Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Paddling Kerala

Two Catholics, a Jew and a Hindu are paddling down a canal in Southern India... It sounds like the setup for a terrible joke, but that was us over the last few days. Madhu, Sean and I headed down from Bangalore to Kerala to meet Rochi, Sean's wife at her grandmother's place in Allepey. After an all night bus ride, we reached Allepey in the central part of Kerala. We ate breakfast in the beautiful house before packing up to get on the river.

We paddled on two inflatable kayaks. One was quite sturdy and up to the challenge, while the other more resembled a pool raft. We were quite a sight to the locals who stared as we paddled past and poked our inflatable boats while we stopped on the banks for chai. Little children waved and yelled "Saipei," (White foreigner, a local version of Sahib) at me as we paddled past. Tourists on houseboats stared out from the shady seats as they breezed past us and sometimes waved and smiled with amusement.

Kerala is hot and muggy, very tropical. We are heading into the summer here, so it's probably around 100F during the day. Though I was wearing a hat, the sun was strong enough to burn my sunscreened face through the reflection on the water! So I took to wearing my bandana covering my face like a bandit, and my shirt collar popped to cover my neck.

We stopped two or three times a day in small villages for chai, though very hot, the tea was invigorating and helped us paddle the 20-30 km we had to travel daily to reach Kollam on the third day. The going was tough in the heat, and the channels were sometimes so choked with Hyacinth plants that we had to wait for boats to clear a path through them before we could paddle on.

The sides of the channels were nearly always lined with small houses, whose outhouses extended out over the water. I could not stop thinking about how the people were pooping into the same water they bathed, washed their clothes, and got their food from. Madhu insisted we would treat the nature better in the US, though I couldn't get the visions of high rise hotels and jet skis out of my head.

Beyond the huts extended paddy fields, coconut plantations, or sometimes the ocean. We stepped out one day to see the sunset over the Arabian Sea. Once, we took a midday break and watched men climbing coconut trees to harvest the coconuts. They chopped them open for us to drink the water. Coconut water is such a refreshing drink on a hot day!

Rochi's family was gathered at her grandmother's place when we returned, and we spent the night there and ate excellent home cooked food. Her parents invited me to spend the night with them at their home further inland, so we dropped Rochi, Sean and Madhu off at the bus stop and continued so that I can see their rubber plantation. Later today I'll take a bus back to Bangalore, arrive tomorrow morning, and leave Madhu tomorrow evening to head to Hampi, the area famous for it's bouldering and over 300 temple ruins.

I left the camera cable in bangalore. Doh! So I have a whole bunch of pictures to catch up on which I'll post soon, probably with more description of our kayak journey. I should also be able to talk a bit about the rubber plantation.

Love you all!


Unknown said...

My oh my. Your adventures keep getting better and better. Can't wait to see the pictures and hear about harvesting rubber! Hey, I just realized I could click on the map of India and move around on it and see more detail. Cool!

Unknown said...

Oh... and love you, too!

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