Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Tuesday 5th The Birds

We resolve to get up and get going today, leaving the groovy young things to their mid-morning breakfasts. A brisk walk into the town centre and on to the boat jetty sets us up for a backwaters cruise to Kottayam. The landing stage is a comedy of errors as we try to find the right ferry. Eventually we are able to board the correct boat by crossing through another one that was going somewhere else.The boat looks like one of those stock shots that the BBC show every time there is a river ferry disaster in Bangladesh or Indonesia. We take a seat and are soon under way.

The boat acts as a sort of local bus service for the first few km out of Alleppey but fairly quickly empties out leaving a hard core of mainly non-Indian passengers in for the long haul. Once he has collected our Rs 10 fare each the conductor doesn't have much to do so he borrows R's bird book and sits absorbed in it while we watch the real thing all around us.

These backwaters are a bird watcher's delight.  In quick succession we see several varieties of bee eater, two kinds of kingfisher, heaps of cormorants, pond herons and egrets and best of all we saw numerous darters.  These are also known as snake birds because of their serpent like necks which they hold out of the water as they swim with their bodies submerged..  Further into the voyage we spot several Brahminy Kites with spectacular red wing plumage and white heads.  R is thrilled and even D is quite impressed..

Our voyage lasted a total of three hours and for the last half hour or so the boat has to fight it's way through floating lilies and other plants which made the waterway look like terra firma in places.  On arriving at Kottayam we discovered we have the choice of staying for ten minutes or indefinitely, as there was only one boat back again.  D rustled up some water and a local lunch of Indian Masala crisps and then it was time for the return journey.   More great sightings of the same birds plus a bonus of Purple Swamphens.  As we near Alleppey the boat fills up and we have to squeeze to make room on our seat.  On the outskirts of town the boat stops to refuel so we lever our numb bums off the seating and take to dry land. 

An auto ride takes us back to the Royale Park for a reviving beer/tea, after which R feels brave enough to go clothes shopping. In true Indian style she has the assistants lay out the shop's entire stock of trousers before selecting the first pair that she was shown..  Shopping complete, we take a relay auto ride home where our first driver walks us through the road works, handing us over to another driver and they split the fee. Back home for a tepid water sluice and a laze under the fan.

 Tonight we decide to eat at the Harbour Restaurant on the beach, which turns out to be a tourist spot with very few Indian customers, but the food is good and the prices are reasonable.  We have fish curry, chicken in gravy, rice and chapatis - nummy.  We round the evening off with a stroll along the esplanade and R again resists the temptation to eat a deep fried, battered chilli.  A most enjoyable day.

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