As usual, it was my weekend sortie. This time, for a change, I tagged a Friday to the trip as it was easy day at work. The destination was to explore Kerala especially the famous wetlands and backwaters. After settling down at guest house at Kottayam and be ready to hit the road, we started for Alleppey. We had couple of options in mind which included taking a bus which goes via Changanassery and takes about 2 hours. We would have taken a Houseboat from there for our backwater experience. Second option was to go to Kumarakom and get into a houseboat. The third option as told to us by a local person was to take a water taxi from Kodimatha to Alleppey.
We preferred the third option as it seemed more exciting route and went to Kodimatha boat jetty. When we reached there we were told by the Jetty Officer that it is only for private boats. He suggested us to go to Kanjiram Jetty station from where next Boat was scheduled to depart at 1.30pm. As it was just about 12.15pm and the jetty was about 7-8 kilometers away, there was sufficient time for us to catch the boat.
We hired the same auto and reached there by 12.45 and the boat was already there. Since there was no other passenger in the boat yet apart from us, we decided to take a look around. There was a small but very beautiful temple and a school near the jetty. I could not resist taking out my camera and take pictures. As I was taking the pictures, students from the school had their mid-day break and they were having fun around the jetty. Seeing me with the camera, they asked me to take their pictures. I was more than happy to do so as it reminded of my school days. Whenever we would see someone moving around with a camera around our school campus, we would think that the person is some big movie director and if he takes our pictures, we will be in the league of stardom. I guess these students were also thinking the same.
The boat started at sharp 1.30pm. When conductor came for tickets, the fare was Rs.15/- per person for a 28kms distance and the journey would take about 2 hours. The fare was a big surprise to me considering the distance. Another surprise in store during the journey was that there were clear waterways and some places we could clearly mark-out the water-crossings. Our water taxi was following the water-lane.
The water road which takes us towards Alleppey was via Vembanad Lake. Vembanad Lake is the longest lake in India and the largest in Kerala. It is also counted amongst the largest lakes in India. This lake is the center point of Kerala Backwater tourism with lots of resorts and hotels on its banks. Kumarakom Bird sanctuary is also located on its banks.
The Vembanad Wetland system has formed an intricate network of lagoons and canals which spans over 196 km in the north-south and 29 km in the east-west directions. Almost all villages in these areas can be accessed via water transport. Due to this, Alleppey is also referred as the Venice of the east. Vembanad Wetland was included in the list of wetlands of international importance in 2002 under Ramsar convention and spans 1512 square kilometers. While we were sailing towards Alleppey, we crossed many houseboats that were cruising in the lake. It is said that there are about 1000 houseboats that ply in this lake. There are multiple types of houseboats from simple ones to the luxury houseboats. In local language, houseboats are called as Kettuvallam. People can hire houseboats for few hours or for an overnight stay which is preferred by many tourists.
Vembanad Lake is one of the reasons behind Kerala being placed among the `50 destinations of a lifetime' by National Geographic Traveler in special collectors' issue released just before the beginning of the millennium
While the Boat Taxi was heading towards Alleppey, we could see some beautiful houses on the way which were surrounded by water. I was just wondering how they would have carried the construction material in the middle of the water. May be in the boats but that would have been a very tedious and cumbersome process. The boat taxi must have made at least two dozen stops on the way either to pick up passengers or drop the passengers. I could clearly see that the boat Taxi was the lifeline for the people around this part as the places were reachable otherwise either by road or any other.
I was wondering if OLA and UBER will start offering Water Taxi services in this part of the country. I am sure this will be instant hit as water taxi is the only option people have here unlike other cities where people have multiple options to commute.
As we were entering the Alleppey town, we could see school students rushing back home after attending to schools. I was just imagining if I had to take school-boat instead of school-bus to go to my school in Delhi. I can assure you that it would have been a blast and I would have never missed my school for even a single day.
Finally we reached Alleppey in 2 hours and 10 minutes. The ride was very enjoyable and was worth the experience. After this ride, we dropped the idea of getting into a houseboat. I think this experience was much richer than the experience we would have on houseboat. We not only had the backwater experience but also saw the way of life people have here.