Kerala, the backwaters, and the smiles

It had been a gruelling trip from Puducherry to Kollam.
I was tired and had barely slept and eaten, and yet I noticed the sun shining and the warm smiles of the strangers. After nearly one month through South India, it was the first time I’d be happy over such a small yet big thing: the sparkles in those white teeth, in bulk. The waves were as wild as everywhere we’d stumble upon them in India, but the vibe was different, more laid-back, more preoccupied with the positive aspects of life.
Fast forward to another morning and the canals of enchanting Alleppey. Interesting meanders, interesting green, not-so-interesting houseboats and rates. // Our initial plan was to hire such a houseboat and navigate Kerala’s backwaters on it. These vessels come equipped with staff and meals are prepared on board. Back in the day, when ‘Globe Trekker’ star Justine Shapiro explored the area, the prices were lower and the conditions of the boats – better.
Kayaking the Kerala backwaters, India
Back-up plan: we needed to find some food, a good Internet connection, and were down to our last rupees. We ended up somewhere in the middle of nowhere, near the Arabian Sea, realised that the area was a true construction site at that moment and – after negotiations with tuk-tuk drivers , managed to reach a quiet place, by one of the canals, have breakfast and a drink and book ourselves a place with a view.
Kayaking the Kerala backwaters, India
From Alleppey, we drove north, stopping to arrange our kayak tour for the following day. Marcel had read that it was by far the best way to explore the backwaters. At a point, we turned right and started navigating a meander of narrow streets that seemed to reproduce the sinuosity of water in style. We were greeted with warmth and kindness and were taken to our room. Did I say ‘a place with a view’ in the previous paragraph? I should have added at least ‘unforgettable’. We had everything we could have wanted: the backwaters stretching into a kind of lake, my friends – the very interesting fruit bats , a garden full of palm trees to marvel at, and extremely delicious meals, throughout the day. Because Orchid Lake View Homestay gives you all that.
Lemonade & Kerala backwaters, India
I had never felt so relaxed during my time in India; I didn’t even mind the humidity, which made me change my clothes (at least) three times a day. I was hooked by the scenery, the friendliness, the tapioca chips, and the football games in the village – over the short time spent there (merely two nights), Marcel had become an important part of the sporting event and sort of a football star and I was happy to cheer for him and not even think of the many mosquitoes planning to attack me.
I woke up to a violent rain, so we cancelled our kayaking adventure of that morning. When the rain stopped, we went into the garden, witnessing the art of harvesting coconuts. We even got to savour the freshest of them, straight from the tree.
Our great host arranged the renting of a traditional fishing boat, so we went paddling under worried glances.
-          Can you swim? It is dangerous to be out here – were the words of a fisherman we’d meet pretty far away from the homestay.
I know, the boat was narrow and unstable, I was a woman, there was talk of underlying currents; still, I enjoyed every bit of the journey on water and it became my favourite moment in India.
As we returned and Marcel went out for another ride with our friend in an attempt to catch some fish, I continued staring into the pink sunset and realising that the place I was in, the people I was surrounded by, and the way I felt then would be missed.
Out fishing; Kerala backwaters, India
We finally managed to go on the kayaking tour on our last day in the area, at 6:30 in the morning. We hugged our newly-found family goodbye and were off on water. I liked the colours, the rush in the backwaters, and the palm trees guarding; I tried to reconnect them to my Delta, but there were so unlike in nature!
Kayaking the Kerala backwaters, India
Kochi was next. Another delightful town, another laid-back feel. Chocolate and banana pancakes, a stroll by the Chinese fishing nets, and the joy of curious youngsters. Wrapped up by an extraordinary Kathakali show, which will always stay with me and my heart.
Kathakali Centre; Kochi, Kerala, India
On our way to the airport, I could perceive the first blinks of the warning lights. ‘No honk?’ I told myself and smiled. This truly is a different part of India! 
Little Kochi; Kochi, Kerala, India

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