The moment we got an invite
from Alleppey based Lake Land Cruise, a leading house boat operator in Kerala
to review their boat and capture their hospitality on camera, I did not think
twice. I immediately packed my bag and took a direct flight to Kochi from Delhi
where I undertook a two hour journey by car to Alleppey (Alappuzha).
Kerala, the southern state of
India is blessed with immense amount of natural beauty. No wonder it is known
as God’s own country. The hills of Munnar, the forests of Thekaddy, beaches all
over from Thiruvananthapuram to the north or the backwaters in Alleppey and
Kumarakom, the state offers loads of fun for tourists.
Tourists can choose from
several interesting cruise routes. You can opt for a one-night cruise on
Punnamada Lake or go bird watching on the Alappuzha to Kumarakom route, or spot
the toddy tappers on the Alappuzha to Kottayam
route or visit historical places between Alappuzha to Thottappally.
There are many more routes to
opt from that take you to the place where kettuvallams
or traditional houseboats are made or even visit coir making villages. The
Punnamada Lake is also the venue of the popular 1.5 km Nehru Trophy Snake Boat
Race that is held every year.
Places of significance onc can
see during your boat ride are the Champakkulam church, a 400-yr old church and
one of the seven churches that were founded by St. Thomas, one of the 12
disciples of Christ, and the Chavara Bhavan, the birthplace of Saint Kurikose
Elias Chavara. Saint Kuriakose Elias Chavara was an Indian Catholic priest and
social reformer. He is the first
canonised Catholic male saint of Indian origin.
The moment I stepped into the
houseboat that went by the name of Kochi Rajav, I was pleasantly surprised by
the decor inside and the comfort it offered. The small dining area was all lit
up and with all the wood carvings around, it looked very traditional and
beautiful. The air conditioner was on
and I was really not bothered about the humid climate outside.
Lake Land Cruise offers house
boats of all shapes and sizes. They are categorised into Deluxe, Premium and
Luxury. All the three categories offer air conditioned bedrooms. The
premium houseboats offer
air-conditioning in the dining space too. As for the luxury houseboat, the
entire boat is air conditioned. Again, there are boats with two bedrooms to as
many as ten bedrooms with a conference on top than can accommodate around 150
Kochi Rajav, meaning the king
of Kochi, is a premium houseboat. Since it was late night when we reached the
boat, we had a quick dinner and retired to our respective bedrooms. The house
boat has two bedrooms with each having a double bed that can accommodate two
Houseboats have to
compulsorily dock in the evening till early morning. At night fishermen cast
their nets to catch fish and hence the government does not permit any house
boat to operate after sun down. By early morning once we were up and about, the
boat ride commenced. Houseboats are usually manned by three people, a captain,
a cook and a helper. Once the houseboat is docked at night and the tourists
retire to their respective bedrooms, these men sleep in different areas of the
boat so as to make sure no one walks out at night and attempts to indulge in
any foolhardy exercise.
We had a staff of four people
at our disposal. An extra cook was called in just in case I needed something
different and exquisite to eat. While Das the Captain and Ravi the engine
driver took turns steering the boat, Satheesh, the chef along with Rajkumar his
helper took care of the food. The beautiful part of Kerala and its people is
that the tourists can be assured of 100pc safety. Unlike so many of the shady
characters whom you come across in other parts of the country, in Kerala’s
houseboats, you are extremely safe with the staff.
Kochi Rajav is a houseboat
with two floors, The ground floor has two bedrooms, one dining area, a small
sitting area in front and a kitchen. The first floor has a huge covered balcony
from where one can get a good view of the backwaters and the surrounding
Even before the sun was out,
the men were ready to move. The air conditioners were switched off and the
doors of the rooms opened wide to bring in a wave of fresh air. The boat we
were in was powered by an overhauled Ashok Leyland 370 diesel engine which
produces around 90hp. The captain told me that most of the houseboats numbering
around 1,500 in the region ran on similar Ashok Leyland engines and Mahindra gensets
including an inverter. The morning trip is towards the Vembanad lake where one
gets to see the sunrise.
Vembanad lake covers an area
of more than 2000 Square kilometres and has a large network of canals that
meander through the region of Kuttanad.
The sky was very cloudy and I
knew that was ruled out for me. But I was not complaining. The scenery was too
breathtaking. I may have driven some fast cars and saddled some very fast
bikes, but this was serenity at its best. This was nirvana, undiluted and in
its purest form.
We docked at a serene place
and had our breakfast. After a very delicious breakfast comprising of some
tasty Kerala dishes and the usual bread and eggs, we were off to explore the
vast backwaters of Kerala. The real cruise began for us. The cruise started
from the Pallathuruthi Jetty covering Kannitta, Kuppapuram, Alappey Finishing
Point, Punnamada Lake, Vembanad Lake, C Block R Block , Nedumudy, Champakkulam,
Kanjipadom and back to Pallathuruthy.
Mind you, backwaters are not
meant for those raucous tourists from cities who love loud music and talk
loudly like though the world around them was deaf. Backwaters are meant for
tourists who love the serenity and purity of Mother Nature and thank the
Universe for the gifts it has offered us.
The torque high engine of
Ashok Leyland does not go fast here. They travel at a speed of around 3 knots
which is a little more than 5 km per hour. It is like your entire house moving
at that speed with a perfect smoothness. Though all the boats carry mandatory
pollution certificates from the Kerala Pollution Control Board, I could later
make out later that the air had a strong whiff of diesel smoke , especially
when all the houseboats were travelling close to each other. The state
government, I guess needs to seriously implement pollution control norms before
air turns foul.
As the boat made its way
silently through broad and narrow routes, you get to see boats of all shapes
and sizes, both motorised as well as the traditional row boats. I spotted a lot
of motorised boats, even small ones. Homes dotted both sides of our route.
Temples and churches were to be seen at some places. Thankfully, there were no
high rise buildings!
A houseboat ride is all about
unwinding. Whether you spend your time taking selfies, or simply reading a book
or just staring at the beautiful scenery, a Kerala houseboat ride will
definitely energise you immensely. One day or two days in a houseboat can do
wonders to your health and mind.
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