” Aayiye, boating chahiye (Do you want to go boating?)”, asked the friendly man at the makeshift counter of one of the many boat operators in Poovar. He mistook us for travelers from the North of India, only to be surprised when we replied in Malayalam. The backwaters and mangroves were already calling out to us and we managed to get a boat to drop us off at one of the resorts. They usually do round trips – a ride through the mangroves with a stop near the estuary – and back to the pick up point.
Getting to Poovar was as exciting as the rest of our day. We took a Kerala government-run bus from the main bus stop in Trivandrum, the capital of Kerala. Poovar is about 30-34 kilometers from Trivandrum and will take about forty-five minutes to one hour to reach by bus. We got convenient seats and the excitement kicked in. The joy of travelling in Kerala lies in the fact that you have plenty to see when you look outside the window ; trees; birds; colorful houses , because of the Malayali’s obsession with bright colors for their houses; and people working in the fields or just lazing around in front of the small shops by the road. In some areas the roads were narrow and winding. I was beginning to feel one with nature, when my friend decided to shake me out of my relaxed state. She did not want to intentionally bother me,but the ticket checker wanted to see our tickets, and that is when I realized that somewhere along the journey while I was lost in the beauty of everything that surrounded me, I had lost our tickets too. Panic struck, we looked everywhere, in our bags, our pockets, while the checker waited patiently with that all-knowing smile. Fortunately , the bus was almost empty and my friend found our tickets a few rows behind the driver. It had flown out of my hand but miraculously not out of the window. We continued our journey, feeling grateful that we did not have to pay a heavy fine. The bus took us through Vizhinjam and dropped us near the boat jetty.
The boatman was an interesting young man who grew up in that region and hence knew the place and its people, like the back of his hand. As the boat made its ways through the mangroves, the gentle breeze refreshed us. Breeze from the sea and lakes are therapeutic. It can instantly comfort you, and if it is sunny, then it works like water to the parched mouth. There is a rich bird life in the mangroves and is a birdwatchers’ delight. As the boat made its way through the narrow waterways we saw men selling tender coconut water from their boats and others catching fish. We stopped by one of the boats and bought some tender coconut ourselves. Watching the coconut seller chop off the top of the coconut to make a hole in it to put a straw, is fascinating. I have often tried doing the same at home, but in vain. They make it look so easy but it requires a certain knack. Our boat guy wanted to know if we would like to go to one of the floating restaurants instead of the resort. We had set our mind on the resort and hence politely refused. As the boat neared the estuary, I could not take my eyes off that beautiful sight. For the first time, in my life I was looking at the river meeting the sea. He stopped the boat near the beach close to the estuary – the Golden Sand beach which Poovar is famous for. I have never seen a cleaner beach in Kerala and it lives up to its name, the sand looked golden under the hot afternoon sky.
After spending some time at the beach, the boat guy dropped us off at the resort as agreed. We sat in one of their cafes that overlooked the estuary and the sea. It was one of the best afternoons of my life, as we sat there and munched on sandwiches and french fries, we experienced indescribable joy. None of us knew why we felt so good, was it the glorious sight of the river meeting the sea, the sea breeze or just the joy of being with friends, maybe it was a little bit of everything.