Backwater Beauty – Alleppy

A weekend in Alleppy..

Who will miss the famous houseboat ride when they are in Kerala? And that too when a person like me who is based in Trivandrum which is just 3 hours away from Alappuzzha? And that too when a friend like Mythri who will be ever ready to join me? 🙂 🙂 . It’s time to soak in the beauty of the backwaters and lush green and palm fringed landscape while on a houseboat in Kerala. I called up my uncle and aunt who stays in Alleppy and told them that I am gonna visit them and we wanna explore the city a little. As planned Mythri and I landed there a night before and enjoyed a good meal prepared by my aunt.

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The next day we started off around 8.00 hrs in the morning and headed towards a jetty from where we can get onto a houseboat. A friend of my uncle has arranged the boat for us and we set on our boat ride at 9.00 hrs. As it was only me, my uncle and aunt, and Mythri we hired a boat of small size and we cut short the ride to only 5 to 6 hours. One can move around in traditional thatched roof houseboats in the backwaters of Alleppy, one of the best places to hire a boat in the state.

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Known as Kettuvalam, these boats were traditionally used to transfer rice and spices from the hills to the market towns and have now been converted into floating hotels made by tying huge planks of jackwood together, great amount of skill and precision is required to make these houseboats. Interestingly, not a single iron nail is used in their construction (they say so, I didn’t observe it so keenly ;-)). Earlier, an entire clan of artisans was dedicated to make these houseboats. But today, these have become an innovative way of holidaying and very proudly represent the unique culture of the southern state.

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Uncle started us explaining the various things about Alleppy and some facts about the backwaters of Kerala which are a crisscrossed network of lakes, lagoons, canals and rivers. Generally a private houseboat travels around 40-50 kms through the backwaters in a single day. As our boat passed through the canals we got to experience the local life and laze around while gazing at coconut palms, jackfruits, papayas and mango groves. The fisher-folk catching the fishes in their small boats and going around the canals to sell those and the women washing their clothes or the fish for the lunch, the ducks and gooses swimming around, it’s a must visit place to know how well the people’s lives were in-glove with the vast stretches of waters around them.

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We were about to enter the lake Vembanadu. My uncle showed us the way to reach Kottayam and Cochin which were connected by these backwaters. Vembanad is the most accessible backwaters where the Vembanad lake opens to sea at the Cochin Harbor, dotted with interconnected islands that adorn the Queen of the Arabian Sea. The southern Vembanad Lake is known for its large expanse of water, sandwiched between districts of Alappuzha and Kottayam.

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It was noon when we stopped at a toddy shop with a food joint, which are one of the common sights along the backwaters. By the time we stopped here, there was another big houseboat which is full of youngsters, who were probably on a weekend trip and stopped at this toddy shop to enjoy some toddy and were dancing to the hilt. Though I couldn’t read what was going in my uncle and aunt’s mind, I was happy to see so many happy faces enjoying in middle of no-where and as if they were not connected to this world anymore 🙂 😀

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Though you can’t get a large variety of food items here, the list of fresh sea food items is long. The interesting thing is that one can choose the kind of fish or prawns from the display list and they cook it and serve hot on your plates 🙂 . As we row along the small villages on the coast, we came across some resorts, houses and churches. We can anchor our boat somewhere on one of the banks and take a stroll among the white-washed homes and churches. But what I noticed is that a house-boat ride will be too good and enjoyable when there is a large group of people especially family and friends and trust me the fun will be unlimited 🙂 🙂

The ride came to an end at 15.00 hrs just when it started to drizzle a little and then started to rain heavily :). Typical Kerala’s climate! The boat dropped us at the jetty where we started and we really enjoyed this cruise of a lifetime!

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Gavi – A Eco-Tourist spot

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Gavi is an eco-tourist spot in Kerala which has widely become popular after ‘Alistar International’, the world acclaimed tourism major listed it among the leading eco-tourism centers and one of the must-see places in India. Spread across the beauty of Periyar Tiger Reserve, Gavi is a quiet, beautiful and pristine forest haven.  Located 250 kms away from Thiruvananthapuram, the capital city of Kerala, Gavi of Pathanamthitta district offers its visitors activities like trekking, wildlife watching, outdoor camping. So why late? Lemme share my travel tale of Gavi 🙂

The road leading to Gavi is blanketed by tea plantations and pine plantation (which is a rare sight in South India, and is a refreshing experience. We took the route of Trivandrum-Patthanamthitta-Ranney-Mundakayyam-Vandiperiyar-Gavi. The Gavi check post which is located 18 kms away from Vandiperiyar is the gateway to the lap of Mother Nature.

One should be keen in observing the surroundings as this is the only way of spotting wildlife in Gavi. The place is rich in flora and fauna. The commonly sighted animals here are the Indian Giant Squirrel, Lion-tailed macaque, Nilgiri Tahr, Bisons, Wild Pigs, elephants and birds like kingfishers and woodpeckers. I was lucky enough to spot almost all of these animals except the elephants. But did get a chance of seeing their footsteps and fecals.. Lol 😀

Places of Interest:

#Pine Plantation: This came as a surprise to me as I didn’t expect such a beautiful place on this route. The windy climate and the mighty pines.. Ground covered with their leaves and seeds.. Sunlight peeping through the gapes and the surroundings adding to the Serenity.. The best place for our body and mind to rejuvenate. And a perfect place to meditate too 😛

# Safari: One can enjoy the sight of the wildlife in their natural habitat through Vehicle safaris to take a glimpse of the endangered species.

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# Boat Ride: Row boating is available at Gavi, on the Gavi dam’s reservoir. The panoramic view from the boat in middle of the waters’ of the reservoir is truly enticing! There is a small waterfall on the other side of the reservoir, which can be reached on this boat and it is some 15 minutes hike. A must visit place see the undisturbed beauty of the Mother Nature.

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# Sabarimala View Point: Gavi gives an amazing view of the Sabarimala amongst the lush green surroundings. This is a 20 min hike from the Gavi Dam and the view of the mountain ranges and the sunset in the evening over these ranges covered with evergreen trees and a blanket of golden color grass is breath-taking!

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# Cardamom Plantation: Gavi is a fertile land and the local’s mastery over the land has blessed the land with vegetation. A leisure visit to the nearby cardamom plantations is a sight to behold. We can see the wilderness of the wild elephants damaging these plantations.

Best part of the trip:

For the most adventurous ones who would love to spend a night in the deep forest can stay here in a small tent. This is the most unique feature of  Gavi, camping in the forests. As the dusk stretches into the silence of the night, one can feel the presence of wildlife in the middle of nowhere, an experience that cannot be explained in worlds, but needs to be just experienced.

The KFDC provides good vegetarian food and snacks with the local flavors and one should definitely try this food.

How to reach?

200 kms from Kochi International Airport, 250 kms from Trivandrum International Airport and 195 kms from the Madurai Airport. The nearest railway station is Kottayam (120 kms). Regular buses are available to Vandiperiyar from Kochi & Thiruvananthapuram. There are also buses available from Vandiperiyar to Gavi. But make sure that you reach the Gavi Checkpost before 5 pm.

Pack your backpacks now… 😉