Thursday, 21 January 2010

Public Ferry to Alleppey


India; October 19th; Day ; Kottayam

After breakfast George walks us down to the corner to point us in the right direction for the ferry stop. We follow a small canal and say hello to a few villagers along the way and a couple of children preparing for school. Joining a larger canal we cross over a bridge pass a temple, cross another bridge and arrive at the ferry stop. No-one else seems to be around. Shortly however the ferry makes an appearance and we watch as it is turned around using poles. All the customers then arrive from the surrounding houses and shops. It’s full of people apparently going to work and children going to school.


As we proceed the boat stops from time to time to pick up more passengers and it’s soon quite full. When the ferry reaches the end of the canal and before it starts across the lake most of the schoolchildren disembark.


The lake is huge and the shores are barely discernible in the distance. Small rafts of water-hyacinth float around us. We see our first view of the rice boats used as tourist boats as we cross the lake. In the middle of the lake we see some small fishing boats and are surprised to see some fishermen in the water. It’s apparently only a yard deep.

After a journey of two and a half hours the boat pulls into Muhamma and we disembark and start walking into town. It’s not far and we try and photograph some attractive yellow dragonflies to no avail along the way. Once in town we ask around to find out where the bus to Alleppey stops. At the main cross-roads we find a lot of people milling around and after a while we decide to take an auto-rickshaw instead.. We try waving some down but they are all busy. Eventually a local man points us on the direction of a taxi-rank and we get in one. As we turn the corner we stop and pick this fellow up and he shares the ride into town with us.


At Alleppey (Alapuzha) we get dropped off and walk through the scruffy little place down to the docks. We want to ascertain the time and departure point of a public ferry back to Kottayam. After figuring that out we walk back into town. It’s not very enticing so we decide that we’ll go out to the beach. We wait futilely at a bus-stop and then jump another rickshaw. It’s only a short ride. The beach is a disappointment too. The beach itself is not bad but their is nothing around and it’s all a bit empty. The guide book advises us not to even think about going in the water.  In fact the whole time we are in Kerala we dare not go in the sea. It’s a great pity because with a bit of effort this would be a great spot.

After wandering around a little we decide to get some lunch. Three places are mentioned in the book; one is closed down, another doesn’t seem to have much in the way of a lunch menu and the third is a bit westernised. We choose the latter as the least worst. Actually the food is fine and we get chatting to a couple from the UK who are spending a few days here. I can’t imagine why. Fortunately they sell beers so all is not lost.


Another short ride in a rickshaw delivers us back to the dock and we get a boat that leaves at about 2pm. It’s crowded with people and their shopping. The ferry leads out to the lake down a short canal where we see a whole string of the tourist rice boats of all shapes and sizes and levels of comfort. We pass many more as we come into the lake and as we sail into and along the broad canals. On the open decks of these boats we can see the guests enjoying drinks and relaxing. We pass several examples of the Syrian churches as we go and small boats ferrying goods about. The canals get narrower as we approach Kottayam and we go under several bridges which have to be raised by a fellow pulling on a rope.


On arrival at Kottayam we find ourselves quite a way out of town. Only one thing to do; so we grab yet another rickshaw and get driven home. It’s not so straightforward though as our driver doesn’t read and asks another fellow to read George’s card. He;s not sure of the address either and we have to stop many times whilst he asks for directions, shows the card, discusses for a bit and finally moves on. We do eventually get close. At which point we abandon our transport a walk the last bit home. George is glad to see that we’ve made it!

After washing up we return for dinner. It’s chicken again, for the third night running, but as usual it’s cooked in a different, and Keralan, manner. We read and drink beer on the terrace as usual before retiring.