The backwaters of Kerala attract a ton of travelers from around the globe. The calm waters, the coconut tree lined banks, the ducks enjoying their swim, the lone bird on a log of wood floating on the water, the blue skies and the refreshing breeze from the lake will calm your mind and soothe your senses and if you are a romantic will make you reach out for your partner’s hand.
A group of my friends were coming down and I wanted them to experience the sheer joy that one feels while cruising on these beautiful waters and being girls fresh out of college with no proper jobs, the houseboats seemed a little out of our budget. Sometimes your desire for something can be so strong that it will drive you to find ways to fulfill it and that is how I discovered the Kerala State Water Transport Department’s ferry service to Alappuzha from Kottayam. The boat ride will cost approximately Rs 15 for a roughly two and a half hour journey and what makes it even better is that you get to capture the same sights and sounds that you would from any other boat and much more.
We decided to take the 3.30pm boat from Kottayam (Kodimatha boat jetty). After a delicious lunch from one of the nearby hotels, we went to the boat jetty and waited for our boat. While at the jetty, we were approached by private boat operators who tried to convince us to take their boats. If you want to see marketing skills being displayed, you have to listen to them. They told us how faster and better their boats were and even offered reduced rates and maybe if we had that kind of money we might have even agreed to take their boats. I am glad I did not have the resources at that time because what was in store for us are memories that I will always cherish.
The boat was on time and it started its slow journey. Yes, it was slow. If you like speed boats and the feel of water splashing on your face, these boats are not for you. Once you get used to the pace, you start enjoying the sights around you, the houses on small strips of land surrounded by water, the friendly faces of the children and womenfolk, children playing by the banks with toys that reflect their creativity and that reminds you how nature has enough to keep you entertained. People bathing and women washing clothes and vessels are a common sight. Several boats can be seen during the ride, from the small traditional boats (kochu vallam) to the house boats. It is interesting to see that most of the families that live on these banks own at least a tiny boat and even the young children seem to know how to row. The boat stops at every jetty from Kottayam to Alappuzha picking up people. These boats are a convenient mode of transport for people living in this area because even though they are connected by roads it takes longer by road. When the boatman and the conductor sees a familiar face, probably a person who takes the boat regularly, the smile on their faces and exchange of pleasantries are worth observing. I love people watching and this ride gave me ample opportunities for the same.
It was sunny but the breeze from the lakes made it bearable and pleasant. As time went by we could feel the drop in temperature and see the color of the sky change to bid adieu to the sun as it prepared to set. As we were approached Alappuzha, the sun was about to set, and the breeze and the whole environment around seemed to have this truly magical quality to it. There was a couple sitting right in front of the boat and as the wind blew in they seemed to have found the perfect spot to just relax and hold hands. The ride was coming to an end and just at that time, one of my friends spotted a beautiful rainbow, a promise that moments like this will last forever in our memories and that there will be several more.
PS: These boats are basic and do not offer any of the luxuries that a houseboat offers like comfortable seating, rooms, food on board and privacy. This ferry service is a good option if one does not want to spend too much money and at the same time experience the backwaters, the way the locals do.