I arrived at Lovedale Lakeside Homestay thinking I had booked myself into accommodation in Alleppey, a greatly frequented tourist location in Kerala renowned for its ubiquitous houseboats and charming waterways. I hadn’t. I was still some miles to the north of the town but this administrative error turned out to be a boon, for the place was blissfully quiet and very pretty.
It was also here that I met Jade and Kath. Jade, a very talented photographer, and Kath, a librarian, both hailed from Yorkshire and had come to Kerala on an initiative to build a community library. They were great fun and we bonded on the first evening when I ordered them the two large beers they were not yet aware that they wanted.
It would have been only too easy to sit out in the garden, perhaps in one of the hammocks, and not move a muscle for the three days I had planned to stay. I can’t say whether it was a desire for Instagram material, blog stories or merely to provide the mosquitoes with a moving rather than stationary target, but something eventually broke my reverie and forced me into action.
I decided to go fishing.
Now, on the world angling rankings I’m about 4 billionth, so I wasn’t holding it great hope, but wanted to try nevertheless.
A fisherman in a narrow fishing boat with a motor that both looked and sounded like a strimmer arrived to collect me. My rod was to be a bamboo stick. My bait was bread dough.
I proceeded to sit in the afternoon sun for 90 minutes while bits of dough occasionally fell off the fishing hook I was jiggling optimistically in the water. Fish occasionally swam by, laughed mockingly at me, waved a fin and disappeared. None paid the slightest attention to my forlorn piece of dough.
Luckily, I had such a beautiful view as the sun set that my spirits weren’t dampened by my abject fishing failure.
I made deliberate attempts to make no plans for the next day so that I could update my blog. No prizes for guessing how that turned out; plans sought me out anyway. An Indian couple staying in the same guesthouse had hired a shikkara – a medium-sized boat with capacity for 6-8 people and an awning to protect from the sun – but, being only two, there was room for others to join. Jade, Kath and I expressed interest over breakfast and, shortly thereafter, we were all aboard.
As we headed south to the main canal network of Alleppey we saw a flotilla’s-worth of boats in all different shapes and sizes.
But Alleppey is best known for its houseboats and, of these, there was no shortage: luxury boats with a/c and home cinemas down to battered old floating bungalows where creature comfort was conspicuous in its absence.
In Kerala, where the language is the palindromic Malayalam, there was quite a distinct culture from the other areas of India I had visited. Like Goa, it had a higher Christian population, however, unlike Goa, the doctrines of Communism seemed to have taken root also.
In very few places have I been able to draw such an obvious link between water and the life it sustains. In Alleppey the roads are water, the food comes from the water, we saw people bathing in the water, cooking with the water, washing clothes and pans with the water.
After several hours of aquatic exploration, it was time to stop feeding our eyes and start feeding our stomachs. Lunch was nothing to write home about but we did bump into an eagle on the way out. As you do.
Once back at the guesthouse, we spent another enjoyable evening chewing the fat and then, waving from a departing tuc-tuc, the next day I was gone.