum. As I glanced to steal a last look at the church, it seemed to have come to life with the story as if asking us to know a little more and be a part of its little story.

Slowly sailing, evening dawned on the horizon. We were relishing on crispy onion vadas and warm aromatic coffee made by Kartik. Meanwhile the houseboat was moored at Kuppapuram village; the shore of the village was lined by the famous tiny shops with fresh catch of black crabs and tiger prawns. We relished on cool coconut water from one of the nearby shops. After the quick halt our boat was directed towards the Pamba River, the 3rd longest river in Kerala. At Pamba, our boat would put down its anchor for the night.

As it was slowly growing dark, the onward cruise was enjoyed watching the sunset and dancing merrily to rhythmic music being played on the boat’s music system. Cool breeze coupled with peppy music and chirpy dancing, affection and warmth of family togetherness, were precious moments captured in frames of my reminiscence. At night, the houseboat donned a festive look all glittered up in various rainbow coloured lights. And finally after an uber fun filled day followed by a yummy dinner we retired to our cosy beds.

As dawn broke, the next day, awaited us yet another journey, yet another adventure.

This post was originally published on 'WANDERCRAZY'.

Be the first one to comment