We made our departure from Kochi around 10 am on Sunday, January 10. Our next major destination and outing was going to be cruising the canals south of Vembanad Lake, which is south of Kochi. The drive took a couple of hours and would have been hair raising for people of certain sensitivities, like Michael, for instance. Roads may be narrow but that doesn’t mean there can’t be three or even four vehicles occupying what would only host two vehicles back home. Lots of honking of horns. Lots of tuk tuks, motorcycles and pedestrians weaving their way through it all, dodging busses and trucks and cars. But we made it intact and in good spirits.
We divided into three groups for our three boats. Joan and I were in the all girl houseboat. The three person staff on the boat was wonderful.
The canal system we were entering flows out of the lake . . . Well, that makes no sense. Maybe the canals flow into the rivers that flow into the lake that flows into the sea. I seem to recall some mention of brackish water at high tides. Can you tell that my brain is fried? I think in my last post I said my brain was poached. Regardless of the method, it has been cooked beyond working. If I ever do a presentation about this trip, I will have to do some major research!
Some things I do know to be true about the canals: They are man made; some of them have been around for centuries: and, they are higher than the surrounding rice fields, which allows them to be used for irrigation for the rice. The soil is so rich, the weather so warm and the sun so constant in this area, that the rice fields produce three or even four crops a year.
Other things I know to be true about the afternoon and evening: The houseboats are nice even if they aren’t quite as ornate and authentic as some we saw on postcards; we cruised through quite a long stretch of waterway that looked kind of like a floating trailer park; and, once we got beyond the yucky stretch, it was delightful.
Life is on the water. People washing themselves, their clothes, their hair, their children. People fishing. People just hanging out watching passing boat traffic. Children smiling and waving. Birds flitting about: White fronted kingfishers, stork billed kingfishers, pond herons, egrets, and Brahmini kites. Lotus blossoms and water lilies bobbing in the wake of our boat. Huge rafts of blooming water hyacinths being parted by the canoes and other watercraft.
After we watched the sun go down and all three of our boats tied up on shore for the night, all fourteen of us gathered on the upper deck of one of the houseboats for wine, beer, snacks and conversation. It was lovely and not even too buggy.
About 7:30 each group retired to its own houseboat for dinner and then to bed . . . The hardest bed I have ever slept on if you don’t count a shelf of granite up in the Sierra Nevada. I managed to sleep fairly well; at least, I think I did. I remember waking up, so, I must have slept.
The only thing concerning about the day was when Hashmat, in telling us what the next day was going to bring, said that he hoped we had enjoyed the liesurely first couple of days because now things were really going to get going. Yoiks, I’m in trouble.