Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Along the backwaters...

If a tour operator delivers what he promises, tours will be a success. Doesn't matter if the tour belongs to the champagne-after-a-tiresome-balooning category or peel-your-own-potato category, tell them what they'd expect in the tour and give them that, the participants will be happy. How much they have been charged for it is incidental. People take on tours for experiences. Delivering what is promised, in India that too in Kerala where time is stretched beyond limits, is not an easy task. Calls have to be made weeks before, the concerned people have to be met the previous day, more calls have to be made in the evening before. Then finally when the day comes up, more calls have to be made as the person hasn't turned up.

After being cooped up in a resort across the backwater for couple of days, the group was to go to Kottayam, by a boat along the canals, with breakfast on the way. We were to leave at 7 in the morning, the boatman was instructed to take us along the various canals until 9 and then get us somewhere for breakfast after which he was to drop us in Kottayam. It was all simple and straight with little cause for any confustion or misinterpretation.

For the group to be ready by 7, they had to pack the previous night and wake up early. Last thing the group on a holiday would like to do is to wake up early. So not wanting to make a mess out of this, I made number of calls to the boat owner in Kottayam to drive in the idea that the boat has to, has to, be on time. When the morning came over it was not the case. The boat kind of sluggishly made its way to the pier at 8. Meanwhile, I made few more calls to the owner and he was becoming increasingly reluctant to take my calls. Kept saying "he will come in 5 mins saar". Naturally, when the boat finally arrived, we were mad at the boatman. He countered us by saying "breakfast" and quickly realised what he said and changed it to "fishing nets in motor".

After taking us around some canals, it was time for breakfast. We left some good restaurants on the way since the chap said we could have it in R-block. This is a stretch of land that is below the canal level, which must have been reclaimed. The first one he took us to was serving ' kappa ' and fish masala . Kappa is a mashed tapioca with lots of turmeric in it and did not at all looked appealing. Later on I came to know that these two are favourites at the local toddy shops. The next one had Kappa and mussels. The next had only fish masala. It was way past breakfast time and one of the members was diabetic. RJ and I were getting angry and concerned. We made few more angry calls to the owner, who then directed the boatman to take us somewhere. How long was it to take to get there? 15 mins. We should have been wiser and told the group 30 mins. It took 45 mins and was about 5 min from where we started! Thankfully the place served lovely omlette and chapati for the group. I had veg curry and chapati. I guess, the group wasnt sure when they would have lunch so they had another round of omlettes and then topped it with extra strong coffee. Now they were a happy bunch of people again. Not that they were miffed earlier but they were certainly unhappy a bit. I guess next time I will suggest that they should carry lot of dry food for occasions like these.

The canals got completely covered with water hyacinth as we got closer to Kottayam. The boat had to stop often and the motor reversed to unshackle the roots to go entwined in it. The group was quite happy with the sights and sounds they experienced along the canals: women washing clothes and utensils, kids swimming and screaming 'give me pen', kids in dresses going to their schools screming 'give me pen' and women canoeing past... houses, temples, churches, small kirana stores with little packets of goodies hanging from the awning that doubles up as the shop-window shutter.

View of the main waterway to Vembanad Lake

View of the by-canals...

A government busboat that plys between various places

Fisherman along the canal

Fisherman in Vembanad Lake whose nets supposedly stalled our boat's motor

Houseboats anchored for the night...

green fields and blue sky

green fields, blue sky and white birds...

By the time we reached Kottayam it was mid afternoon with the sun blazing. While I was helping to unload the luggage RJ went to boatowner with the intention of giving him a piece of his mind. Instead he could only meet the assistant who promised that he will make the owner call and apologise. We were in Kottayam for two days but that did not happen. We hired seven autos to deliver us to the hotel - a simple but clean hotel bang on the main road in Kottayam. We'd check out this town in the next blog.


asuph said...

Hey Imp,

Is it me, or is it the writeup itself? It was like it ended up abruptly... without warning...

I gotta go back and read the previous parts. I know I've been saying this for a while, but I haven't forgotten having said that ;-).

In India, no vehicle turns up on time. No amount of phone calls work. Only thing that can work is you being in the driver's seat (or boatman's!).

Nice writeup, waiting for more..


bottled-imp said...

yeah asupha, i kind of forgot to add 'the end' part. let me do that now.

parikrama said...

LOL @ forgetting to add 'the end'..

No wonder they show all Prof's as being absent-minded !! Nice pics Suresh. I liked the "fisherman along the canal" , wonderful silhouette of that guy in his boat.

Mebbe I will consult you when I go for honeymoon.I am planning to have it along the backwaters of Kerala. (No I won't be having any padthai noodles on houseboats. Thanx for asking)

P.S. : I haven't found a wife yet. So relax U won't be getting a call from me so soon :)

Velu said...

Hey nice snaps Suresh.

But you do need to present your snaps in a better manner. You know, reduce the size a bit and wrap the text around them would be a better idea IMHO. That way, your posts would be of a mangeble length and also the viewers could click on the snaps they really liked and view them in all their splendour.

Plus add a few links to the other sites here too.

Anyway Hope you have some fun in the hills soon.