Thursday, 1 December 2011

On the tranquil Kochi backwaters

Longing to take a rejuvenating glide into the serenity of village life? Nothing could be better than a boat ride caressed by the soft ripples of Kochi backwaters.  The journey beneath the concrete bridges becomes all the more charming as it is sure not to play havoc with your budget.

You will have to agree with the Spanish traveler who scribed in his memoirs that no journey through India is complete without experiencing the rail journey through Ootty-Coonoor and boat ride through Kochi-Varapuzha water canal.

The mesmerizing journey that starts from High Court junction at Ernakulam provides a beautiful glimpse of the broad backwaters that embraces Kochi. In their journey to Varapuzha, the boats are anchored at more than twenty docks.   

'Lonely Planet', widely acclaimed as the 'Traveler's Bible', contains vivid description of this relatively unexplored waterway. Despite its international recognition, the native folk often remain unaware of the unique experience offered by the journey that links fourteen lush green islands.

The boat-ride provides a kaleidoscopic view of the vibrant cultural life  against a natural backdrop. The solitary boat rider and the fisherman who thuds hard on his boat to attract customers from the distant island towards his catch are but a few isolated images that stay back in mind long after the trip. Barges that contain liquid ammonia gas too sail by.

The meticulous eyes of foreign tourists have not evaded even the native boat travelers. It seems it was while traveling in these boats that they came across the largest number of 'half-clad men' in Kerala. The taste of toddy and the hot tinge of fish curry served at the riverside shops remained fresh in their taste-buds despite reaching the distant Egypt. 

No wonder, the ride through the Kochi backwaters itself is the highlight in Fil Franperson's work 'Hidden Kerala', which has been written for KTDC.

The boat passes through Mulavukadu, Korumkotta and Vaduthala to reach Chittur where it stops for a refreshing break.

The island of Moolambilly, seen at the other side, is famous for its earthen pots. So exquisite were those vessels moulded at Moolampilly that during the Indo-Chinese war, it was rumoured that these pots were manufactured in China itself.

The boat resumes its ride through the islands of Pizhala, Kothadu and Chennoor before it reaches Varapuzha. The boat anchors beside the ancient St. Joseph Mount Carmel church. The cultural remnants of  the work of early missionaries attract tourists to Varapuzha. Crematorium of twelve missionaries could also be seen here.

The boat ride from Ernakulam to Varapuzha takes about one and a half hours. If your eyes long to have yet another glance of the picturesque backwaters you can return to Kochi by boat itself. Or else, you can get down at Cheranallor and catch a bus to Kochi. Taxi service is also available.

Accommodation can be arranged at resorts in Korunkodu and Kothadu islands. Home-stay facility is available at Chenoor and Kothadu.

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