Friday, 8 February 2013

Thursday 7th - Tales from the Riverbank.

When we awake this morning all is peace, calm and sunshine. Only a few puddles on the deck serve as a reminder of last night's storm. The two crew members have very limited English, although it is not as limited as our Malayalam, the local language of Kerala. But we get by. After an invigorating cold water jug and bucket shower we head downstairs for breakfast. Once again our chef serves up his excellent tea, revealing the mystery ingredient to be root ginger. We have omelettes, lightly grilled bread and stuffed utappams with more fresh pineapple. Suitably fortified we are ushered onto a large size canoe for our "Small Boat Ride".

Our boatman is initially taciturn - who can blame him with the dead weight that he has to propel across the water. We see scrillions of birds, some of which we fail to identify despite their vivid colouring and willingness to remain still for us. D identifies a Toucan - possibly a first ever sighting in Kerala. Perhaps it was something else. The man with the paddle seems to approve of the bird interest as he starts to thaw a little and points out some interesting flora, as well as telling us the local names of some of the birds. We travel south for an hour then he turns and crosses to the opposite bank, where there are numerous houses and many people with whom he shares cheery greetings. As we are almost back at the houseboat he points out a neat, attractive and prosperous bungalow and tells us that it is his house. D makes a note to halve the tip. (Only kidding - D) By the time we get back to the HB the sun is really quite fierce and we head for the swing seats on the shady side.

We decide to opt out of the offered fishing lesson in case we are required to eat the catch and our cruise gets under way again. The waters seem a bit quieter then yesterday and after a while D plucks up his courage and asks for a shot at driving the boat. R is suitably appalled when this wish is granted. For twenty  minutes or so we live dangerously until D hands back the wheel to the designated driver. What fun! We are called for yet another meal - duck curry with tapioca. This is more like mashed potato than school frogspawn pudding and once again there is far more than we could possibly eat.

We arrive back at the houseboat base where we are to be picked up by an auto. In true style our host has also arranged for the same auto to pick up two Jeunes Francaises who have been staying at another of his properties. Somehow we all squeeze in with our luggage. The two girls are spending a month in India as part of a year long round the world trip. At the guesthouse we pile our bags in a corner and catch up with our e-mail etc until the sun cools off a little.

R wants to visit the Revi Karunna Karan Memorial Museum which is just around the corner from. D is less keen after being told that it is Rs 250 each and you must take your shoes off. R whispers the magic letters "A/C" and we are hooked. It is soon apparent that this is not a place for leisurely perusal. A guide marches us briskly from cabinet to cabinet where he reads out the labels verbatim. The coir magnate family that the museum commemorates appears to have been avid collectors of oriental art and ivory carvings. The surviving widow has added her own collections of Swarovski Crystal, Lalique, Lladro and even Lilliput miniatures. The result is a bit bizarre. There is one room containing local artefacts including a traditional Theyyamdancer's wooden headdress. Photography is strictly prohibited. D loves a challenge.
After this dose of "culture" we need refreshment and make our way back to the Royale Park where we are ushered to our usual table. A cooling beer later we decide to go and look for Alleppey's famous umbrella shops. There is a street full of rather grand emporia containing umbrellas of every hue. We do, of course, manage to get a little lost but Alleppey is not too big and we soon find our way to the right place. R decides that she doesn't want to cart a brolly around India for another 3 weeks so she homes in on a Kerala cookbook instead. Satisfied with this souvenir we had back to base to collect our bags.

Today's thumbs down goes to HDFC bank who, unlike other banks we have used, add a 200 rupee charge when we draw some cash from the ATM. Today's thumbs up goes to Alleppey which has really grown on us over the last few days even if we have had to have cold showers.


  1. Maybe it was a hornbill?

    What fun driving the boat!!!

    1. A hornbill was the closest that we could spot in the book but it was a long way away and the sky was quite bright. We put it down as a definite something.

      Boat driving was nearly as much fun as driving a train.