“Believe me … there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats”

So said the Water Rat in ‘The Wind in the Willows’ and now that we’re spending 2 nights on a houseboat exploring the backwaters of Kerala, I’m inclined to strongly endorse his words.  It’s hard to believe we are still in India: we haven’t heard a horn beep for almost 48 hours and although the odd ferry with a noisy outboard engine does go past from time to time, it’s generally a very peaceful way to spend a couple of days.  We’ve been moving at a pretty steady constant pace so the concept of total relaxation is a new one to us but one to which we adjusting with aplomb!

Our houseboat is a traditional kettuvalum (rice barge) with a thatched roof.  It has 2 double bedrooms each with its own bathroom and air conditioning, an upstairs deck with 3 sofas and a chaise longue (some in the shade, others in the sun), a separate eating and other sitting area on the downstairs deck, a TV (which we’re not using) and also comes with 2 staff (a captain and a chef).  And it’s just us on board!  Floating luxury.

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This is a tough life. You literally sit back and watch as the house boat gently motors down the water ways enjoying the peace and watching village life as it plays out in front of you, both in and out of the water.   There’s people washing themselves, washing dishes and others beating the hell out of clothes while doing their laundry.  There are people in all sorts of different types of boats many laden with goods, others empty just going back and forth getting on with the normal daily routines.

You don’t actually go that far or fast (there are various restrictions on routes and timings etc) and you moor up for a leisurely lunch and again by 17.30 ish for the overnight stop.  But it’s not really about where you go or how much distance you cover: it’s just a fabulous experience.  If the mood takes, you can indulge in a bit of house-boat envy (or actually in our case, quite a lot of houseboat one-up-man-ship as we seem to have chosen well: certainly the thatch on the rooves of other houseboats can leave a little to be desired!).

And then there’s the food. Somehow from a pretty small galley kitchen, a wealth of amazingly delicious food is produced in ridiculous quantities: it seems rude not to try and finish it all, but I fear that the more we eat at one meal, the more that will be produced at the next and so it’s a never ending cycle (maybe it’s good that we are only on here for 2 nights otherwise we may have trouble waddling off the boat).  While we’ve been largely vegetarian so far on this trip, especially in India, we’ve been indulging in some fresh fish while on the house-boat which has been delicious.

Taking a house boat in Kerala was high up on my bucket list for India and it is great that it has lived up to our expectations.  Back on the government bus tomorrow lugging around our rucsacs again!

15 to 17 February 2018

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