Trip Start Jan 01, 2011
17Trip End May 22, 2011
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We started our journey around noon, where we had a one-bedroom boathouse with three people running it: the captain, Joseph; the boat-steerer, and the chef. Joseph spoke with us often, the chef every once-in-awhile, and the steerer rarely at all. I found out from Joseph that him and the other men only make a salary of Rs. 4500 per month!! That's about $100 for taking a boat out everyday!!! They do receive tips as well to help them make more money... but still... I find that quite ridiculous. Especially since just for the one night, we paid Rs. 5000, and we got the boat very cheap because Patrick's friend at the travel agency in Varkala is friends with the guy that owns the company we rented through. So, Patrick said that normally a boat like that runs for Rs. 7,000 per night. So, say that the boat only runs for an average of 20 days per month. That gives you Rs. 140,000 for the 20 days. Then, subtract out the 13,500 for the total of the 3 men's salaries, and you are left with 126,500. And I bet, with the maintenance of the boat, they maybe at most pay Rs. 20,000 per month. Then, subtract out about maybe Rs. 700 each day for food, that is Rs. 14,000 for 20 days. With both of those numbers subtracted, it leaves you with about a profit of Rs. 92,500, give or take some other expenses like rent for the office and gas and everything... probably at least around Rs 80,000 for 20 days!! And when this company alone owns 7 houseboats, they have to be making easily more than 20 times what they pay their staff. If I ever open my own houseboat I'm getting hold of this crew and paying them a LOT more than they're making now... they are definitely worth it!! They gave me such an amazing experience and such amazing, delicious food :)
So anyway, enough bitching... haha. When we arrived we were greeted with fresh-squeezed lemonade and a bowl full of bananas and a pineapple, and set off for our course. About 2 hours later, we were served the biggest lunch I have ever had. They brought out the first trayful- minced vegetables, all separately on different plates, such as carrots, beets, onions, all mixed with grains, herbs and spices. This trayful also came with thick, fluffy Keralan rice. Then, another tray with fresh grilled fish and a sweet banana dessert and ladyfingers stuffed with chilies and spices. Just when I thought they were done, they brought out yet ANOTHER tray with dal and stuffed chilies. I couldn't believe that we had that much food in front of us, and it was just the two of us!! Anyway, we dug into what was by far the best meal I've had in India yet. We couldn't come close to finishing, and I ate a TON! It was sooo good, but there was just way too much food for two people to eat. And yes, I ate the fish... because it was freshly caught and I am on the coast in India, after all. I had never eaten fish here yet... but I figure, why the hell not? It's not always that I'm on the coast of India in a houseboat!! haha.
So shortly after lunch, we docked the boat to go buy some beer and fresh prawns to go with our dinner at night. Then, we were waiting for our canoe to arrive that would take us through the small canals of the backwaters, and a fisherman came through selling his catch of the day. I have no idea what kind of fish they were, but we bought about 20 (for us and the crew to share) for only Rs. 20. Then, the man came with the canoe. He took us for about 3 hours through the canals off of the lake that went on for a long time through villages, prawn farms, etc. It was by far the most gloriously, stunningly beautiful place I have come across in India yet. The canals were lined with lush greenery, and the most coconut palms I have ever seen in one place. Throughout all this greenery were small homes and tiny shops, and later on, many areas of prawn raising. You could tell where the prawn farms were easily, as the entire wet area would be covered with netting, so that the fish did not eat them all. Again, the people loved us here. They would wave and smile, and get very excited when we waved at them. Oh, how I love villagers compared to the city people. They are so much more civil and genuine, and just love us because we're such a rare sight to see. Especially me, being as white as I am, with a guy who is black (Patrick was born and raised in India, but has an African heritage). We both look like such aliens to these villagers. While on the trip, we stopped for a chai break, where we also got to see rop be made by hand with a small spinning machine. Then we got to stop and see a boat being made by hand, which apparently takes 2 months to do for a larger sized canoe! Then, with as many coconuts that I have drank the water of and then eaten, I've never experienced this yet- a guy actually went to a coconut palm, climbed up, cut a few off, and then cut them open for us right there. Definitely the freshest coconut I've ever had and maybe ever will have! Mmm, how I love coconuts... I don't know what I'm going to do without them! Anyway, after we finished our cruise through the canal we were taken back to our houseboat. We cruised around a bit more, then docked the boat where we would stay for the night. We were taken by Joseph into the village we were next to, to see their temple. They are one of the few villages in the area to be all Hindu, as much of Kerala is Christian. They had a very nice, and of course very colorful temple. We didn't look for too long, as I felt out of place because they were about to begin a ceremony. So outside the temple, a bunch of boys were playing, or attempting to play cricket, so we sat and watched them for a bit. We then headed back to the boat so that I could watch the sunset. After sunset, we watched the Charlie's Angels movie, as it was the only movie they had on board that was in English. As we watched, they brought out some of the small fish we had bought to snack on. They were good, but I was pretty weirded out by the fact that we were eating a lot of the bones. The fish were so small that besides the backbone, the rest were small enough that they were soft and okay to eat. But, it was still odd, so I only ate one and waited for the prawns. The chef cooked those in a masala gravy, and damn they were good. I may have to go back to eating seafood regularly just so I can eat prawns! haha. Well, we finished watching the movie, which I guess wasn't quite as terrible as I thought it would be and continued with a few cocktails. Later, we finally had them bring out dinner, which thankfully wasn't nearly as big as lunch was. We just had fish curry with rice and chappathi. I didn't really care much for the curry- it was too thin. But we added some extra chili powder which at least made the flavor better. We hung around a little while longer until we realized that the staff wanted to go to sleep, so we headed off to the room to sleep as well. I woke up around 7am, and went to the front of the boat to do some reading before we left. We cruised around a bit more on the lake and got dropped off around 930. I tipped each of the guys Rs. 300, which Patrick said was way too much, but I knew they made no salary so I hoped it would help a little.
So, that was my short but beautiful trip through the backwaters... if any of you ever come to India... you MUST do this... I may not have been able to describe much about what I saw in detail... but it's something you can't really describe, you just have to experience!!
ps. Photos still to come at the end of May when I can put them from my memory card onto my computer