The Kerala backwaters by geoveo
One of our most tranquil journeys in India was the three stage passage from Cochin to Quilon through these waterways in 1981. To leave the hub-bub pace and sounds of busy Cochin and drift almost silently in to the maze of palm dipped waterways was wonderful. A memorable transition from central India into the deep south.
The palm-fringed backwaters are inland lakes connected by a network of canals and rivers that stretch to almost 1,900 kilometres. The routes have been used for centuries for all transportation needs, in particular the trade in coconut, rubber, rice and spices. These waterways link remote villages and islands to the mainland and the coastal ports.
The most interesting area is the Kuttanad region, called the rice bowl of Kerala where farming is done below sea level, using a system of dykes and bunds.
The largest stretch is from Vembanad Lake, from where the waters flow through three districts – Alappuzha (Alleppey), Kottayam and then open out into the sea at the Kochi (Cochin). The second largest is around Ashtamudi Lake which has eight ‘arms’ covering a major portion of Kollam (Quilon) district in the south.
You could get an organised trip along some stretches but we found that using the local waterbus services was both more authentic and much, much, cheaper, if somewhat uncomfortable (hard seats, take a cushion). Another advantage is that if you’re not on a tight schedule you can hop off when the fancy takes you, or amend your journey as you go along. There’s very limited overnight accommodation between the major towns but it does exist, we were invited to stay overnight with a family we met on a boat. It’s a great way to meet people and share, if only peripherally, a unique way of life.over 6 years ago