Thursday, 7 February 2013

Wednesday 6th - Just Like Swallows & Amazons

Overnight there is a very noisy thunderstorm accompanied by lashings of rain. Our host describes it as a light shower but it makes the general atmosphere very muggy and uncomfortable. The sun does not really break through but we are still very grateful for our cold showers. R decides that we must have tea and goes to order. D completes the Times Crossword, writes a novel and packs before she returns with two cups of black stuff. It might be coffee but it certainly isn't tea. D gets a pleasant surprise when settling up. We are charged Rs 750 per night with one night free. That works out at about £6 per night or less than half the cost of 24 hours internet at the Mumbai Intercontinental.

We pop out to do some shopping in preparation for the second half of our Backwaters Odyssey. As we look for somewhere to buy water we stumble into the most marvelous bakers shop. As we have been promised slap up meals on our houseboat we resist the temptation and just get water. At 11.30 on the dot our pick up arrives and we are whisked across town to the canal side where our vessel awaits. With very little messing about we are onboard and under way. Unlike the Kerala State waterbus the houseboat has extremely comfortable swing seats and we rock gently as the countryside slides by.

After about half an hour's sailing we tie up alongside a stand of banana trees where lunch is served. There is enough food to feed ten and we struggle to do it justice. Once again the tuna is beautifully cooked and the grated coconut in spices a revelation. Even the green beans were nearly as good as the ones D cooks.

Today's trip stays mainly within the populated area around Alleppey which restricts the wildlife sightings, but gives us a chance to see local life at close quarters. Apart from the satellite dishes on every other roof, many traditional practices continue. Nobody seems to have gone for the new-fangled laundry method of using a bucket and a bar of gritty soap. Round here they stand in the river and beat the clothes on a rock.

As we are proceeding in a southerly direction we see what at first sighting appears to be a mass of floating plants. When we get closer we see that it is a vast flock of swimming ducks. According to R they are mainly Northern Shovellers on their winter holidays but there are odd examples of other species too. Over the next mile or so we see half a dozen such groups which get progessively larger. We also see various other feathery friends from yesterday. Afternoon tea is served with the best cuppa we have had so far on this trip as well as a heap of banana fritters.

Towards dusk we pull up alongside another, larger houseboat and we are invited to go for a walk. This is described as a Village Walk on the adverts for our cruise, but doesn't seem very organised. We head off along the river bank and soon start seeing bird species that we had not seen previously. Starting with a purple heron, we then saw a black headed ibis and a pair of nesting black kites. On our way back we spotted black headed munias and rufous treepies as well as getting a very close view of a brahminy kite on the ground.

Time for a beer and supper. The chef has spotted that we are wasting away and serves up a plate of chips along with chicken, rice, dal, chapatis, beetroot and okra. While we dine an impressive electrical storm fires up and we have to move to the leeward side of the table while the crew struggle manfully with the tarpaulins. Fresh pineapple for pud, but no wifi so you will have to wait for this update.

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